Texas faced an undermanned and outgunned New Mexico squad Saturday night. The offensive and defensive gameplans reflected that truth. On defense, Manny Diaz opted to play deep cover 3 and rely on underneath assignments to slow New Mexico's triple option offense, largely to mixed results. On offense, Bryan Harsin treated the game like a scrimmage, using the game to try some new things out on offense and see what his passing game can bring this team. Overall, it was a...funky, is the first word that comes to mind....game. Because of the Lobos triple option attack (which won't be seen in any way, shape, or form, until Kansas State in December) and Bob Davie's desire to shorten the game and make it look as respectable as possible, it's a tough game to extrapolate results on defense. Likewise, because of how the offense approached this game, its an overall offensive game that probably won't be repeated this season. With that said, I think there's a few patterns we can take a reasoned look at.
6 of 15 vs. 10 of 14: New Mexico third down conversions vs. Texas third down conversions
If there's an early pattern developing for Texas this season, its being successful on both sides of the ball on 3rd down. After holding Wyoming to 1 of 11 a week ago, the Texas defense held New Mexico to 6 of 15 on 3rd down this week. More on the Texas defense on third down in a moment. Additionally, the Texas offense went 10 of 14 on 3rd down conversions a week after converting 9 of 17 3rd down attempts. Completing third downs is an area of focus for the developing Texas QB David Ash, and the he answered with the following conversions: a 12 yard completion to Marquise Goodwin on 3rd and 11, a 22 yard TD completion to Mike Davis on 3rd and 16, an 18 yard completion to TE DJ Grant on 3rd and 5, and a 20 yard completion to Bryant Jackson on 3rd and 6. For those keeping score at home, that's 4 conversions of 3rd and 5+ by your starting QB. Case McCoy chipped in a 3rd and 9 completion to Jeremy Hills for 10 yards and a 3rd and 8 completion to John Harris for 17 yards. On a day the Texas QBs were asked to get work in while the running game was rested, they answered the bell by completing tough 3rd down conversions.
More number crunching after the jump.
5.75: average yards per carry for Wyoming on 1st down
When facing a team that runs as much as New Mexico, and doesn't pass as well, stopping the run on first down becomes an even greater priority. Problem: Wyoming managed to average 5.75 yards per carry on first down, a number skewed by carries of 29 yards, 16 yards, 11 yards, and 20 yards. The defense did manage to create four negative rushing plays on first down to help that number. Despite the poor showing on first down, the defense was successful in creating difficult third down situations for New Mexico, creating an average 3rd down distance to go of 3rd and 10. An average 3rd down of 3rd and 10 is a big part of holding a team to 6 of 15 in those situations.
19:50 vs. 10:10: New Mexico first half time of possession vs. Texas first half time of possession
If the first half felt funny to you, and you weren't satisfied with the 17-0 showing headed into half time, time of possession is your likely culprit. The New Mexico offense's first quarter yielded an 8 play, 50 yard, 3:58 drive and 14 play, 32 yard, 8:27 drive, and went 4 of 6 on third down. Bob Davie's Lobos came out looking to run the ball and shorten the game, and the Texas defense obliged. Pair that with the pass-heavy early look from the Texas offense that wasn't perfect (but preceded a 49 yard TD scramble on 4th down from David Ash), two short fields after a turnover and blocked punt, and a missed FG, and you get a funky feeling from a team that had 4 scoring opportunities in the half.
Own 20 vs Own 38: avg New Mexico starting field position vs avg Texas starting field position
Another theme developing for this Texas team early on is the absolute dominance of the kick coverage unit. Nick Rose is turning out to be a weapon as a kick off specialist, featuring a strong and accurate leg used for sky kicks that force returners to come out against an impressive coverage team. Highlighted by the scary hitting of Dalton Santos (who, yes, has brought hell with him to kickoff coverage), the coverage team is flying down the field and stopping teams inside the 20 repeatedly. Early returns on the new kickoff rule have been much to Texas's favor. For a team that hasn't featured its usually strong special teams units since 2009, this is a welcomed sight.
63 - 241 vs. 61 - 431: Wyoming offensive plays - yards vs. Texas offensive plays - yards
Overall, Wyoming's 3.8 yards per play against Texas's 7.1 yards per play highlights the success of the Texas defense limiting the truly big plays the triple option can bring and the ability of the Texas offense to create some big plays of their own. The rushing game went 47 carries - 206 yards - 4.4 YPC for Wyoming, compared to 31 carries - 146 yards - 4.7 and YPC for Texas. That's 31 attempts for Texas this week compared to 47 attempts last week. If you're worried about Texas not running the ball in this game, or Malcolm Brown only managing 2 carries in the game, don't fret, it was all by design. Bryan Harsin saw the opportunity to get the QBs some work and save his RBs legs. No need to get them out there and take hits in a game that was never in doubt. Remember flipping out over Bryan Harsin using the running backs in blowouts last season that led to injuries? Think of that, and apply the principle to this entire game.
220.5 and 213.0: Texas average passing yards and rushing yards through two games
When Mack Brown speaks about getting back to being a balanced offense, he isn't saying he wants to have one pass play to one rush play. He wants 50/50 production from the passing and rushing game. And with the practice in the passing game against New Mexico, Mack has managed to sneak in near 50/50 production on the season for the Texas passing and rushing attacks. Sneaky bugger. We'll see if it holds up.
9: tackles by leading tackler Jordan Hicks
The junior linebacker and one of the leaders of this defense, Jordan Hicks held up to what his suspected role in this defense would be. He led the team in tackles, added another 1.5 tackles for loss, and mostly cleaned up a pretty substandard effort from the Texas front seven. Jackson Jeffcoat added 2.5 TFL, 1 sack, and a forced fumble, and about 5,000 panic points from this author about him leaving early for the NFL. So much for that offseason pectoral injury making him start this season slow.
16-22, 221, 2: David Ash completions - attempts, passing yards, passing TDs.
For those who wanted to see more from David Ash last week, was this performance what you were looking for? Almost 73% completion for the game (now up to 73.5% on the season), just over 10 yards per attempt, two TDs, no turnovers, 49 yard TD run. Those numbers look a lot better when the 45 yard TD to Daje Johnson counts as a pass and requires little more effort than a flip. There will be the inevitable worry over the missed deep ball to Mike Davis (missed long with a good wind at his back, for what its worth), and a poor throw after that to Shipley down the sideline, but he's doing everything that is expected of him. I'm just curious if his detractors this season that are discounting his statistical performance this year are the same ones that wanted to decide the position debate last year based on statistical performance.
0: TOs by the Texas offense
There's nothing really to add here. After a bad snap led to one turnover last week, the Texas offense dodged two bullets with a fumble rolling out of bounds and an errant Ash pass bouncing off a Wyoming defender's chest. But, after two weeks, the Texas offense only has 1 turnover. Success.
12: different pass catchers for the Texas offense
I find this to be a very interesting development for the Texas offense. 5 receptions to 3 running backs, 10 receptions to 6 wide receivers, 3 receptions to 2 tight ends, and 3 receptions to whatever it is we're going to call Daje Johnson moving forward (more on Daje in a moment). The three passing TDs were also spread out evenly: 1 to WR Mike Davis, 1 to TE MJ McFarland, and 1 to Daje Johnson's to be named position. I know they're calling it the T and Z position, but that's just a weird name to me. Harsin is spreading the wealth and finding production in the passing game beyond the usual Shipley - Goodwin combo it depended on last year. More growth.
17.5: average yards per touch for freshman speed demon Daje Johnson
I think I'll call Daje Johnson's position the speed demon position. Or the "holy crap he's fast" position. Either way, he had a carry for 4 yards and 3 catches for 66 yards and a TD. He stepped out after his one game suspension to show what all the fall camp hype was about. If you had any idea why DJ Monroe has been running like a guy that's seeing a true freshman threaten for his snaps, now you know.
4 - 4: Texas offensive TDs - Texas offensive red zone possessions
A week after going 6 - 6 in the red zone (5 TDs, 1 FG), the Texas offense again put together a strong effort inside the 20. The red zone possessions yielded a TD pass from Ash to Mike Davis, a TD pass from McCoy to McFarland, a 1 yard bull dozing by Joe Bergeron, and a 6 yard scamper from DJ Monroe. The red zone was a major concern for the Texas offense coming into the season, but hasn't been an issue thus far. More progress.
That's what jumped out to me this week. The competition heats up a bit next week as Texas travels to Ole Miss, so the numbers will start to mean a little but more. But as of now, we're 2-0 and #14 in the AP Poll, #12 in the Coaches Poll, and having ourselves a nice little start to the year. Anything I missed, or anything that matters more to you?