Texas running game carrying load

Austin Laymance

The Longhorns running game doesn’t look like it’s slowing down any time soon.

Texas rushed for 231 yards in its last game against Oklahoma State, the second highest total this season. Malcolm Brown, who posted career highs against OSU with 135 yards (7.1 yards per carry) and two touchdowns, should find even more room to run this week against a Kansas defense that allows 232 rushing yards per game.

With the Jayhawks’ inability to stop the ground attack this season, it’s no surprise Texas head coach Mack Brown said the freshman tailback is ready to handle 25 carries this week.

“I feel like I’m ready,” said Brown, who’s rushed for a team-high 516 yards in six games. “If that’s what coach Brown has set up for me, I’m going to try my best to do whatever I can … I’ll roll with it.”

Brown’s at his best when he touches the ball close to 20 times. Against UCLA, he had a season-high 22 carries for 110 yards. And against OSU, Brown tallied 19 attempts and was one of the few bright spots in the 38-26 loss.

“We executed real good and want to make that kind of statement every game,” Brown said of the performance against OSU. “That was a game that showed we can run the ball like we want to.”

Yes, Texas is back to being a run-first team. Through the halfway point of the season, the Longhorns are averaging 181.8 rushing yards per game, far better than their 2010 output (150.5).

The recipe for success won’t change this week against KU’s porous defense.

“We need to be a running football team that throws the ball deep,” said Mack Brown. “That’s who we want to be, and that’s who we are.”

But Malcolm Brown won’t be the only Texas running back who should find success against Kansas on Saturday at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.

Fozzy Whittaker has been explosive as a runner out of the “Wild” formation, and very well could find the end zone for a fifth time this year on the ground. But the senior tailback said it’s more important for the backfield to help out freshman quarterback David Ash.

“We’re not at our peak but we’ve improved throughout this season,” said Whittaker, who has 43 carries for 220 yards in 2011. “It’s very strong for us to take some of the pressure off the quarterbacks and run the ball efficiently.”

Texas, though, expects to see eight or nine Jayhawks in the box this week to help stop the run.

But can the Longhorns continue to find yards on the ground against nine-man fronts?

“I don’t know,” said Brown, who is 8-0 against KU. “We’ll start seeing that unless we start throwing
it better.”

Texas also needs to improve its red zone offense. In 26 trips inside the opponent’s 20-yard line, the Longhorns have scored just 12 touchdowns. They’ve settled for six field goals and struggled to run the ball near the goal line.

If UT wants to take the next step in its brick-by-brick approach, the Longhorns will need to fix their red zone woes.

“Everything is clobbered in there so we just need to focus in and get a quick reaction off the ball and punch it in faster,” said Brown, who has scored two of his three touchdowns in the red zone. “You see the end zone and you just want to dive in there. You have to have patience, but see it real fast. Just a bunch of madness going on in the red zone.”