Will the Texas offense continue to be vanilla? In the lead up to the season, much of the talk centered around the "new" Texas running game. Playing under center for all but around 10 snaps against Rice, the 'Horns certainly had part of the downhill equation working, in that the running back had a running start when receiving the handoff, but not so much in terms of any aggressive, man-blocking adjustments -- the main running play remained the inside zone, as it has been for some time.
The thought here is that the Texas coaches will remain stubborn with the running game, wanting to see if the team can execute despite the defense knowing what is coming once again this week. Additionally, as they often do early in the season, the Texas coaches talk a lot about wanting to keep opponents from having film on what they are doing.
So don't expect to see a lot of movement pre snap -- the multiple, Boise State-style offense anticipated for this season. Don't expect to see Barrett Matthews sliding from H-back to fullback to act as a lead blocker. Or DJ Monroe or Marquise Goodwin doing much with the jet sweep series either.
If Texas can wrest control off the game early from what will be an emotional Cowboy football team, this week should be more of the same -- an offensive gameplan as nondescript as a Toyota Corolla and probably a little less exciting.
Can Tre' Newton earn a repeat Flavor of the Week Award? Without a Morning Coffee this week, there wasn't an opportunity to talk about the newest Flavor of the Week for the season, the second winner even though there haven't even been two games played yet. That would be redshirt sophomore running back Tre' Newton, who was the most effective of the three backs in using his vision and patience to hit the proper holes. It's known now that he isn't a home run threat, but the ability to consistently pick up positive yardage and make the right play -- in other words, be the very definition of "steady" -- that has to this point make Newton stand out among the running backs, according to Mack Brown:
Tre’ has a great knack for finding the hole and then he has this burst that he gets through it. We laughed. We didn’t make the third and two, but he scored three times on the goal line and when you guys interview him I try to watch the interviews and see what our kids are saying, and Tre’ said, ‘Boy when I feel that goal line I can just smell it.’ Well I’m going to tell him, ‘When you feel that first-down marker, smell it too because it smells good. It’s the same.’ He’s one of those guys like Cedric Benson that allows the hole to open up and then he finds it. He’s very patient as a runner and I think that’s what makes him so good.
After Cody Johnson missed some open running lanes last week -- whether due to his injured ankle or not -- simply making the most of out every opportunity available will help and it shouldn't come as a surprise that the Texas running game this season will go as far as the offensive line will take it in terms of moving the line of scrimmage or creating holes for whichever running back does happen to be the Flavor of the Week.
One of the keys will be to do a better job on the backside of plays, where EBS had some issues letting defenders cross his face and the backside of the line struggled to open up the cutback lanes that are easier to see and hit with the running back having different aiming points in the zone scheme when the offense is under center.
Can Texas do a better job on special teams? It would be harsh to say that the special teams were a disaster last week -- after all, a disaster would be more like what happened last year against Wyoming with the failed fake punt and the blocked punt returned for a touchdown. No, last week was simply a poor performance, mostly all around, whether it was Justin Tucker being unable to put the ball into the end zone on kickoffs, missing two field goals, or both Curtis Brown and Aaron Williams fielding punts on the bounce dangerously and Williams muffing the punt late in the game.
Mack Brown speculated this week that Tucker may have had a tired leg, a sorry excuse considering how early in the season it is. What will happen after kicking off repeatedly during the season and handling field goals as well? If Brown's statement was true, that would be as bad or worse than the lie after Tucker supposedly was putting the ball deep in the end zone all fall camp, as he did publicly during the open practice. Will Russ looked worse than Tucker at that time, so he doesn't look like an answer right now.
And the tired leg doesn't bode well for field goal kicking, even though Tucker had plenty of distance on both 50-yard attempts, including the made field goal on his first collegiate try that would have been good from more than 55 yards out. Another field goal attempt was partially blocked.
On punt returns, can Brown and Williams show off better decision-making skills? And will the Longhorns be able to block a punt after Mack Brown noted that the Posse should have blocked one last week? As for changing personnel to get faster upmen on the field, Brown simply noted that the team will be happy to take the ball near the 50 every time if opponents continue to kick away from the speedy Monroe/Goodwin tandem.
Will a second defensive tackle flash? Besides Kheeston Randall at nose guard, the defensive tackles were pretty silent last week against Rice. Not unexpected, but certainly not a great sign moving forward. Tyrell Higgins was mostly a non-factor and struggled mightily taking on double teams -- as much work as he has done in the weight room, he's still not capable of taking on two blockers and holding his ground. Calvin Howell didn't show anything. Neither did Alex Okafor, playing for the first time inside in a game situation.
Will anyone besides Randall be able to make some plays this week? Certainly, the expectation isn't for game-changing plays from those players, but can they have some positive impact on the game to build on moving forward?
How will Wyoming respond to the tragic death of LB Ruben Narcisse? The Wyoming football family lost a member this week in a car accident, a situation that recalls the death of Texas football Cole Pittman. In the face of such tragedies, sports often provides a welcome respite from the pain and loss. The question for the Wyoming football team is whether or not they can collectively channel that emotion towards a stronger performance on the football field. Regardless, the best wishes of BON go out to the whole Wyoming football team and the Narcisse's grieving family. The hearts of Texas are with you all.