The Longhorns demolished Arkansas on Saturday 52-10 thanks to a huge game for quarterback Colt McCoy and for the Texas defense. It was a big win for the Horns, but it also indicates this is a different Texas team than the one from a year ago.
Will Gallagher’s Photo Gallery Texas is 4-0, but it’s a very different 4-0 from the opening record held by the 2007 Texas Longhorns.
“(Last season) we walked in here and said, ‘It’s a win,’ but at the same time we knew we weren’t dominating teams we could have,” said Texas head coach Mack Brown. “This team right here has done exactly what they’ve been asked.”
Undefeated after four games was as far as the 2007 Longhorns got. That year, Texas lost the next week at home to an unranked Kansas State team. But that Texas team looked very, very different from this one, which has beaten three of its non-conference opponents by the same dominating score: 52-10.
But it’s less about the score than astounding efficiency the Longhorns have operated with in 2008, and that all starts with No. 12.
Quarterback Colt McCoy accounted for five touchdowns on Saturday (three through the air and two on the ground) and completed 17 of 19 passes for 185 yards. He also led the team in rushing with 84 yards on the ground, which included a 35-yard touchdown gallop in the second quarter. He followed that with his second rushing TD of the first half, putting the Horns up 31-3 and effectively ending the game before intermission.
McCoy put up Heisman-like numbers in the game, but afterwards he repeatedly deflected any and all praise coming his way.
“Give credit to the offensive line, they game me a lot of time,” said McCoy. “Going into the game, our goal was to win in the trenches. If we would win there, it would give us some time and the ability to run the ball.”
McCoy is also putting up Heisman-like numbers on the season. He’s completing exactly 80 percent of his passes (80-100) for 1,018 yards and 14 touchdowns, compared to only a single interception. At this point, McCoy has only six more incompletions than touchdowns this season.
“I don’t see how anybody could be playing better than Colt is right now,” said Brown. “They may be playing as good, but they can’t be better. He’s not making any mistakes.”
One of the only statistics that was down for McCoy on Saturday was total passing yards, but the junior QB said he didn’t have a ton of passing yards because he didn’t have far to go.
“Give credit to the defense because they gave us a lot of short fields. That’s why we didn’t have as much total yardage because we didn’t have to go a long way,” said McCoy.
Then there’s that defense.
Last season, the Longhorns had — statistically, anyway — one of the worst pass defenses in the nation. There were plenty of reasons, but one of the main causes was a failure to get consistent pressure on the quarterback.
But the last two games have been a sack party for Texas. The Horns posted seven sacks last week against Rice and then seven more against Arkansas. That was after getting two sacks, total, over the first two games of the season. However, Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp said his pass rushers have been getting through, it’s only now that we’re seeing results in the sack column.
“I really feel like all year, regardless of the number of sacks, we’ve gotten pressure,” said Muschamp. “I’ve told the kids, ‘Don’t worry about the sacks, the sacks are gonna come. We’re getting to the quarterback,’ and both (Arkansas quarterbacks) held the ball longer than the previous quarterbacks we’ve faced and they’re not as mobile of guys in the pocket.”
Arkansas starting quarterback Casey Dick was planted on six of those seven sacks. Dick said he wasn’t surprised he faced so much pressure against Texas.
“They played well and mixed things up with blitzes and everything like that. It’s just your typical Texas defense,” said Dick.
But Texas defensive end Henry Melton, who forced a fumble while sacking Dick late in the first half to help seal the win, does not see this year’s team as having a ‘typical Texas defense’. Rather, he sees this as a defense with a new attitude, a defense that believes it can be dominant from start to finish in every game this season.
“I believe. Coach Muschamp came and put this in our heads. We’re just getting started,” said Melton.
As evidence to it, after the game several defensive players pointed to the fact that Texas only gave up 11 yards on the ground to a team that had been averaging ten times that amount. The Longhorns, on the other hand, had much more success on the ground, churning up 208 rushing yards.
McCoy was the Horns’ leading rusher, but Texas may have found its workhorse in redshirt freshman Cody Johnson. The 260-pound tailback put up 43 hard-earned yards and a touchdown on just nine carries (4.8 ypc average). The Longhorn coaching staff has been playing the big man progressively earlier in games as the season has rolled on and he made his debut on Saturday on Texas’ second drive.
“(Johnson) is doing a nice job of getting his pads squared, getting under them and pushing the ball…For the second week in a row he did some nice things,” said Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis.
Sophomore Vondrell McGee got the most carries for Texas, carrying the ball 16 times for 57 yards (3.0 ypc). Senior Chris Ogbonnaya played but didn’t get any carries and redshirt freshman Foswhitt Whittaker’s knee bruise kept him off the field. Davis admitted that, especially with Whittaker still sidelined, it may be a while before the Horns know who the main weapon at the position will be.
“We’re going to continue to have to play a bunch of backs and let them shake it as to who’s going to be the feature back,” said Davis.
The running backs, like McCoy, continued to do a good job of protecting the football with the team’s only fumble coming late in the game, when backup quarterback John Chiles’ fumble was returned 80 yards by Arkansas’ Lavunce Askew for the Hogs only touchdown of the game.
Chiles completed 4-of-4 attempts for 28 yards, but still struggled a bit to move the football, especially when compared to McCoy’s productivity. Brown noted after the game that Chiles still has a lot of room to improve as his Texas career continues.
“You’ve still got to remember that John didn’t redshirt, so he’s still a young quarterback. We’ve just got to continue to get him better,” said Brown.
The Horns had their own big return for a score as well when true freshman cornerback picked off a Tyler Wilson pass and took it 81 yards for Texas’ final TD in the game.
“I was in the nickel and thankfully I was in the right spot at the right time,” said Williams. “After about the 50 (yard line), I knew I was gone.”
With three of the top four teams in the Top 25 losing this week, the Longhorns will almost certainly be in the top five when the polls come out. But the Horns say they aren’t concerned about what spot they’re in.
“Doesn’t matter,” said senior DE Brian Orakpo, who had two sacks in the game.
“Doesn’t matter,” echoed McCoy, sitting next to Orakpo. “We’re focused on ourselves. We’re playing as a team, offense, defense and special teams. That’s the key for us and that’s all we’re focusing on.”
Texas now heads into conference play. The Horns take on Colorado up in Boulder, Colo. to start their Big 12 slate. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. Saturday.