• The Stat Guy: Texas defense erasing any worries

    Freshman cornerback Quandre Diggs, No. 28, is just one of a handful of young defensive backs that have played well for the Longhorns through their first two games.
    Freshman cornerback Quandre Diggs, No. 28, is just one of a handful of young defensive backs that have played well for the Longhorns through their first two games.

    They say too much youth can be detrimental to a team — especially to a defense. With college football transitioning more and more to a quicker pace, a veteran quarterback can easily pick apart an inexperienced secondary and a learned running back can tear through the gaps of a youthful defensive front. This holds true for most teams, but through two games this season, not for Texas.

    Coming into the 2011 season, a huge question mark was placed upon a secondary that lost cornerback Aaron Williams (34th pick, Buffalo Bills) and Chykie Brown (5th round, Ravens). Without missing a beat, sophomore corners Adrian Phillips and Carrington Byndom have held their own, and freshman Quandre Diggs has provided a breath of fresh air. Joined by the hard-hitting Kenny Vaccaro and Blake Gideon, the Texas secondary has broken up 11 passes, picking off two, with one of those interceptions coming from Diggs on a crucial defensive series versus BYU.

    Byndom and Phillips have combined to have four tackles for losses. The starting secondary as a whole has registered 25 solo tackles and has proven it’s pretty good in the air as well, ranking 19 in the nation in passing yards allowed (143).

    Not to be forgotten, the Texas defensive front has established itself as a force after a shaky first game.

    Rice exposed the Texas interior line numerous times with simple inside draw plays. Texas extinguished any worries whatsoever in game two against BYU, holding the Cougars to 43 yards. For the math whizzes out there, that’s 202 percent better than the 130 yards the Longhorns gave up to Rice. Ashton Dorsey returned to the defensive line and registered a 10-yard sack.

    The best unit on the defense, the linebackers, have compiled 52 tackles. Emmanuel Acho had a career performance against the Cougars, with 13 tackles and a tackle for a loss. Texas has climbed its way back up to 31st in the country in rushing defense, allowing 86.5 yards a game.

    Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz expects that number to keep dropping.

    With a multitude of questions surrounding the offensive side of the ball, the Texas defense has proven it can keep the team in games. The Longhorns rank 15th in total defense, allowing 229 yards per game. In the second half of the BYU game, the Cougars had a total of 80 yards, so it looks like the defense gets stronger as the game goes on.

    Printed on Friday, September 16, 2011 as: Young defense proving worthy on field.

  • Stat Guy: Why Malcolm Brown might bust loose this weekend

    Texas running back Malcolm Brown is having a great freshman year thus far, and will look to have a great third game against UCLA, like former Texas greats.
    Texas running back Malcolm Brown is having a great freshman year thus far, and will look to have a great third game against UCLA, like former Texas greats.

    As the Texas football team prepares for its trip to Pasadena this weekend, all the commotion is surrounding the new signal callers, Case McCoy and David Ash. Questions about how the duo will follow their coming out party against BYU fill a number of message boards and newspapers alike. With all the hype surrounding the quarterback position, a freshman running back is, rather quietly, preparing to take the reigns of the Texas backfield.

    On Monday, Malcolm Brown was listed as the co-starter at running back alongside Fozzy Whittaker after registering 14 carries for 68 yards on Saturday. Brown will be the first true freshman running back to start at Texas since 2005 when Jamaal Charles averaged an astonishing 7.4 yards a carry, ranking third among the top-100 college running backs.

    When did Charles get that first start, you may ask? The answer is Texas’ third game of the season against Rice, a night which he rushed for 189 yards and three touchdowns, one of the best performances of his career.

    While Brown’s situation differs from Charles’ in that he’s taking the stage in Pasadena against UCLA and not at home against Rice, history shows the third game of the season has been kind to freshmen running backs at Texas and beyond.

    Let’s look back at the stats. In 2001, Cedric Benson rushed for 75 yards on a mere 14 carries, tallying one touchdown against Houston. A few years prior, in 1995, Ricky Williams posted 73 yards on 15 carries against Notre Dame.

    While the yardage numbers aren’t eye-popping, that’s 5.4 and 4.9 yards per touch, respectively. Williams went on to become the second Texas player to win the Heisman Trophy. Benson went on to become a first-team all-American, rushing for 5,540 yards, winning the Doak Walker Award (for the nation’s top running back) in 2004.

    Actually, freshman running backs all over have chosen the third game to break out. Georgia’s Herschel Walker, arguably the greatest running back in college football history, rushed for 121 yards on 23 carries versus Clemson in 1980. Walker went on to set the all-time rushing record at the time, tallying 1,616 yards.

    Last season, Marcus Lattimore of South Carolina rushed for 97 yards and a score against Furman. Lattimore, like Brown, was the top running back of his class.

    This season, Brown has seen most of his work in the second half of games. Without missing a beat, the freshman has come in and rushed for 154 total yards, averaging 5.1 yards a touch.

    With the shake-up at quarterback taking the full notice of Longhorn fans, Brown has a great opportunity to show off his innate talent.

    My prediction? Look for Brown to eclipse 100 yards rushing for the first of potentially many times in his career. Come Saturday afternoon, he might be on his way to joining some elite company.

    Printed on Wednesday, September 14, 2011 as: Brown next in line? Running back could run wild in Week 3.

  • McCoy tops depth chart

    Case McCoy and David Ash were named the co-starters at quarterback Monday. Garrett Gilbert, who started all 12 games last year and both games this year, was demoted to third string. Texas trailed BYU, 13-0, Saturday before Gilbert was replaced by McCoy, who completed seven of his eight passes for 57 yards while leading an eight-play, 52-yard touchdown drive that gave the Longhorns a 17-16 lead that they would not relinquish. Meanwhile, David Ash went 2-for-3 for 35 yards, ran for 39 yards, and had a 23-yard reception late in the fourth quarter.

    “I thought Case and David did exactly what we needed them to do and provided a spark,” said co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin. “You talk to your backup quarterback about being as prepared as the starter going into the game and you never know but I thought Case, coming in, knew exactly what we wanted to do. He was right on and stayed focused the entire game.”

  • The Stat Guy: BYU a good option for Big 12

    Senior running back Bryan Kariya, No. 33 above, shakes off a defender in the Cougars’ 14-13 win over Ole Miss last week.
    Senior running back Bryan Kariya, No. 33 above, shakes off a defender in the Cougars’ 14-13 win over Ole Miss last week.

    Never has college football seen such a whirlwind in conference realignment. Yes, beloved conferences have been disbanded over the years, such as the classic Southwest Conference (1914-1996), but nothing at this accelerated pace. Last year, Nebraska and Colorado bid farewell to the Big 12, and now the conference is on the brink of extinction with Texas A&M’s imminent departure.

    So what is the Big 12 to do? There are two options, the first of which is give up, let the conference break apart and potentially lose money and historic rivalries. Or, Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe can add to the conference. You may be asking yourself, what schools are out there? The answer is quite simple: Brigham Young University.

    The Big 12 North Division hasn’t had much success in football in recent years and is especially vulnerable now without the Cornhuskers or the Buffaloes. Adding a school like BYU would contribute serious talent to the division and open up the West Coast audience to the conference. Some skeptics out there don’t believe the Cougars (a recently declared independent school) could succeed in a BCS division; however, the statistics could certainly raise some eyebrows.

    To start, BYU has never lost to Texas in football. Albeit the two teams have only met twice on the gridiron, but the Cougars held their ground against the Longhorns with a 47-6 win in 1988. BYU has never lost to Oklahoma, most recently defeating the Sooners in 2009 with a score of 14-13, a game in which Sam Bradford was knocked out of the game. BYU’s winningest coach, LaVell Edwards, tallied his first win against current Big 12 member Kansas State.

    BYU has posted an impressive 8-3 record against current Big 12 schools since 1980, and their all-time record of 12-14 is not too shabby. Certainly, these are numbers worthy of consideration.

    Football, however, isn’t the only item taken into consideration when realignment talks occur. Schools have to provide athletic opportunities to many student athletes that stretch far beyond the football field. BYU fields 21 NCAA varsity teams and consistently finished at the top of its old conference, the Mountain West Conference (80 conference titles, including 14 of 17 in 2007). In 2005-06, 234 student athletes made the Academic all-MWC team, a conference high. The school has excellent facilities, a great fan base, very strong academics and has established a winner’s reputation. The Big 12 would be smart to sign the Cougars up right now.

  • The Stat Guy: BYU and Texas’ quarterbacks have had similar careers

    Sophomore quarterback Jake Heaps threw for 225 yards and a touchdown in BYU's 14-13 win over Ole Miss last week. (Photo courtesy of BYU Photo)
    Sophomore quarterback Jake Heaps threw for 225 yards and a touchdown in BYU's 14-13 win over Ole Miss last week. (Photo courtesy of BYU Photo)

    Brigham Young, Texas’ opponent this Saturday night, is known for the birth of the spread offense in college football courtesy of LaVell Edwards, BYU’s all-time winningest coach. The Cougars air the ball out and have done so for years. With quarterbacks such as Marc Wilson, Jim McMahon, Steve Young, John Beck and Max Hall, it is no surprise that BYU has earned a reputation as one of the top quarterback factories in the country.

    Sophomore Jake Heaps is the Cougars’ latest product. Heaps was a top quarterback in the 2010 class, and he brings a lot to the table in terms of poise and throwing accuracy. The same was said of the Longhorns’ Garrett Gilbert in 2009. So just what kind of quarterback battle will be in store for this weekend? Let’s take a look at the stats.

    To start, both Gilbert and Heaps led their high schools to multiple state championships. Heaps, who hails from Washington, passed for 9,196 yards and 114 touchdowns from 2007-09 while at Skyline High School. Gilbert holds the Texas high school record for passing yards with 12,540, which he set in three years as a starter at nearby Lake Travis High School from 2006-08.

    Both quarterbacks were Parade All-Americans. Heaps came out of a pro-style offense in high school, whereas Gilbert was accustomed to the spread. And yet, both quarterbacks were sent into opposite situations than they became accustomed to in high school: BYU runs the power spread, whereas Texas ran (or tried to) a more pro-style rushing attack in 2010.

    Heaps was thrown into the fire early last season as a true freshman, replacing an injured Riley Nelson against Florida State in 2010. The Cougars lost the game 34-10 but gained confidence in Heaps, who posted admirable stats (15-31, 114 yards, one touchdown). Not eye-popping numbers, but in the not-so-welcoming environment Doak Campbell Stadium is, they’ll do. Gilbert put up similar numbers in his first official collegiate start at Rice (14-23, 172 yards), and everyone knows the hostility Reliant Stadium brings on a fall Saturday.

    Heaps went on to start the rest of the season for the Cougars, who finished strong at a 7-6 record, defeating UTEP in the New Mexico Bowl, 52-24. Heaps compiled 2,316 yards passing and broke the all-time freshman touchdown record at BYU (Ty Detmer, 11) with 15 scores. Heaps posted a 57.2 completion percentage, finishing the season with a 116.2 passer rating. Gilbert, on the other hand, finished 2010 with 2,744 yards passing, a 59 percent completion. Better yardage but not a better win-loss record.

    Heaps entered the 2011 season with assurance he’d be the starting quarterback, whereas Gilbert had to fight for his position. This past weekend, BYU traveled to Ole Miss to take on the Rebels in a daring preseason matchup. Heaps completed 24 of 38 passes for 225 yards and one touchdown as the Cougars came from behind to a 14-13 victory. Not to be outdone, Gilbert passed for 239 yards and a touchdown against the Owls on Saturday. The two quarterbacks have almost mirrored each other statistically over the past season, even coming down to physical stature (Heaps 6 feet 2 inches, 210 lbs.; Gilbert 6 feet 4 inches, 215 lbs.).

    This Saturday, the two quarterbacks will clash. Don’t be surprised if Heaps exposes Texas’ young cornerbacks early because unlike Rice, BYU will throw the ball downfield often. However, if the two quarterbacks maintain their likeness, expect similar statistics from Gilbert.

    Printed on September 8, 2011 as: Quarterbacks share similar statistics, stories

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