3 last-minute keys to success for Texas football vs. Alabama

Barryn Sorrell, Texas Football Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports
Barryn Sorrell, Texas Football Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports /
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Quinn Ewers must be efficient in the intermediate passing game

There aren’t many areas of the Alabama secondary that have gaping holes or any sort of major weakness. Alabama has a tremendous group of safeties, highlighted by junior nickel Brian Branch and senior safety Jordan Battle, that are very versatile and consistent forces in the back end of this defense.

One potential advantage in certain situations for Texas this weekend could be getting Worthy out in space on screens and crossing routes. If Texas can get Worthy in some one-on-one situations on short and intermediate routes, that should give him the ability to create enough separation from the corner (likely either Kool-Aid McKinstry or Terrion Arnold) for Ewers to have the necessary window to get him the ball with room to run.

The same could be said if Texas can get some man-coverage looks with Whittington either against the nickel or a slot corner. Whittington is a great route runner and is lightning quick in the short and intermediate passing game between the numbers. In fact, Whittington was one of the highest-grade slot receivers in the Big 12 last season and was one of the 15 best in the FBS.

Alabama actually proved to be susceptible at times to giving up yards in chunks when opposing teams attacked the middle of the field in the passing game. For instance, a foundational reason why Texas A&M found so much success last season against Alabama was the ability of quarterback Zach Calzada to make timely and quick throws to some short and intermediate route-running receivers in the middle of the field.

Texas A&M was able to take advantage of some of the softer coverage that the likes of Branch and Malachi Moore played between the numbers to get some chunk plays and establish some methodical scoring drives.

Calzada managed to go 10-of-13 for 128 passing yards, one touchdown, and no interceptions, on passing plays between the numbers ranging from the line of scrimmage to 19 yards downfield. He also had a perfect QBR on passing plays between the numbers from 10-19 yards in front of the line of scrimmage.

This is a good example of how Texas could use Ewers to attack the middle of the field and find his key targets such as Worthy and Whittington in the short and intermediate passing game.

Ewers is going to have to be insanely efficient for this phase of the air attack to be successful against a very skilled Alabama secondary. I mentioned those numbers that Calzada put up against Alabama between the numbers on short and intermediate passes last season. He also did that with an average time to throw of fewer than three seconds.

That just goes to show how quickly Ewers will have to get the ball out while making the proper reads in the middle of the field on a consistent basis.

If Ewers can get this part of the offense moving for Texas, though, it will allow some other layered concepts to come together for Sark and the Longhorns. Alabama would have to worry more about covering the middle of the field with their safeties, which could open up the deep passing game for Ewers to find Worthy over the top.

Attacking the middle of the field early, especially with tight end Ja’Tavion Sanders and the aforementioned duo of Worthy and Whittington, would allow more chances for Sark to get the likes of Bijan and Keilan Robinson out in space on the outside in the screen passing game.