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Texas Longhorns Report Card: Offense vs Rice

I've rewatched all of the first half and most of the second half of last night's game, and can say that it's going to be nice to hand out good grades across the board. (Except for you know who.)


Colt McCoy certainly racked up big numbers last night - 20-29 passing for 333 yards and 3 TDs. I wrote in my notes that Colt is throwing the ball with a lot more velocity than he was last season, but his accuracy is not as precise. We know that he spent a lot of time working on his body and arm strength this offseason, so he could be going through a bit of an adjustment phase in terms of being as accurate as he was now that he's throwing the ball harder. Overall, though, he was very good, making several absolutely perfect throws (including the dropped touchdown by Jamaal Charles).

And for the first week, we have other quarterbacks to talk about! John Chiles made his Texas debut last night and was mighty impressive running the zone read. He said after the game that he was extraordinarily nervous on his first few plays, but settled down after that. And did he ever. 9 rushes for 72 yards, but more than that, he ran that zone read play with Vondrell McGee to perfection. The coaches were wise to get Chiles significant action against Rice. They'd be fools not to continue to expand his usage in conference play. Even in tight games. Use your toys.

Sherrod Harris made an appearance in mop up duty, but didn't get a chance to do anything.


Wide Receivers

There's not a lot to say that we don't already know. Limas Sweed is a tremendous football player, though I think Mack Brown was correct last night when he said Sweed's had some pretty bad luck so far this year. Sweed was impossible for Rice to handle last night, racking up 139 yards and two scores. Had he not inexplicably stepped out of bounds at the 3 yard line, he'd have had another.

One thing to note: Rice tried to cover Limas one-on-one, which is a mistake. Arkie State, TCU, and UCF all spent considerable capital taking Texas' deep passing game away by dropping into Cover-2 and keying in on Sweed, in particular. Rice did not, and they paid.

The other receivers had good evenings as well, though you hope Jordan Shipley makes that catch in the end zone next time. We're nitpicking, though. Texas had 20 receptions on the night averaging over 16 yards per completion. That's more like it.


Running Backs

The only two bad plays came in the first quarter, when Jamaal Charles fumbled and then later dropped a wide open bomb that would have been a touchdown. Other than that, it was all gravy for Texas' tailbacks. Charles had a solid evening overall, but especially near the goal line, where he hit his holes hard and got into the end zone three times. I want to take a moment to note how well Antwaan Cobb played at fullback, as well. He made several great blocks that sprung successful runs, made a big hit on special teams, and looked like a very useful part for the team to use.

Chris Ogbonnaya continues to give this team productive play, as well. He's not the team's best option as a rusher, but the coaches have wisely identified his strengths both as a blocker and pass catcher. The ball he hauled in off a play action release down the left sideline was not an easy one at all.

And what about Vondrell McGee? 8 carries, 84 yards, including a touchdown. He's got a serious motor, hits open space hard, hits tight spaces hard, and gets to top speed damn fast. Those who were clamoring for him in the preseason were right - he's a special runner. Texas needs to use him frequently.


Offensive Line

Well, we finally pushed around a defensive line that we were supposed to. The pass protection's been solid all year, but the run blocking last night was impressive. They got a big push at the LOS on both goal line touchdown runs and out-physicaled Rice throughout the game. We still need to see this group perform at a high level against a bigger and more athletic team, but they did a great job last night.

Let's note, too, that the coaches burned the redshirt of Tray Allen last night, as well. As thin as the line has become, they decided it was time. Probably smart.


Offensive Coaching

It's tempting just to emphasize how much better Texas is than Rice and scoff at any developments you see. While Texas' enormous edge in athleticism has to be noted, Greg Davis did exactly what we had been calling for him to do:

Stretch the field: After dinking and dunking throughout this season so far, Texas finally got going in the vertical passing game. It's an important ingredient to helping this offense work (including the running game), so I was happy to see us stretch things out significantly. That play to Jamaal Charles (dropped) was a beautifully designed play, and perfectly thrown by McCoy.

Play Chiles and McGee: They saw significant action. They tore it up. We even got a tiny taste of a Chiles package when McCoy's in the game. Now that their cherries have been popped, Davis should be more inclined to use them generously in the future. There's no excuse not to, now.

Improve the Scoring Zone offense: Much, much better. Texas' drives which entered the scoring zone while McCoy was quarterback:

Six trips to the scoring zone, with five touchdowns and a field goal. I'm sure BZ is charting all this with down and distance and all the rest, but it's pretty obvious that things worked well last night.

The key now, for Davis and Brown, is building on what they got to see tonight. Mack Brown is a conservative guy by nature, but the three awkward wins to start this year forced he and his coaches to do some things they're uncomfortable with. Now that Texas has put together a good game, though, it's critical that they not slip into bad habits.

For this week, though, a high mark for the staff.