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Throwing Early and Often: First Down Versus Rice

I was going over my notes from Saturday evening's game and was astounded by how often we were passing on first down. Curious, I decided to chart every first down from the first half, just to get a tidier picture of how we'd performed. To wit:

In compiling a 41-0 lead against Rice in the first half, Texas passed on 13 of their 20 first down plays. The totals:

Now, we don't want to get carried away drawing conclusions from the first half of the Rice game alone, but there are points to be made:

*First of all, it'd be interesting if somebody charted this data for all of Texas' series this year. I'm so overworked right now that I don't know that I'll get to it, but I'd like to. If someone does decide to undertake the project? Email me so that we don't double up.

*Note that one pass play on the chart (incomplete deep to Sweed, nullified by a Rice offsides) was not included in the totals. Also note that the pass interference penalty resulted in a net gain of 15 yards.

*I want to re-emphasize that we shouldn't read too much into the numbers themselves, but there's a larger point about our offense that this data helps make. Namely, Texas' offense is extraordinarily more dangerous and difficult to defend when we can extend the defense with Limas Sweed's big play abilities.

If you've read this blog for any amount of time heading up to 2007, you know that I've been clamoring incessantly about how strong this offense can be if we pass first, and run off the results of those passes. It took us four games to get there, but the Rice results illustrate precisely what I had in mind.

Will that be more difficult to duplicate against a quality defense? Assuredly, but the strategic principle remains sound. Even unsuccessful attempts to pick on the defense deep will help this team execute the other things Greg Davis wants to do. The running game will be more successful. The short, quick passes to Jones and Cosby will start going for 7 yards a pop instead of just 3.

It all starts with the vertical passing game, though, and I'm thrilled to bits to see Davis come out gunning on first down against Rice. Now the important part: don't suddenly change because we're playing a real defense.