Numbers Tell the Story on 10-2 Season-Part One

The numbers are in on No. 9 Texas’ 10-2 regular season.

While statistics don’t tell the whole story, the final numbers released by the Big 12 this week provide a numerical composite of Longhorn strengths as well as those areas that need, using head coach Mack Brown’s vernacular, "tweaking" during the off season.

First, here are the Texas football superlatives for 2002:

PASS EFFICIENCY

Surprise!, but at the final gun it was QB Chris Simms edging Texas Tech QB Kliff Kingsbury as the Big 12 passing leader. While Kingsbury’s 4,642 total passing yards re-wrote the record books, Simms’ overall efficiency rating of 142.4 (No. 12 NCAA) edged the Red Raider by just two-tenths of one percent. On the year, Simms was 220-of-368 for 2,938 yards, 24 TDs and 11 interceptions. The senior broke his own UT record for single-season TD passes of 22 with his three scoring tosses in the 50-20 shellacking of Texas A&M.

Simms broke from the middle of the conference pack after junior SE Roy Williams returned from a nagging hamstring injury suffered against Houston sidelined him against Tulane and severely limited his playing time against Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Kansas State. The All-Big 12 receiver tallied an even 1,000 yards on 60 receptions (No. 6 Big 12, No. 30 NCAA). He now holds Texas’ single-season TD reception mark with 11.

PASS DEFENSE

Texas led the Big 12 (No. 10 NCAA) in pass defense after surrendering an average of just 162.8 yards through the air (and that’s after Texas Tech scorched the team for 508 passing yards). Thorpe Award candidate CB Rod Babers was the secondary’s outspoken leader, while FS Dakarai Pearson’s five interceptions led the team in steals (No. 4 Big 12, No. 24 NCAA).

TOTAL DEFENSE

On the whole, the Longhorn defense wasn’t as stingy this year (296.6 ypg) as the 2001 unit that led the nation (236.2). But Texas’ production was good enough for the Horns to finish No. 12 nationally and No. 2 in the Big 12 (trailing only Kansas State, which lead the nation this year with a 243.9 average).

KICKOFF RETURNS

Texas return-men averaged a league-leading 24.9 yards (No. 2 NCAA) thanks primarily to freshman Selvin Young and junior Ivan Williams. Texas likely would have led the nation in this category had Young’s 91-yard kickoff return for TD against Houston not been called back by a phantom blocking penalty.

PUNT RETURNS

What might a healthy CB/PR Nathan Vasher have meant to special teams? (You saw it against the Aggies when the junior took it 60 yards to the house). And, of course, there was Young’s punt-return-for-TD against Tulane. As it was, Texas' 14.1-yard average was fourth best in the Big 12, No. 17 nationally.

TURNOVER MARGIN

It was a rash of turnovers in the brief-yet-excruciating span of six quarters in '01 (OU, Big 12 Championship) that kept Texas out of the national title game, Brown said. That’s why turnovers was such a focal point coming into this season. The Horns were the last NCAA Division I team to give up a freebie this season, and it came on a deflected pass in Texas’s third game of the season against Houston. Eventually, Texas finished +15 in the turnover column, second only to OU in the Big 12 (+17) and good for No. 11 nationally.

TIME OF POSSESSION

By controlling the clock an average of 32.03 minutes per contest, Texas led the Big 12 in the category that was always, always!, a part of Brown’s game plan (an even more impressive stat given Texas’ quick-strike ability with Roy Williams). How important is ball control in a physical league? Texas fell short in the TOP battle in losses to OU and Texas Tech. The Horns best performance in clock management?: Texas held the ball for 35:24 in that frigid 27-24 win at Nebraska.

FOURTH-DOWN CONVERSIONS

The Horns led the Big 12 in fourth-down conversions, moving the chains on 11-of-14 attempts (78.6 percent). There were times when Texas could not buy a third-down conversion (see OU). But when it had to, Texas moved the piles against Kansas State, Iowa State and Nebraska. Best fourth-down conversion of the season: RB Cedric Benson’s 30-yard scoring burst on 4th-and-1 against Texas A&M. Most controversial fourth-down conversion: Simms' QB sneak against Iowa State (although we are convinced Benson got a miserable spot on the previous play).

PAT KICKING

Sophomore Dusty Mangum was 50-of-50 in PAT’s this season, the only league player to bat 1.000. How important are those little gimmes? Ask the Aggies, who missed two PATs (one that sent the game into OT; one that cost them the game in OT) in their 48-47 home loss to Texas Tech.

TOMORROW: The areas that need "tweaking" in 2003.


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