First, here are the Texas football superlatives for 2002:
Surprise!, but at the final gun it was QB Chris Simms edging Texas Tech QB Kliff Kingsbury as the Big 12 passing leader. While Kingsburys 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.
Texas led the Big 12 (No. 10 NCAA) in pass defense after surrendering an average of just 162.8 yards through the air (and thats after Texas Tech scorched the team for 508 passing yards). Thorpe Award candidate CB Rod Babers was the secondarys outspoken leader, while FS Dakarai Pearsons five interceptions led the team in steals (No. 4 Big 12, No. 24 NCAA).
On the whole, the Longhorn defense wasnt 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).
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 Youngs 91-yard kickoff return for TD against Houston not been called back by a phantom blocking penalty.
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 Youngs punt-return-for-TD against Tulane. As it was, Texas' 14.1-yard average was fourth best in the Big 12, No. 17 nationally.
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. Thats 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 Texass 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 Browns 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.
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 Bensons 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).
Sophomore Dusty Mangum was 50-of-50 in PATs 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.