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Game Plan: The short passing game is the heart of the Texas Longhorns offense

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Utilizing short, high-percentage passes helped the Longhorns score 21 second-quarter points.

NCAA Football: Kansas State at Texas Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

The Texas Longhorns scored 21 points in the second quarter against the Kansas State Wildcats. Let that sink in, a 21 point quarter. They scored six in the rest of regulation. Was it halftime adjustments that stopped the scoring? Not so much. Texas featured a variety of short, high-percentage passes in the second quarter. These passes were absent from the majority of the game, but when utilized, they worked.

The short passing game results in high completion percentages, and allow for the athletes to get he ball in space to make plays. This strategy worked for the Longhorns against Kansas State.

Here are some stats to back it up.

Sam Ehlinger was 11-of-13 passing (85 percent) for 140 yards and a touchdown in the second quarter. Eleven of the 13 attempts were thrown less than 15 yards, with 10 of the 11 completions being short throws, including Chris Warren’s 33-yard touchdown catch.

For the game, Sam Ehlinger was 21-of-26 passing when throwing the ball less than 15 yards, gaining 10.6 yards per attempt. Of those 21 completions, only one went for less than five yards. Think about that — if a team can be successful greater than 80 percent of the time, and pick up a first down on average, they have a pretty good chance of success.

The Longhorns were also pretty good when throwing between 15 and 25 yards. Ehlinger was 8-for-12 passing with a 18.75 yards per attempt. Many of these passes were over the middle and 16- or 17-yard completions. These are higher percentage throws for a quarterback because the receiver is moving toward the quarterback and the ball does not have to be in the air for a long time.

Ehlinger did not complete a pass in five attempts over 25 yards (he had one completion for exactly 25 yards). This statistic would be much worse if Ehlinger hadn’t made some successful plays scrambling on the designed deep throws several times throughout the game. Sure, Texas will need to push the ball down the field at times in order to keep defenses honest, but they must be calculated in how and when they make those attempts.

Another area of concern is the red zone. Texas was only 1-for-7 passing on attempts in the red zone, mainly due to demanding difficult, low-percentage in that area of the field.

Lets take a look at how the short passing game helped Texas to its win on Saturday night:

If Texas is going to be successful going forward, they should focus on using these short, high-percentage throws in the passing game. This will especially help considering the run game is struggling. It also relieves the offensive line from protecting the passer for long periods of time and limits the hits on the quarterback.

The statistics and the film show that Longhorns should reconsider their use of the pass game in the red zone, utilizing more screens and red-zone specific plays in addition to the run game in that area of the field. They also need to focus on getting the ball to the athletes in space, using the short passing game. Doing so will help aleviate some of their offensive struggles and could help elevate the team to among the elite in the Big 12.