The Longhorns need to develop a passing game to go with its run attack.
Watching the Texas Longhorns ground the Oklahoma Sooners defense to dust was a thing of beauty. Performances like that have been few and far between the last several years and Longhorn fans everywhere should appreciate what they saw. It would seem that the Longhorns finally discovered their offensive identity at the Cotton Bowl and there is plenty of promise in that discovery.
However, with the Kansas State Wildcats invading DKR Saturday morning, this week presents a perfect opportunity to shore up a passing game that has been largely non-existent since the Cal game.
As pretty as the Oklahoma performance was, if Texas is going to reach their full potential this year, they are going to need more balance. For starters, the Texas offensive line has been far too inconsistent to expect that type of road grading performance on a regular basis. For another, teams will begin to overplay the run game and dare Texas to beat them through the air. That’s what Oklahoma State did and they largely suffocated the Longhorn offense in the second half. You can bet that K State will try a similar tactic on Saturday.
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The Texas passing game could be a holy terror for opposing defenses given the weapons they have. Finally establishing a credible running game should help open up the passing lanes for Jerrod Heard and allow him to begin utilizing those weapons. Now they simply need the repetitions to make it all click.
Although it appears Daje Johnson is ready to return, the Longhorns need to start finding touches for Armanti Foreman. Armanti is quickly being overshadowed by his brother D’Onta, and maybe that will fuel his fire a little bit. Armanti has flashed big play potential but has seen his playing time decreasing lately. This game presents a chance to get himself right.
Then there is John Burt. It is almost criminal that we haven’t gotten more out of Burt yet. All he does is make big plays. Texas needs to take some deep shots early against K State. OU was able to jump on the Wildcats quickly last week and they folded. It would be nice to see Texas land a couple of haymakers early and see how the Wildcats respond. Burt would be a good candidate to land one of those knockout blows.
It would also be nice to reward Lorenzo Joe’s hard work in the OU game with some targets. I expected Joe to spend the season buried deep Charlie Strong’s doghouse after he took to social media to question his absence from the depth chart for the Notre Dame game. Joe has earned his way back on the field and is making the most of his opportunities. He deserves to be rewarded for sticking it out and not quitting like so many others have.
It was also heartening to see Marcus Johnson, a player I’ve been highly critical of, play one of his best games against OU. Longhorn Nation has been waiting for Johnson to finally step into the spotlight. Was the Oklahoma game his coming out party, or just another teaser? We need to get the ball in his hands and find out.
It is obvious that the identity of this team is a run-first spread and that is probably the best thing for Texas to be right now. Still, the passing game is going to need to catch up to make Texas the type of multi-dimensional threat that will make them hard to stop. The next three weeks represent a perfect window of opportunity to do just that. Win all three and the Horns will be on the brink of bowl eligibility.
It would be tempting for play caller Jay Norvell to keep going back to the well and run the ball 85% of the time and the Longhorns could probably do that and run the table the next three weeks. The long term good of the program requires Texas to establish a passing game to keep defenses honest.
Texas isn’t going to throw the ball 40 times a game, but they should aim for 22-25. Heard needs to throw the ball more if he is going to develop into an all around quarterback. He has weapons, and K State is vulnerable in the back seven. It would be better to begin opening up the offense now than to wait until they are in desperate need and hope that they can do it under pressure. Sooner or later, they will need that balance.