Rollin down Rodeo

Bye Week:

Longhorn football chugged along in the off week and managed to overcome existential despair in one of the more meaningful wins in the Mack Brown era and then some other stuff happened.

Jonestopten wraps up most of the weekend highlights here and it was indeed an interesting weekend for non-Texas football. I was actually impressed with the variety of throws Stephen Garcia could make last year but obviously it takes time for a college offense to develop with a young quarterback. Hell, it takes an NFL offense awhile to click with a young quarterback. This is why many major programs have run-based offenses, you always give yourself a chance with a consistently good running game whereas a fantastic defensive season can be wasted by a down offensive year in a feast or famine offensive scheme.

I'm a little wary of Jonestopten's ranking of the Oregon Ducks no. 1 in the country. Are we sure? Granted they seem to be able to plug in different skill players every year and have instant success and conceded that their defense seems to find strength as games wear on but can they beat a team with an elite defense?

I see a team that won't yield 40 points, like Ohio St., being able to control the game against the Ducks and finally submitting them in the 4rth quarter with a key turnover or field goal that puts the game out of reach. Really though I'm just struggling with accepting this level of Duck dominance. Stanford had them against the ropes and me praising their old-fashioned balance and pro-style attack and then Madison High put them in the Muay Thai clench and kneed them into sweet oblivion.

Even as I searched my mind for teams I would take over Oregon, I realized they are built very much like our own 2005 juggernaut heroes. It's not an elite defense but simply won that can make big plays and will turn a shootout into a route with a few key stops while the offense seems able to drop 40-50 on anyone. Stanford made a tremendous mistake when they accepted a shootout and handed the keys to Andrew Luck instead of continuing to pound the ball on the ground and keeping Kelly's heroes off the field.

Jerrod Johnson can't figure out why those other guys keep catching the ball. Personally I feel not yelling "Jackpot!" before every down field lob might yield some productive results. If you think this growing Aggy defense won't unlock the mysteries of the Texas offense and systematically destroy them with a 2-deep shell and the rare blitze you are probably a new reader here.

Before we continue to dwell on that unpleasantness,

NFL:
I hope you all enjoyed Vince Day (10/10/10) and witnessed the party Wade Phillips threw for him at JerryWorld.

"You want guys to celebrate," Phillips said, "but not get celebration penalties."

This sage wisdom was evidently hid under a bushel in the Dallas preseason and provided a tasty whipped topping of Dallas Cowboys incompetence atop the chocolate cheesecake of Vince success I enjoyed that afternoon.

If you remember my NFL preview (and it's just as well if you don't) I claimed that a lack of pass-rush was the most likely downfall of this Tennessee squad who have always relied heavily on dominance from their front 4 backed by a solid backfield reveling in the schematic advantage of keeping 7 in coverage.

As it turns out, the young Titan line has made Tolleson-like leaps and completely dominated aging Cowboys line with 6 sacks pressure that directly resulted in 3 Romo interceptions. I'm sure Tony will catch a lot of flak in Dallas but I really feel he has grown into one of the better quarterbacks in the league. Given the pressure it's really a wonder that Romo played as well as he did.

Meanwhile, 8-man boxes and man-free coverages are becoming old-hat for Young and he made a few downfield strikes while also drawing 3 defensive PI calls on the initial drive. Kenny Britt and co. are an underrated cast of weapons when you pair them with this line and Chris Johnson. This AFC South is loaded but it should make for some highly entertaining football watching number 10.

Our own Colt McCoy's first appearance in the league coincides quite unfortunately with the appearance of @Pittsburgh on the schedule and also with Ben Roethlisberger's first game back from suspension. At least he's had practice throwing against Earl Thomas for the test of facing Polamalu and the Steel Curtain. Perhaps he'll show how a mobile quarterback can throw off the zone-blitz scheme, if I were Mangini I would worry less about proper recognition and footwork and allow McCoy to freelance early and often.

Texas vs. Nebraska:

We are witnesses to an age in Texas football in which the first 2 games Gilbert is trusted to use the whole field in are against Pattern-Matching champions Alabama and Nebraska, whose scheme is designed to create leverage for defenders against spread attacks over the middle. I look forward to this matchup like a new Lady Gaga song on the radio, or a fit of nausea.

All of my hope this week comes from my faith in Mack Brown as someone who revels in underdog status and owns a copy of the key to the city of Lincoln.

As Mack points out, this is a Nebraska defense who excels in making teams drive the length of the field against their coverage without a lot of scheming or zone-blitzes. Think Tennessee only fortunately with a line that is less than elite. Again, driving the length of the field without screwing up against more than air has been nearly impossible for Texas thus far without adding complications like Eric Hagg or Amukamara.

If you didn't read BrickHorn's piece on the offensive putridity we've seen thus far you're missing a fairly straightforward case that this group is being completely mishandled by our coaches. My own thesis for explaining this phenomena was that Davis has chosen running and passing schemes that require the greatest degree of mastery and team cohesion and installed them at a level where starter turnover is the constant and positional strength the variable.

I'm guessing Bo and Carl could readily make a presentation on the overall ineffectiveness of our offense and will of course be attempting to make such a presentation soon.

Scipio detailed how a running quarterback can make a tremendous difference and then hammered it home with Chris Brown of SmartFootball and "the grisly demise of tressel ball" fame.

How Texas defends Nebraska's midline/zone-read/option attack will be what determines victory in the cornfields because there is no feasible leap to be made by the offense that would enable them to win this game for us.

It's important to remember Scipio's wisdom from games past for this contest, a yard is a yard. A yard is not a point. 100 yards does not equal 1 or any other number of points on the scoreboard.

Texas has out gained all of their foes this season yet has not been able to drink deep from the cup of victory for nearly a month. Allowing as many as 200 rushing yards to Nebraska will by no means insure defeat and you can expect Muschamp's strategy to reflect that realization.

From 3 years of the Muschamp experience I can tell you with confidence that 1). Texas will use multiple looks against Martinez 2). players will be given specialized roles 3). Big play prevention will be present in all the schemes.

Even when Texas employs an 8 man front the eighth man will often come down late so the offense won't know they are running into a hostile front. They'll certainly flip between the 3-4 and 4-3 to confuse line assignments and further give the appearance of complexity to Martinez. Against Alabama Muschamp neglected to stuff the box and I don't expect him to change that strategy for Martinez even if the schemes center around making Martinez win with his arm.

Obviously most of us are largely concerned with the performance of our known weaknesses, Gideon in run support and the 2nd defensive tackle. Thankfully Okafor is really starting to take over at tackle and while he isn't someone who will hold up really well against down-blocking and double teams he offers the exact kind of penetration and pursuit Texas will be relying on in the primary purpose of preventing points.

Gideon presents problems with less obvious solutions. Texas can drop Scott or Vaccaro down to get numbers against Nebraska and leave Gideon with the task of cleaning up anything that comes free...or guiding it threateningly to the sideline as the case may be. Or they can play some Cover-4 and allow the safeties to be the force players on either perimeter, in which case Texas is weak on whichever side Gideon lines up.

Given Gideon's poor production the last 2 games either in filling the alley in support or properly lining up others to do so, I would be tempted to play Vaccaro and Scott together but there is little evidence to suggest that this would actually happen. Vaccaro absolutely has to be involved for his sure tackling skills either as the Big Nickel or in place of Scott and the depth chart suggests this will be the case.

Norton and Earnest figure prominently into the equation as well while Dr. Johnson will surely get a chance to prove he learned from the mistakes against Rice.

A positive outcome will have to come from key turnovers by the defense and big performances from Keenan Robinson and Vaccaro as tacklers and from Sam Acho and Kheeston Randall making stops behind the line to set up the all-important 3rd and long.

This is another game in which the defense can scarcely afford to allow an initial score or long drive that immediately places Texas in bad field position and encourages turtle mode for the offense instead of the sort of wide-open attack necessary to get a quick lead and crank up the pressure on Nebraska to choke again.

Traditionally Mack Brown has had coherent game plans for bigger games like this that sought to set Texas up for success early on with special teams or play calls. We can only hope for the same, personally I'm excited just to watch Texas football again. A win here makes a big difference in my recollection of this season.

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