Texas leads the Big 12 in rushing yards per game and yards per carry
While the Texas ground game did struggle to get going early in the three non-conference games, it proved worthwhile for Sark to stick with the balanced-offense approach as those contests wore on. Sark stayed on schedule and kept the offense balanced in each of the three non-conference games.
Texas especially wore Wyoming down in the second half to the tune of over 120 rushing yards and nearly seven yards per carry.
Balance is a huge emphasis in Sark’s offense. Sark and the Longhorns must be able to control the line of scrimmage and the time of possession battles, especially with the new clock rules eliminating a possession or two each game, to have a clean run through the Big 12 slate.
So, what is the state of the Texas run game heading into Big 12 play?
The good news is that Sark’s balanced approach to the offensive playcalling was consistent in all three wins during the non-con.
Week 1 vs. Rice: 48.0% passes/52.0% runs
Week 2 vs. Alabama: 50.7% passes/49.3% runs
Week 3 vs. Wyoming: 40.3% passes/59.7% runs
Texas was actually leaning much heavier on the run than the pass against the Group of Five opponents in non-conference play. Texas ran the ball over 55 percent of the time against Rice and Wyoming.
This squad is also coming off its best statistical rushing performance in the Week 3 win over Wyoming. The Longhorns rushed for a season-high 185 total yards (averaging six yards per carry) last weekend against the Cowboys.
However, while the ground game appears to be trending up heading into Big 12 play, the numbers tell a bit of a concerning story for the Longhorns. Texas ranks 10th in the Big 12 in rushing yards per game (149.3) and yards per carry (4.2). And this isn’t a great conference running the ball.
Part of the reason why Texas had issues running the ball was teams selling (i.e., Wyoming and Rice) selling out to stop the run first. Texas faced the second-heaviest man boxes on average during the non-conference slate among all Big 12 teams.
Sark started to figure out the different loaded boxes and pressure stunts and twists that defenses like Rice and Wyoming were throwing at Texas early in games. And once Sark got a good grip on what these defenses were doing schematically, he could get his own skill guys in space and get the offense in a better rhythm.
I think Sark and the Longhorns staff will better grasp what opposing defenses are throwing at them early in games in Big 12 play. Texas has game-planned for this crucial final run in Big 12 play all offseason.
Something else Texas has working in its favor regarding the run game heading into Big 12 play is the direction of the RB room. True freshman running back CJ Baxter Jr. is getting healthier after missing the Wyoming game with a lower-body injury. He should be available for the Baylor game after practicing on Sep. 18 and 19.
Redshirt sophomore running back Jonathon Brooks is also coming off a career performance with over 150 rushing yards and one touchdown in the win over Wyoming. Between Baxter getting healthier and Brooks finding his way in the backfield, Texas’ ground game looks finally ready to set the tone in Big 12 play.