Texas entered the football season with more questions than answers. And after a 52-10 win Saturday night over Florida Atlantic, many of those questions remain unanswered.
Though fans – and often, coaches – tend to emphasize the negative, despite the unanswered questions that remain for the Longhorns this year, a quick Q&A recap reveals there were definitely plenty of highlights for Texas against Howard Schnellenberger’s Owls. But, as most believed before the game began, Florida Atlantic is not an accurate gauge for Texas success in 2008.
Q: How did the new-look Texas defense perform for defensive coordinator Will Muschamp?
A: The Longhorns allowed 226 passing yards in the first half of the game, and also showed a tendency to give up big plays in the passing game, something Muschamp was brought to Austin to fix. Florida Atlantic did not reach the end zone until late in the second quarter, however, and the Longhorns managed to produce turnovers, something that has been lacking the last couple of seasons. Additionally, the Owls were completely shut down in the second half after moving the ball effectively in the first two quarters. The young secondary for Texas looked at times, well, like a young secondary. The Longhorns’ defense was also helped statistically when Schnellenberger yanked his heralded quarterback, Rusty Smith, midway in the third period. All things considered, the jury’s still out on the Texas defense, and despite the pre-season hosannas, the truth is that Muschamp can’t cover or tackle receivers, nor can he rush the passer.
Q: Is Colt McCoy going to have a great season after a sub-par sophomore year?
A: First of all, without McCoy last season, the Longhorns might have won 7-8 games instead of 10, so those who claim he had a sub-par year should probably reconsider that notion. But the debate about the success of McCoy’s sophomore season is a moot point now, and the answer to this question is an emphatic yes. McCoy seems poised to return to the numbers he produced as a freshman. He completed his first 13 passes of the game and finished the contest 24 of 29 for 222 yards and three touchdowns. He was accurate (obviously), led the team in rushing and was absolutely masterful when the Longhorns went no-huddle. Heck, he even proved that he’s without question the best quick-kicker in the nation. He also should’ve been sitting on the bench in the fourth quarter with Texas leading 42-10. In short, he was everything Mack Brown and the Longhorns need him to be this season, and Lord help Texas if he goes down with an injury.
Which brings us to the next question…
Q: How did the Longhorns utilize explosive back-up quarterback John Chiles?
A: Chiles hooked up with James Kirkendoll with a well-thrown touchdown pass over the middle in the fourth period, but prior to that toss he looked extremely inconsistent. However, it must be noted that his playing time in the fourth period came with an extremely young offensive team around him. He was no factor in the game outside of his time at quarterback.
Q: Did the Longhorns discover an emphatic starter at running back?
A: Definitely not. Both Vondrell McGee and Chris Ogbonnaya had their moments, but neither was dominant, or anything close to dominant. Big Cody Johnson did look like a touchdown-making bruiser, but the Longhorns will not hit a lot of home runs with their running backs this season, based on what we saw in the first game. McCoy, the quarterback, led the team in rushing with 103 yards.
Q: Will Blaine Irby adequately replace last year’s talented tight end, Jermichael Finley, who is now in the National Football League?
A: Absolutely. Irby showed that he can not only get open, but he can also catch the rock. He finished the game with 7 catches for 62 yards and a touchdown, and his David Thomas imitation was dead-on on this night. And though Finley was much more ballyhooed, don’t be surprised if Irby’s numbers ultimately surpass those of Finley at Texas. McCoy clearly has confidence in Irby, who will be invaluable for the quarterback as a middle-of-the-field target.
Q: Will the Longhorns ever block a kick again after whiffing in 2007?
A: Yes, Earl Thomas blocked a punt in the third period, leading to a Texas touchdown.