After a discouraging 98-yard effort in a 51-41 loss to Maryland, the Texas Longhorns rushing attack looked the part of a praiseworthy unit on Saturday against San Jose State.
With starting quarterback Shane Buechele sidelined with a shoulder injury and true freshman Sam Ehlinger running the show, Tim Beck relied upon a stable of competent ball-carriers to the tune of 406 yards and six scores on the ground. Following the Longhorns 56-0 shutout victory over San Jose State, Tom Herman said when asked of the offensive identity he hopes to establish, "We need to run the ball."
The ‘Horns did exactly that on Saturday, which was to be expected. Rushing for 406 yards and six touchdowns is no short order, regardless of the opponent, but the Spartans weren’t exactly what you’d call world-beaters in the run defense department.
Charlie Strong’s USF squad gashed San Jose State for 315 yards on the ground in the Spartans opener, before Cal Poly poured on another 196 yards the following week.
For Texas, that’s the bad, if you want to call it that. The Longhorns didn’t necessarily do anything extraordinary, aside from utilizing what Beck failed to realize can be a strength against Maryland and overwhelming a porous Spartans rush defense that had very little chance to begin with.
The good news, on the other hand, is Texas made it a point to establish the ground game against San Jose State and reaped its rewards accordingly, albeit against a subpar opponent. In doing so, after there was no shortage of clamoring for Chris Warren III to be more involved in the offensive game plan going forward, the ‘Horns not only found a base in the backfield to build around, but the distribution of carries provides an ideal sample of whose hands the ball should be in for optimal results.
- Chris Warren III — 6 carries, 31 yards, 5.2 yards per carry
- Kyle Porter — 8 carries, 21 yards, 2.6 yards per carry
San Jose State
- Chris Warren III — 16 carries, 166 yards, 10.4 yards per carry, 2 touchdowns
- Kyle Porter — 16 carries, 72 yards, 4.5 yards per carry, 1 touchdown
As if the tale of the tape isn't enough, numbers never lie and they say Warren should be receiving significantly more carries than Porter. Of course, that wasn’t the case against San Jose State, as Warren and Porter each totaled 16 carries after essentially swapping series throughout the game, but the production discrepancy in their equal opportunities is telling.
For example, 14 of Warren’s 16 touches went for at least five yards, with five resulting in gains of at least 10 yards, including his 26-yard scamper and 41-yard touchdown burst.
TOUCHDOWN TEXAS: Introducing The Wild Warren. #Hookem pic.twitter.com/I6rKdaEfWI— Hookem Football (@hornsfootball) September 9, 2017
Only six of Porter’s 16 carries moved the chains at least five yards and his lone carry of at least 10 yards went for 14 yards.
While Warren was running over and through would-be tacklers, Porter struggled to make defenders miss in open space in opportunity where breaking one tackle may have meant big gains.
Against San Jose State, the ‘Horns could afford entire drives where Porter totaled just 11 yards on four carries, or eight yards on three carries, but that’s won’t be the case going forward.
Beginning on the road against No. 4 USC next Saturday, eight the Texas’ 10 remaining opponents are averaging at least 519 yards per game, with No. 9 Oklahoma State and No. 2 Oklahoma churning out upwards up 640 yards each time out. This means not only will Todd Orlando’s defense need to perform at peak levels on a weekly basis, but in usual Big 12 fashion, the offense will have to put up points to have any hope of a say in the final outcome. To do so, the ground game will need to be formidable and as we saw against San Jose State, handing the ball to Warren gives Texas the chance to perform at such a level.
After Saturday’s showing, maybe the Texas staff will realize that and distribute touches accordingly.