September 7, 2008

Texas gave up some to get a lot

EL PASO _ Texas was outgained by UTEP 412 yards to 404 yards Saturday night.

I heard one reporter say after the game that Texas will get drilled by Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford if it plays defense like it did against the Miners.

Quick reminder: Oklahoma is five weeks away - a lifetime when you have 19 freshmen playing. And numbers have to be interpreted becuase they can often say whatever you want them to say.

The numbers on first down Saturday night were indeed staggering: UTEP averaged 7.1 yards on 31 first-down plays. Nineteen of those plays were runs that averaged 6.9 yards per carry thanks in large part to a 21-yard run on the first possession and a 26-yard run in the fourth quarter.

Allowing teams to make big chunks on first down is like a pitcher getting behind in the count, allowing the hitter to sit on that fast ball and send it over the fence.

"I didn't think we stopped the run well enough in the first half," Mack Brown said. "They made some plays on the run and ended up being second-and-5 and second-and-3. That put Will (Muschamp) and our staff in a tough spot calling the defense. Then we started stopping the run a lot better in the second half and shut them down. I thought we made some really good adjustments."


But before everyone gets on the ledge about a suddenly Swiss cheese defense, Texas wanted UTEP to run. The strength of the Miners' offense is throwing the football with sophomore Trevor Vittatoe.

Will Muschamp wants to give his young secondary a chance to grow up a little bit more. So Texas invited UTEP to run the ball by playing a bunch of Cover 2 zone and some quarters match in the secondary.

Texas played without a defensive end for much of the first half. UT took Henry Melton off the field and replaced him with a nickel back. Muschamp used linebacker Sergio Kindle to replace Melton's pass rush in the Buck Package. Kindle had his hand on the ground more than he stood up.

"We were going to go in and give up some things in the running game to help our safeties out - play a little more cover two and quarters match and be a gap short inside and change the gaps in the running game," Muschamp said. "We wanted to make them be a little more patient. They tried to take a lot of shots early. But if you take away the first series and the last series of the first half, we played a good football game."


The bottom line is Texas gave up a bunch of yards, but didn't give up a bunch of points. Texas is giving up 11.5 points per game this season after playing two prolific offenses. Florida Atlantic and UTEP may not end up in the top 20 nationally in defense, but both teams can move the ball. FAU has 10 starters back from a unit that averaged 31.2 points per game last season. UTEP averaged 33.6 points last year with Vittatoe directing the offense.

Linebacker Roddrick Muckelroy was huge with 14 tackles and a 26-yard fumble return for a touchdown. Freshman safety Blake Gideon had a big pass breakup on third down in the red zone. Texas got consistent pressure and hit Vittatoe repeatedly.

"That quarterback (Vittatoe) threw for 3,000 yards last season," Muschamp said. "It wasn't like we were playing a kid in junior high."

In the second half, Texas started off in a base defense and UTEP didn't cross midfield until there was less than three minutes left in the third quarter. That drive reached the Texas 47 before Brian Orakpo got Texas' first sack of the season to force a punt from UTEP territory. Orakpo and Kindle combined for another sack in the fourth quarter.

"We put some pressure on him and he made good plays down the field," Orakpo said of Vittatoe. "But we eventually came through. We didn't get any sacks last week because of the max protection. But we finally got one."

Even though UTEP reached the Texas 13 on its first drive, the Longhorns held the Miners to at field goal. A short punt by John Gold (35 yards), set up a short field for the Miners on their second possession. UTEP only had to go 26 yards for a 49-yard field goal by Jose Martinez, one of the best kickers in the country, giving UTEP a 6-0 lead.


The drive everyone in burnt orange was upset with came at the end of the half as UTEP went 76 yards in eight plays (that's an average of 9.5 yards per play) in just 3:41 and scored with 18 seconds left before intermission.

That's the drive that bothered Muschamp.

"I made a couple bad calls on that drive," Muschamp said. "That one was my fault."

But when a team with 19 freshmen playing an active role can go on the road and learn valuable lessons while putting up 42 and giving up just 13, you'll take that.

"This should really help us at Colorado," Brown said. "It's one of the reasons you want to play a game like this. The Colorado game, if it's at night, it will be the same thing exactly. It will be a loud crowd and hopefully this experience will help out our young ones down the road."

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