UT has not always done well against option offenses

Hank South

Option-based offenses in college football are nearly extinct. A majority of playbooks focus on airing the ball out, turning football games into track meets. That’s not the case for the New Mexico Lobos under the tutelage of Bob Davie, the former Notre Dame head coach. In his first year in Albuquerque, Davie has transformed the Lobos into an option team.

In recent years, it has been rare for Texas to come upon an opponent that the defense couldn’t contain. Let’s take a look back at the stats, and see how the Texas defense has fared against option-based football.

Last September, the Longhorns took on UCLA, who ran a pistol-based option offense. Texas left Los Angeles with a 49-20 victory and momentum heading into conference play after holding the Bruins to 141 yards on the ground on 34 rushes. UCLA only managed to gain 12 first downs throughout the entire game. Senior safety Kenny Vaccaro racked up 13 tackles and added an interception. The next leading tackler of the game returning in 2012 was junior safety Adrian Phillips, with 8 takedowns and a pick he returned for 24 yards. One of the biggest bonuses of a running offense is an advantage in the possession battle. The Longhorns managed to win that match as well, 32:47-27:13.

All in all, 2011 was a much better result than when the Bruins visited Austin in 2010 and shocked the Longhorns, handing then-ranked No. 7 Texas a 34-12 defeat. UCLA only put up 264 yards on 56 carries against the Longhorns defense but had more possession of the ball by 11 minutes. Senior defensive end Alex Okafor reminisced about the UCLA game Monday.

“Back in 2010, they gashed us because we were undisciplined,” Okafor said. “Last year, we were ready for UCLA because we knew our assignments and we prepared for them.”

Since so few teams are classified as solely option-based, like New Mexico, we’ll consider 2011 Kansas State an option team. The Wildcats did, after all, put up 2,411 yards on the ground in 2011, mostly earned by quarterback Collin Klein. The Texas defense held the Wildcats to 38 yards on 39 carries in their November matchup, with defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat notching eight tackles, four of them for a loss. It’s no doubt the defense did its part holding Klein to a mere four yards on 26 carries in a 17-13 Longhorn loss; however, the offense couldn’t capitalize on their opportunities.

The Lobos rushed for 347 yards and 5 touchdowns last Saturday versus Southern University, 179 more yards than New Mexico’s highest rushing total in 2011, as four different players — including quarterback Cole Gautsche — ran for over 65 yards. New Mexico ran it 51 times, with just 10 passes. The Longhorns will rely on all 11 defenders on the field to combat the Lobos’ rushing attack, which saw 10 different players touch the ball last week. New Mexico has just six wins since 2009, and hasn’t been a legitimate upset-alert team in years. However, like Okafor said, if the Longhorns’ defense doesn’t play disciplined, assignment football, opposing teams can take advantage of it.

Printed on Thursday, September 6th, 2012 as: Option offense gives Horns a change of pace