If the Texas football team is going to beat TCU, some things need to break the Longhorn’s way.
Texas football hits the road for its toughest challenge since the Notre Dame game to open the 2015 season.
The TCU Horned Frogs have one of the nation’s top offenses. Trevone Boykin is living up to the hype as one of the conference’s best quarterbacks. Josh Doctson has been unstoppable. Even the run game behind Aaron Green is eating up huge chunks of yardage. Combine all of the offensive stats with a suspect Texas defense and TCU should be feeling very confident about Saturday’s outcome.
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Still, this Texas team has some fight left in it.
If there is a silver lining in Longhorn’s last two losses it is that the team is building confidence in itself. The young players have gained valuable experience playing in close games. This should serve them well in key upcoming games, starting tomorrow in Fort Worth.
If Texas is serious about pulling off the upset, these scenarios must play out.
The defense or special teams scores a touchdown
A young team feeds off the energy of big plays. Sacks gets the defense fired up. An interception can rejuvenate a team, especially after a lengthy drive. A big run or pass play gives the offense a little more pep in their step.
But a defensive or special teams score can really ignite the emotion and confidence of the underdog. That’s because these kind of scores are rare. You can’t really pencil in such a score every week. Against Rice, Daje Johnson’s punt return for a score got the crowd going. The players fed off of the fan’s energy and jumped out to a big lead. Hassan Ridgeway’s fumble return for a score last week gave Texas the shot in the arm it needed. A 14-6 lead was trimmed to one, and you could sense that the Texas players began to believe they could win the game.
TCU is going to score, and score often. If the Longhorns can somehow absorb the body blows, a defensive or special teams score could be the left hook that sends the Horned Frogs reeling.
Slow the game down by running the ball
What’s the best way to keep Boykin and Co. from scoring? Keep them on the sidelines. Take a page from the Rice playbook – run the ball. Run the ball a lot. Imagine if Texas could keep the ball for 44 minutes like the Owls did to the Longhorns? An upset would be brewing.
TCU’s defense has been decimated by graduation and injuries. It does get defensive end Mike Tuaua back after a three game suspension. But still, this defense gave up 607 yards of total offense and 52 points to Texas Tech last week. DeAndre Washington rumbled for 188 yards on the ground. The Big 12 is not flaunting this defense for all to see. Texas has the athletes to do the same kind of damage.
Texas must use its big bruising running backs to control the clock. D’Onta Foreman and Chris Warren are big body backs who will fall forward for 5-6 yards a pop. Jerrod Heard is shifty in the pocket, and since the Horned Frogs will have to honor the Texas passing game, Heard will have lots of green real estate in front of him to take off. It’s not pretty football, but if Texas can put together 10-12 play drives for scores that eat up precious minutes off of the game clock, longhorn fans will take it. Texas must keep that high-powered offense off the field. The best way to do this is to run the ball.
How close was Texas to be sitting 3-1 or 2-2 instead of its current 1-3 record? Just a play here or there could have made all of the difference against Cal and Oklahoma State. Fans will remember the missed PAT and the fumbled snap on the punt. While those plays doomed Texas to lose, there were other plays not made throughout the game that put those two young men in spotlight.
The offense needs to execute its game plan to perfection. Jay Norvell cannot try to match TCU point-for-point and get into a shootout. The Longhorns will lose that battle. Instead the offense needs to focus on run blocking, hitting the holes, hanging onto the football and avoid drive-killing penalties.
The defense must to wrap up and make the tackle. Stopping the TCU run game at the point of attack will force a lot of third and long. Texas defenders will want to make a concerted effort to get off the field on third down, something it hasn’t been good at all season.
Charlie Strong has to call a near perfect game to leave Fort Worth victorious. He must put Heard into manageable downs and distance so the redshirt freshman isn’t forcing plays that aren’t there. Whatever formula Vance Bedford drew up to stop the Oklahoma State run game, he better have a scheme up his sleeve to keep Green bottled up.
Play with passion, not scared
This Texas team is different from past squads in that it is the freshmen who bring the enthusiasm and energy to the team. The youngsters don’t look or play scared. They will make mistakes, but they also come right back out there to battle you some more. Opening against Notre Dame may have been a blessing in disguise. Anyone who stepped onto the field in the season opener and was star-struck, well they are over that at this point. Sometimes a road game can bring a team closer together. It’s that us-against-them mentality that sometimes provides a spark and propels the road team to a victory.
Texas can’t play scared or TCU will run the Longhorns right out of Amon-Carter stadium.
The odds are against Texas lasting a full 12 rounds with TCU. Maybe that’s all the motivation this team needs to leave Fort Worth with an upset victory.