4.2 vs. 2.3: Texas offense yards per carry against UCLA vs. against BYU
0 vs. 4: Texas offensive and special teams turnovers against UCLA vs. against BYU
Following a gut wrenching loss like that (seriously, I'm still bummed about it), it's tough to draw clear conclusions about program direction and progress. But the Horns offense, following the disastrous performance against BYU, rebounded in a couple of key areas, notably the running game and turnover department.
On the ground, the Texas offense bumbled to 2.3 yards per carry against the grown BYU front that presented favorable numbers. Against a smaller and quicker UCLA front, offensive coordinator Shawn Watson made a couple of key adjustments (or additions, depending on what stage of installation you'd guess we're at), including attacking the edge with shuttle passes to WRs and swing passes to RBs, and getting the offensive moving quicker with tempo. The results allowed for more rushing lanes for Malcolm Brown (14 carries - 69 yards) and Johnathan Gray (7-49).
And Texas ball carriers kept their defense out of bad spots by holding onto the ball and not committing any turnovers on the night, against the 4 turnovers a week ago. Progress, y'all.
5 - 14: Texas offense third down conversions - attempts
120: Texas' national third down conversion rate, out of 128 teams
One of the largest areas for improvement remains Texas's offense on third down. After last week's 3 of 15 performance, the Horns converted 5 of 14 opportunities. Through 3 games, the Horns' 27% conversion percentage is 120th out of 128 teams nationally.
Often you can pin a poor third down conversion rate on an offense that can't stay ahead of the chains and a QB that can't convert long 3rd conversions consistently, and that's what is happening with the Texas offense. Of the 14 third down opportunities, 9 qualified as third and long, 2 as third and medium, and 3 as third and short. Asking a young QB, regardless of his progress, to convert numerous third and longs to sustain drives isn't a recipe for success.
As the season goes, the Texas offensive line will need to make substantial improvement in consistently creating rushing lanes for early downs, and Shawn Watson will have to find what works for Tyrone moving the chains.
24-34, 196 (5.8), 2-0: Tyrone Swoopes passing completions-attempts, passing yards (yards per attempt), passing TDs-INTs
Another solid performance and upward trending data point for the sophomore QB, this time with a clean record on the turnover stat-line and an additional passing TD. And this week, he showcased a little playmaking ability, extending plays with his legs and making quality intermediate throws. The deep passing game remains absent and will stay that way until the Texas offensive line can pass block for longer than 1 Mississippi. When that happens, then it will be reasonable to expect his sub-6.0 yards per attempt number to improve.
With the bye week approaching, Shawn Watson will continue to add more to Swoopes's plate. The post/bubble screen combo added this week worked on several occasions, and was the Horns best option at stressing the UCLA defense vertically.
The biggest thing I'd like to see from Swoopes is him realizing he's 6'4" and 245 lbs. In the pocket as a passer, he doesn't need to take deep drops to find passing lanes. As a runner, remembering that he's no longer 220 lbs and quicker than everyone else on the field. He often finds himself scrambling because his drops take him directly in the path of pass rushers that have blown past Texas's offensive tackles. And when on the run, he gives the defense time to recover by needlessly breaking down to try and juke tacklers. As he gets more comfortable on the field, I expect to see him stand tall in the pocket, move up to avoid pressure, and be more decisive in plugging forward to gain a few yards.
9 - 65 - 0: Jaxon Shipley receptions - receiving yards - receiving TDs
4 - 60 - 1: John Harris receptions - receiving yards - receiving TDs
Jaxon Shipley joined John Harris on the same page as Tyrone Swoopes this week, snagging 9 passes and moving to 5th all time on the Texas receptions list. Harris posted another strong night, including the leaping 4th down grab in the first half to set up the first Texas TD and the go-ahead TD late in the game. And again, Harris had a notable miscue, dropping a ball straight to his chest as the Horns tried to mount a final comeback. This offense needs every break it can get, and the two senior WRs need to take advantage of every opportunity afforded them.
11 - 2: Jordan Hicks tackles - tackles for loss
10: Duke Thomas tackles
7 - 3 - 1: Malcom Brown tackles - tackles for loss - sacks
While the Texas defense as a whole didn't capitalize on the Brett Hundley injury by clamping down on the UCLA offense (81 plays for 443 yards, 5.5 yards per play), several Horns posted notable performances. Jordan Hicks redeemed a whiffed tackle that led to the UCLA TD to kick off the second half, but was all over the field otherwise, leading the team with 11 tackles and 2 for a loss (the official box score shows him having 18 total tackles, which sounds too absurd to be true).
Duke Thomas had a strong outting in coverage and in run support, posting 10 tackles of his own, put will best be known for getting beat deep on the game winning UCLA TD off a double move. Duke is shades of Chykie Brown in that regard.
And Malcom Brown continued to stomp along in his All American campaign, racking up 3 TFLs and a sack, and completely dominating the game for stretches. This is your weekly reminder to enjoy him now, because he'll be playing on Sundays next season.
50.5: Will Russ yards per punt
If there was a bright spot for the dreadful Texas special teams, it was Will Russ's leg. The punter boomed kicks of 58 yards, 58 yards, and 62 yards on the night, including 3 inside the 20. We'll take any good performances from the specialists, though ask him not to outkick a generally porous coverage unit with the game on the line.