First-year Texas coordinators Chris Ash and Mike Yurcich are chasing perfection this season.
The Longhorns made mistakes against Texas Tech on both sides of the ball last Saturday. The defense missed more tackles than Ash could count. The offense averaged 61 points through the first two games but had correctable penalties, miscommunications and a turnover. The coordinators know the well-coached Horned Frogs will do everything they can to challenge the Horns this weekend.
Yurcich is no stranger to TCU head coach Gary Patterson. Texas’ offensive coordinator coached against the defensive-minded Patterson annually from 2013-2018, when he served as the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State. In a teleconference Wednesday, Yurcich said TCU’s “tough, smart and skilled” defense is a challenge, but one Texas can handle.
“Gary (Patterson’s) defense is his signature,” Yurcich said. “I don’t pretend to know how he does it, but he knows what you’re in and he’ll wreck your blocking schemes. … It’s a challenge, it really is. He does a heck of a job, and there's a reason why he's legendary status already there.”
That means Texas’ offensive line is going to need to be mentally sharper than it was last week against Texas Tech. The blockers up front will have to avoid the penalties that plagued them against the Red Raiders, stay out of third-and-long and react better to the blitzes, stunts and other disruptions Patterson’s defense is built on, Yurcich said.
Defensively, the Longhorns are plagued with containing TCU sophomore quarterback Max Duggan, who shredded the Texas defense last year for 345 total yards and three total touchdowns.
Ash offered high praise for Duggan, who just returned to practice last week after he was predicted to miss the season due to a heart condition. Ash even compared Duggan to senior quarterback Sam Ehlinger.
“You know I look at him, and I think he's the closest thing to a Sam Ehlinger in this league — that can do both as a dual-threat guy,” Ash said in Wednesday’s teleconference. “He's going to be a tremendous challenge for us.”
If Texas wants to avoid an upset on Saturday, it’ll have to do more than win the physical battle. For the Horns to win, they’ll have to be offensively patient and bring a smart game plan, Yurcich said.
“What are your drive starters? What are the plays in which we can get first downs?” Yurcich said. “You’re going to have to take your shots, there’s no doubt about it … (but) you've got to get first downs and you've got to stay on schedule, that's critical. We have to have a really good idea going in (of) what our best plays are, to move the chains and to stay on schedule.”
Most of all, Yurcich said the team is going to have to avoid mental mistakes, relax and just play to win Saturday.
“Winning is hard,” Yurcich said. “And when you make mistakes you make it that much harder. So you want to let your guys go. You don't want them hesitant (or) playing with any reluctance or (doubts of), ‘Well I hope I don't.’ You want an aggressive mindset, you want to cut them loose. ‘I can, I will.’ That's the mentality that you have to have.”