Other than Ohio State, only Missouri, a team who at one point in the season was in the Top 5 in total offense, could get to 20 points against this Texas defense. But upon closer inspection, when Missouri (who finished the season ranked 32nd in total offense) is the highest ranked offense Texas has faced in the first 6 games of the season, it doesn't quite seem so impressive.
Texas' offense, however, has been VERY impressive. Only Rice ended the season in the bottom half of the nation (actually 110th in total defense) in total defense. If USC is to contain the Longhorn offense, the coaching staff should look at the Ohio State game and try to create turnovers to gain momentum. And what a coincidence – USC's defense is geared towards creating and capitalizing off turnovers.
Anyways, on to the last six games of Texas' 2005 schedule and what it all may mean:
GAME 7 Texas Tech @ Texas
October 22, 2005
Texas started the game with one field goal and two interceptions on the first three drives of the game before rattling off a touchdown on each of their next 6 drives. For the first time this season, the opponent outgained Texas, 468 yards to 444 (although Texas Tech did have 31 more plays to do it). The Longhorns scored four touchdowns in an 11-minute stretch between the 2nd and 3rd quarters that essentially put the game away. FINAL SCORE: 52 – 17
The Red Raiders, who ended the year 2nd in the nation in total offense (behind USC), stayed toe to toe with the Longhorns until the aforementioned 4 touchdown barrage by Texas. This is by far (statistically) the best offense Texas faced all year, and the defense did a great job keeping them out of the endzone. Tech only managed 2 touchdowns on 4 red zone trips and was sacked 6 times for a total loss of 51 yards.
Two major special teams plays: a 38-yard punt return by Billy Pittman, also a dangerous wide receiver who leads the team in receiving yards and is tied for the team lead in receiving touchdowns with five, and a blocked punt on a 4th and 5 on the Texas 35 both led to relatively easy Texas touchdowns.
Again Vince Young had 2 interceptions against a Top 10 team in 2005, surely a worrying statistic for any Texas fan. Young did not have a terrible day: 12 of 22 for 239 yards and 2 touchdowns and 45 yards and 1 touchdown on the ground, but one expects more from him in a big game. Even Young gives himself a "C+" grading after the game.
And while it's easy to look at Texas Tech's 9-2 record and Top 30 national ranking in passing offense, passing efficiency, total offense, scoring offense, pass efficiency defense, pass defense, total defense, scoring defense, and turnover margin, those three out of conference games with Florida International, Sam Houston State, and Indiana State causes one to do a double take on this smoke and mirrors schedule. After all, Tech ended up losing to Oklahoma State, a team who beat D-IAA Montana State and Florida Atlantic by a combined total of 38 to 13.
Fun Facts –
Texas Tech committed 10 penalties for 78 yards. Texas committed 3 for 35 yards.
Time of Possession: Texas Tech 36:01 Texas 23:59
This was the first time Texas Tech and Texas faced each other while both were undefeated.
Texas Tech punted 7 times and converted only 5 out of 16 3rd downs. Conversely, Texas punted 3 times (all in the 2nd half) and converted 5 out of 10 3rd downs.
Texas last lost to Texas Tech in 2002: a 42 – 38 shootout.
GAME 8 Texas @ Oklahoma State
October 29, 2005
Oklahoma State scored 4 touchdowns on their 7 possessions of the first half, racing out to a 28 to 12 halftime lead. Two of those touchdowns came off of Longhorn turnovers and the first after the Cowboys blocked David Pino's 53-yard field goal attempt on the first series of the game for the Longhorns. But the Texas defense stiffened up, the offense woke up, and the Longhorns shut out the Cowboys in the 2nd half 35 to 0. FINAL SCORE: 47 – 28
Again, Texas commits a couple of turnovers in the first half, but unlike the Red Raiders, Oklahoma State took advantage and converted them into points, putting arguably the most pressure on the Longhorns by halftime this year. The blocked field goal to start the game essentially set the tone for the first half as little, if anything, really went right for the Longhorns.
But as the 2nd half started and Vince Young executed his other Pontiac Game Changing Play of the Year, juking a Cowboy defender to leave his feet and jump in the air as Young pranced 80 yards for the touchdown, it became evident that the emotion and adrenalin that once powered the Cowboys gradually dissipated. The game turned into and felt more and more like a Longhorn comeback than a Cowboy upset.
Oklahoma State punted on their first five drives of the 2nd half. During a 3 series stretch, the Cowboys gained 11 yards on 9 plays. Then, after losing the lead and attempting a comeback of their own, the Cowboys turned the ball over on downs and lost a fumble.
Young will be remembered as the hero of this game, a player who broke school and NCAA records with his performance. But his penchant for turnovers seems to be a growing trend, particularly in the first half.
Keep in mind also that Oklahoma State finished 108th in the nation in rushing defense, and the Longhorn running game, aside from Vince Young, struggled mightily. Huge, highlight reel plays accounted for much of Texas' rushing yardage (such as Young's 80-yard scamper and Ramonce Taylor's 57-yard touchdown run in the 4th quarter).
I also do not think it is coincidence that of the two games (thus far) that Texas has struggled in (the other being against Ohio State), the Longhorns' running game has been nonexistent and entirely too dependent on Vince Young's legs. His inability to run loose against Ohio State nearly cost them the game. His ability to do so against Oklahoma State allowed them to win.
Fun Facts –
In the past three meetings with Oklahoma State, the Longhorns have outscored the Cowboys 118 – 0 in the 2nd half and trailed at halftime in each game.
With Vince Young's performance in this game, not only did he set a school record for total offense in a game, but he also became just the 7th player in NCAA history to both throw and run for 200+ yards in a single game.
Texas ran 80 plays for 606 yards while Oklahoma State ran 73 plays for 402 yards (why is it that when this happens in the Pac-10, it's because the Pac-10 doesn't play defense, etc. but when it happens in the Big 12 or elsewhere, nothing is ever mentioned?)
Both teams committed 9 penalties apiece.
Texas converted 8 of 17 3rd downs while Oklahoma State only converted 3 of 15.
As a team, Oklahoma State ranks in the Top 50 nationally in one major statistical category: rushing offense (50th).
GAME 9 Texas @ Baylor
November 5, 2005
Texas thoroughly dominated their in-state rival, outgaining them in yards (645-201), time of possession (35:27-24:33), and first downs (35-13). Despite losing the ball on downs on the first drive of the game, Texas scored touchdowns on 9 out of 11 offensive series. Ramonce Taylor accounted for four touchdowns (3 rushing, 1 receiving) and Jamaal Charles added two on the ground. Baylor failed to sustain a drive that lasted longer than 40 yards and went three and out 5 times. FINAL SCORE: 62 – 0
Even in Baylor's best season in what feels like decades, the Longhorns still embarrass them on the football field. Texas had their way in this game, and it's possible the lackluster showing the previous game fired up this squad.
Despite going against the 15th best passing efficiency defense, Young finished 16 of 27 for 298 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Texas' running game looked efficient, with Taylor garnering his first 100-yard day rushing. It was also his first start at running back.
What else can really be said? In this series, Baylor is still Baylor, and Texas is still Texas. ‘Nuff Said.
Fun Facts –
Texas has shut out Baylor for the fourth time in the last seven meetings.
Texas committed 8 penalties for 93 yards; Baylor committed 10 penalties for 77 yards.
Texas converted 10 of 14 3rd down conversions while Baylor only converted 2 of 13.
Texas fumbled 3 times in this game, but did not lose any.
GAME 10 Kansas @ Texas
November 12, 2005
After punting on the first two offensive series, Texas scored touchdowns on 6 straight drives to speed out to a 52 – 0 halftime lead. Texas had 617 yards of total offense and scored the most points in a single game for the season to date. Kansas scored on their first series of the 2nd half, but it was too little too late. FINAL SCORE: 66 - 14
After Kansas head coach Mark Mangino's scintillating accusations regarding the officiating of the Texas-Kansas football game from last year, Vince Young and Co. showed what they can do to a team they feel "disrespected" them. It seems Texas had a vendetta in this one, and once they got started, they piled it on. It seemed Kansas would not be able to recover after fumbling a kickoff midway through the 1st quarter that led to Texas' second touchdown of the day.
Despite Kansas finishing 3rd in the nation in rushing defense and 19th in total defense, the Longhorns ran for 336 yards on 53 carries. Young threw for 281 yards and 4 touchdowns. The Longhorns nearly tripled the Jayhawks' defensive scoring average of 22.8.
Punt returner Aaron Ross returned a 71-yarder for a touchdown in the 1st quarter and Ramonce Taylor firmly entrenched his presence in the running back rotation, adding 101 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground.
What should be noted is that in the last two games, Texas did not commit any turnovers in the first half of the game. The result? Football contests that were not even close. It seems obvious, but it's becoming more and more evident that in order to play with Texas, you will need to force them to make mistakes and then take advantage of them.
Fun Facts –
In the first half, Kansas punted 8 times (seven 3 and outs), lost a fumble and had a pass intercepted. The Jayhawks punted a total of 11 times in this game.
Texas converted 7 of 14 3rd down conversions while Kansas converted only 2 of 15.
Texas was penalized 6 times for 35 yards while Kansas was penalized 8 times for 55 yards.
During this game, Young became Texas' career total offense leader, passing Major Applewhite's career record of 8,059 career yards. Young left the game with 5 minutes left in the 3rd quarter.
Kansas ranks 102nd in the nation in total offense (310.7 yards/game) and 95th in scoring offense (20.6 points/game).
Kansas' out of conference schedule included the likes of Florida Atlantic, Appalachian State, and Louisiana Tech. They finished 6-5 this year and are poised to play Houston in the Forth Worth Bowl.
GAME 11 Texas @ Texas A&M
November 25, 2005
In a rivalry game that saw four lead changes, Texas eventually prevailed, shutting Texas A&M out for the last seventeen minutes of the game. A&M outgained Texas 395 yards of total offense to 336, but Ramonce Taylor's second rushing touchdown of the day and a blocked punt returned for a touchdown in the 3rd quarter proved to be enough margin to put the Aggies away. FINAL SCORE: 40 – 29
Again, Texas struggles when they commit two turnovers in the first half. Also in this game, the Aggies were successful in keeping the ball away from Texas' explosive offense in the first half. They converted two of Texas' three turnovers of the game into touchdowns and had two players rush for over 100 yards a piece against the Texas defense.
But in the end, it became evident that the Aggies did not have the depth and toughness to maintain their quality of play. Two fumbles in the fourth quarter did not lead to any Texas touchdowns, but did convert to plenty of lost momentum, especially after A&M drove 67 yards to the Texas 14 on the first one, only to get sacked on 3rd and 2.
While USC will not employ the option in this game for a multitude of reasons, Texas had plenty of difficulty stopping it. The Aggie running game penetrated into the Texas defensive backfield so often that the free safety, Michael Griffin, had 23 tackles (16 solo). He also blocked the punt that led to a touchdown.
Considering it was a rivalry game, few if any criticized Texas' offense for their inability to gain yards against the 107th defense (and 95th scoring defense) in the nation. Many remember this as the game that cost Vince Young his shot at the Heisman Trophy. The cameras showed Young sitting alone during the game, in obvious disgust over his statistic-lacking performance and assumingly angry over what that would mean for his Heisman contention.
But the bigger picture is how did A&M limit Texas' offensive efficiency? They held them to two field goals in the fourth quarter, at a point in the game where the result was still in doubt. The Longhorns punted 3 times, had 3 turnovers, and had a 50+ yard drive only three times (Texas scored on all three of those possessions).
Maybe it was the rivalry game factor. Maybe Young tightened up after knowing he needed a big game statistically to compete with what Reggie Bush did the previous week against Fresno State. Whatever it is, I hope USC can replicate that, because if Texas plays against USC in the Rose Bowl the way they did against the Aggies, it will most certainly get ugly.
Fun Facts –
Texas was penalized 3 times for 15 yards. Texas A&M was penalized 9 times for 77 yards.
Texas converted 6 of 15 third down attempts. Texas A&M converted 4 of 14.
TOP: Texas A&M 35:17 Texas 24:43; A&M had over a 9 minute advantage in the first half.
Texas A&M ranks 117th in the nation in pass defense. Texas passed for 162 yards in this game (Young was 13-24 with one touchdown and one interception).
Taylor rushed for 100+ yards for the third consecutive game.
Kicker David Pino missed the PAT after Texas blocked a punt for a touchdown. He made 2 of 3 field goal attempts in the game. His only miss was from 33 yards.
This is Texas' sixth straight victory over rival A&M.
GAME 12 Colorado @ Texas (Houston, TX Neutral Site)
December 3, 2005
Texas scored touchdowns on 10 of their first 11 offensive series as Colorado never saw the lead in this game. An interception of a Vince Young pass in the 1st quarter led to a Buffalo field goal, but that would be the only points they would score in the game. Colorado punted 7 times, lost 3 of 4 fumbles, had an interception lead to a Texas touchdown and saw their best drive of the game (10 plays for 69 yards) lead to a blocked field goal attempt. FINAL SCORE 70 – 3
Texas is awesome when they play Colorado. After playing two games against them this season, they've outscored them 112 – 20 and 77 – 13 in the first half alone.
In this one, Colorado failed to even reach 200 yards of total offense (191 yards), went three and out 5 times, and after their field goal early in the 2nd quarter, failed to get further than the Texas 49 until the last drive of the game when they turned it over on downs at the Texas 26-yard line.
Young regained his confidence with this game, going 14 of 17 for 193 yards with 3 touchdowns and 1 interception. He also ran for 57 yards on 8 carries and one touchdown.
While Young did not play much in the second half, and statistics can only tell so much of the story, it seems that Young is at his best when playing with a huge lead. While one relation may begat the other, it seems that when Young completes a high percentage of passes (and does not have to throw too many), Texas can and will roll in a blowout. But when Young struggles with his accuracy (A&M, Oklahoma State, Ohio State) and gives up the football, Texas has a real dogfight on their hands.
What might be interesting to note about this game is the state of mind the Colorado football team was in entering this game. After losing to rival Nebraska in a ridiculous shellacking the previous week, the Buffaloes quite literally stumbled into the conference championship game as the North Division's representative when Iowa State fell to Kansas that same weekend. With the way Colorado lost to Nebraska, rumors (vultures?) circled around the program that head coach Gary Barnett was likely to lose his job at the end of the year, unless some monumental miracle occurred.
So while the score is certainly surprising, the result and performance on the field by Colorado is not; not for a team like Colorado who has had so many off the field issues in recent years and finished the season the way they did.
Fun Facts –
Colorado lost their last three games of the year by a combined 130 to 22.
Over the last four years, the Big XII Champion has won the conference title game by the following margins: 22, 28, 39, 67. That averages out to be a 39-point per game winning margin.
This is the 2nd straight game that Texas blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown.
This is the first time Texas has scored 70+ points in a single game since 1996, the same year that Texas had won their last Big XII conference title.
Texas converted 11 of 16 third down conversions while Colorado only converted 3 of 14.
Texas was penalized 11 times for 93 yards; Colorado 8 times for 74 yards.
So after Texas' game by game year long analysis, what have we learned? Well, from my observations, I think the game will come down to several factors:
This is far and away, in my opinion, the most important factor in the game. USC has ranked in the Top 5 in turnover margin the past five years. They currently rank 1st in the nation this year. I can personally tell you that is no coincidence. Coach Carroll preaches that "It's All About the Ball" and he is not kidding around. USC's team philosophy is that our defense is out to get the ball and our offense is out to make sure they keep it (and score, obviously).
USC has gained 37 turnovers thus far this year (15 fumble recoveries and 22 interceptions). Texas has gained 25 turnovers (15 fumble recoveries and 10 interceptions). But what is also key is that USC is slightly better at protecting the football than Texas: USC has 15 turnovers (6 fumbles lost and 9 interceptions) while Texas has 19 turnovers (8 fumbles lost and 11 interceptions).
Considering USC's emphasis on turnovers, their five-year track record of executing that part of the game plan, and Texas' propensity to turn it over at least once in the first half of their big games (Ohio State, Texas A&M, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Texas Tech) this year, I fully expect the outcome of the game to hinge mostly on this factor.
If USC gets a turnover margin of two or more in this game, I feel USC will win comfortably. If not, the game will most likely swing either way, depending on what other factors will come into play.
2. THIRD DOWNS
For the observant folk, I frequently listed the teams' 3rd down conversions in the "Fun Facts" section. The reason for this, in my mind, is obvious. Both teams have fantastic offenses. Whichever offense, in my opinion, will be able to control the tempo of the game and execute (which 3rd down conversion is a good indication of) will likely ensure victory for their team.
Thus far this year, Texas has not been on the wrong side of the 3rd down conversion percentage in a single game. Texas at worst had the same 3rd down conversion percentage as their opponent (Ohio State). Texas played their best games against teams where they had a highly successful 3rd down conversion (Colorado (twice) and Baylor). Texas had a 50% or better 3rd down completion percentage in seven games this year (and were 8 of 17 against Oklahoma State, pretty darn close to 50% which would have made it 8 games).
Another reason I bring this up is because the teams that have come the closest to beating USC in recent years (Cal 2004, Notre Dame 2005) performed wonderfully on 3rd down against the Trojan defense.
So I think it will be very important, both from a practical game and historical standpoint, that USC limit Texas' success on 3rd downs while optimizing their own opportunities. It will also help keep that explosive Texas offense off the field and allow the Trojans to have their own explosive offense showcase their talents.
3. SPECIAL TEAMS
While many have tabbed USC's defense as the weak link on this year's team, I personally believe it has been the play of the special teams that has left plenty to be desired. When Coach Carroll has to bring back the pooch kick on kickoffs in order to prevent long kick returns by the opposing team, you know something is seriously awry.
Texas is 6th in the nation in punt returns and 3rd in the nation in kick returns. Punt returner Aaron Ross averages a staggering 15.0 yards per return and has 2 touchdowns on the year. Ramonce Taylor, a player mentioned plenty throughout these two articles, leads the kick return team with a 29.4 yard average. Considering USC's opponents are averaging 17.7 yards and 20.6 yards on punt and kick returns, respectively, this aspect of the game needs to be addressed.
If Texas is able to get good field position or worse yet, touchdowns, from special teams, this game will be ridiculously frustrating. The Fresno State game was a great example of how well a team can hang with USC if given consistently good field position through solid special team play.
Another special teams area of concern is punt and field goal blocks. Texas has several of each, and let us not forget how close that 2004 UCLA game was when the Bruins had both a punt return for a touchdown and a punt block against the Trojans.
However, if USC is able to play the way they did against UCLA while minimizing any special teams impact opposing kickoff returns can have on the game, I feel incredibly confident that special teams play will not be an influential factor in this game.
In my personal opinion, I believe the only way Texas can win this game is if USC gets ridiculously jobbed by the men in the black and white striped shirts. In 2002, Miami met Ohio State in what was supposed to be one of the most one-sided beat downs in big bowl game history. Instead, Ohio State upset Miami in what was a thrilling triple overtime classic that nearly everyone has pegged as one of the Top 10 college football games of all time.
But what many forget (and time surely contributes to it) was that the referees were terribly brutal to the Hurricanes that game. I remember watching that game and believing as such, and I had no true interest one way or the other.
This may come off as potential whining about the referees in the game if this were to unfold. Take it how you will. I'm never willing to pin a loss on the referees, but I honestly believe Texas cannot win this game unless they get a little help from some friends, and that is all I'm saying.
Lastly, from a pure statistical standpoint, Texas has committed 95 penalties for 818 yards to USC's 88 penalties for 797 yards. I think virtually everyone can agree that neither team can really afford to give the other 90+ yards worth of penalties in a single game.
With all this said, my very early prediction going into the Christmas weekend is USC by 18. Remember that Mack Brown and Texas are 1-2 against Pac-10 teams in bowl games this century. Also remember that Coach Carroll and USC are 3-0 in BCS bowls. What else is there to say?
Again, I would like to thank the following websites for the information used in this article: