Texas 101: Scouting the Longhorns

WITH MANY OF their careers coming to close and a third-consecutive 10-win season on the line, the Cougars face their most daunting opponent since USC nearly two months ago. No. 5 Texas has as much NFL-destined talent as any team in the land. A victory for WSU on Tuesday would cement the legacy of the Cougar seniors as the most prodigious group in school history.

But finding a way to beat the 'Horns will take a colossal effort by both players and coaches.

And it most certainly demands that No. 14 WSU's moribund offense rekindle the fire that's been largely snuffed out since the middle of the season.

The records: WSU 9-3, Texas 10-2
TV: Live on ESPN
When: Tuesday Dec. 30, 5 pm PT
Line: Texas by 9 1/2

Despite demolishing their past six opponents by a combined score of 271 to 97, the 'Horns were shunned by the BCS system yet again and now make their third trip to San Diego in four years. Speculation is that Texas has either lost all interest in the Holiday Bowl or is planning to vent a load of frustrations through it.


Overview: The 'Horns are an offensive juggernaut, scoring 40 or more points in 8 of their 12 contests this season. They run a standard pro-set and their skill position players are as big and fast as the Cougars have seen all year. They are led by one of the nation's best running backs, a pair of NFL-caliber receivers, and one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks around. The quality and depth of stars on this team will compound any mistakes defenders make, so the Cougs will need to play picture perfect defense just to keep this one close.

Strategy: Only teams that can stop the run have given Texas trouble, so priority No. 1 for WSU has to be shutting down Cedric Benson. Texas ranks fifth in the nation in rushing. Should the Cougs prove effective at stopping the Texas ground attack they will need to get physical with their wide receivers, a lethal bunch but one that has had trouble with physical corners that lay into them hard. If nothing else is working, Texas still has one major offensive threat in QB Vincent Young's running ability. He has blitz busting speed and excellent open field moves so the Cougs will need to stay home more than they are accustomed to and wrap him up when he scrambles. If Young is forced to pass he may have some trouble. He still does not have full command of the UT passing playbook.

Players to Know:

Vincent Young, QB: Young was the top rated high school quarterback in the country two years ago. Despite only starting the last 6 games of this season he has amassed 948 rushing yards to go along side 1140 passing yards. The Longhorns have not lost a game since he took over. While he is still learning to be an effective collegiate passer, he already scrambles like a young Michael Vick. At least one of the Cougar linebackers will need to shadow him in order to force him to pass.

Cedric Benson, RB: Benson is the most dangerous rusher to come out of Austin since Ricky Williams. He has amassed nearly 1300 rushing yards this season and a jaw dropping 20 touchdowns. A finalist for the Doak Walker Award, he is powerful, agile, and difficult to wrap up.

Roy Williams, WR: Texas' receiver corps is the most heralded in the country but they have not put up the kind of numbers people expected this year. Williams leads this crew with his freakish combination of size and speed. He accounted for 982 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns on his way to becoming a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award.

BJ Johnson, WR: Williams' track star speed is rivaled only by Johnson's. He is one of the best deep threats in the Big XII conference but has caught only 27 balls this season.

Chance Mock, QB: Mock began the season as the Horns starting quarterback before losing the job mid-season. He is a very viable backup and has a good knowledge of the offense but he lacks the flare Young brings to the table.


Overview: As with the offense, Texas' defense is loaded with high school All-Americans. They rank ninth in the nation against the pass and surrender about 21 points per game. Coach Brown tends to keep things fairly conservative and looks to make teams as one-dimensional as possible. Look for Texas to focus on shutting down WSU's running game without over-extending themselves in the secondary. Texas tries to dominate at the center of the line of scrimmage.

Strategy: Texas blitzes like crazy up the middle, often leaving the center of the field exposed. Kegel should look to utilize Cody Boyd and Troy Bienemann on quick outs and get them off balance. Teams that have given Texas trouble were the ones that offered a threatening rushing attack to setup their kill-shot passes. Texas will try to shut down the running game completely, confident that their pass defense is good enough to cover ground fast. Kegel must give them reason to think otherwise.

Players to Know:

Nathan Vasher, CB: Vasher is a legit shutdown corner who like his Cougar counterpart Jason David, has a knack for forcing interceptions (17 career INTs). He has 6 interceptions this season and was a finalist for the Thorpe Award.

Derrick Johnson, LB: Johnson is a tackling machine, registering a team best 116 tackles, 18 of them for a loss. He also has 4 interceptions and 3 fumble recoveries to his credit and was a Butkus Award finalist. He is a huge strength working against the weak side of the line of scrimmage.

Roderique Wright and Marcus Tubbs, DTs: Texas offers quarterbacks a nightmarish pair of pass rushers up the middle in Tubbs and Wright. Between the pair they have 13 sacks 53 QB hurries this season. They may be in Kegel's lap all day long.


This is one area where the Cougs may have a slight advantage. Longhorn kicker Dusty Mangum is automatic inside of 35 yards but doesn't have the leg strength to be of much use beyond that. Texas punter Richmond McGee averages a solid 40.6 yards per boot. RB Selvin Young is a decent kick returner and CB Nathan Vasher a threat on punt returns.


Far be it for me to question an opponent's heart, but WSU's biggest reason for possibly winning this game may be Texas' lack of interest in it. There is no question that this Texas team had higher expectations than a third Holiday Bowl in four years. If WSU plays hard and physical, Texas may find that it did not prepare hard enough to beat a veteran team looking to reaffirm their place in school and Pac-10 history with three consecutive 10-win seasons. That being said, Texas -- on papper -- has the Cougars heavily outgunned. Many of the match-up problems that overcame WSU in the Rose Bowl against Oklahoma last year could resurface again with the Longhorns. If Texas shows up hungry, it is their game to lose.

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