While Texas didn’t play an opponent this past weekend, it will now face a slate of eight straight weeks of Big 12 competition starting this Saturday with a trip to Lawrence, Kansas, to face the Jayhawks. Despite having the week off from competition, the Longhorns continued to grind to improve following their disheartening loss to UCLA earlier this month.
“We just worked on the little things we didn’t do against UCLA and just really worked on getting better as a team,” sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes said. “It was mainly just executing on third downs, staying on the field and I think if we want to get better in the future, we have to start doing that — staying on the field after third down.”
The emphasis on converting on third downs should benefit the Longhorns as they try to contend for the Big 12 title. Through Texas’ first three games of the season, the Longhorns only converted on 27.3 percent of their third-down attempts, the lowest percentage in the Big 12. In the Longhorns’ two losses, the team recorded eight conversions on 29 third-down attempts to their opponents 12-of-32 — a more than 10 percent higher conversion rate.
To combat their struggling offense, the Longhorns are looking for an increase in “explosive plays”, which, roughly speaking, are plays that go for long gains from scrimmage. Through the team’s first three games, Texas has recorded only 31 plays of 10 yards or more, which is tied for last in the conference with Iowa State.
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to go more vertical down the field,” senior wide receiver John Harris said. “I know we haven’t been able to do that a lot, so, hopefully, we will have a lot more explosive plays than what we’ve had these past two games. And I mean maybe that can be hindering the offense a little bit, but I think that’s something we’ll be able to see a lot different is more explosive plays by the receivers and running backs.”
One of the key reasons for Texas’ struggles also lies with the inexperienced line up front, which has only 15 combined starts as a unit. Only two of its preseason expected starters are currently on the offensive line for Texas, while several other starters are playing out of their optimal positions. Despite these setbacks, Harris continues to see improvements from the unit after gaining experience and during the bye week.
“I think they’ve gotten better,” Harris said. “You know, offensive line is all about chemistry. I think they are getting better with time. They got better with the UCLA game. As you can see, we were able to run the ball a little bit better. They’re a young group, so they are just growing with time, and they are just growing, as well as Tyrone [Swoopes}, as he’s growing. I think they’ll make another big step this week and, hopefully, we will be able to run the ball a little more and give a little more protection to Tyrone to throw the ball down the field.”