• Stat Guy: Horns need more players to catch passes

    Never have growing pains been more evident than in Texas’ 55-17 loss to Oklahoma on Saturday. Throughout the entire afternoon neither the defense nor offense looked in sync, like they had in the previous two games against Iowa State and UCLA.

    The Texas offense was on and then off the field with three-and-outs as quickly as Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones was slinging touchdowns to his receivers.

    As effective as the Sooner receivers were in the game, the Longhorn receivers as a whole were almost the polar opposite.

    Three actual receivers caught a pass against the Sooners: Jaxon Shipley, Mike Davis and Blaine Irby. The trio combined for 17 catches, 171 yards and one touchdown.

    Looking back throughout this season, Davis and Shipley have certainly established themselves as the go-to receivers for a pair of young quarterbacks.

    In fact, Shipley has already caught 25 passes for 369 yards and three scores, while Davis has hauled in 15 balls for 334 yards and one score. The duo has tallied 703 of the Longhorns’ 1,082 yards. For anyone without a calculator on hand, that’s 65 percent of the Longhorns’ air game. To the statistical eye, one wouldn’t believe that this is an offense that likes to spread the ball around to different playmakers.

    A couple of weeks ago at UCLA, D.J. Grant emerged as possibly the next great tight end, racking up six catches for 77 yards and three scores. It must have been California Dreamin’ because since then Grant has caught one ball for 19 yards.

    When Marquis Goodwin declared his return his return to football the week prior to the BYU game, much hype was given to his world-class speed mixed into the versatile Texas offense. Since then, Goodwin has caught three balls for 15 yards. The list can go on about lackluster receiving performance.

    While some of the blame can be placed upon errant throws, it is still the receivers’ job to help the quarterbacks out. There is far too much talent on the Texas sideline for only two receivers to be making a major impact. It is time for receivers like Grant, Goodwin, Darius White and DeSean Hales to put up some numbers. John Harris being out indefinitely with a foot injury doesn’t help, either.

    To co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin’s credit, a multitude of skill players are seeing touches, however the majority of the time those touches aren’t producing significant yards. Until major fluidity is created between the quarterbacks and receiving corps, look for Davis and Shipley to continue to carry the Texas offense on their backs. But it’d be nice if they could get some help.

    Printed on October 11, 2011 as: Shipley, Davis carry nearly two-thirds of Texas receiving load

  • Fantasy Frenzy: Start and Sit

    San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews gets past Kansas City Chiefs defensive back Travis Daniels en route to scoring his second touchdown in the second half of a game Sept. 2 in San Diego.
    San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews gets past Kansas City Chiefs defensive back Travis Daniels en route to scoring his second touchdown in the second half of a game Sept. 2 in San Diego.

    There are always tough decisions week to week on who to start and who to sit. So here are a few suggestions at the three key positions — quarterback, running back and wide receiver — to help you set your lineup.

    Players to Start

    Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
    One of the biggest surprises of the fantasy football season is once again a must-play this week, as he takes a weak New Orleans secondary. Newton should have plenty of passing yards and will most likely go more than 300 yards for the fourth time this year.

    Ryan Mathews, San Diego Chargers
    Mathews did not live up to his high billing his rookie year, but in his sophomore campaign he is racking up the fantasy points. He is carrying the ball at least 15 times a game and is also accumulating receiving yards from the backfield. Expect great numbers from Mathews this week taking on a porous Denver defense.

    Darren Sproles, New Orleans Saints
    He was a dangerous return man in San Diego but not a smart fantasy play, however now that he has headed to the “Big Easy” to pair with Drew Brees, he’s putting up solid fantasy numbers. Sproles is averaging 12 points a game, and this week expect him to go well over that against a bad Carolina defense.

    Players To Sit

    Andre Johnson, Houston Texans
    Johnson went down with a hamstring injury last week, and the team lists him as doubtful for this Sunday’s game. But if you saw the injury happen during the telecast, you know it looked significantly worse than reported, so don’t expect to have Johnson in your lineup for a little while. Fantasy owners that are scrambling to replace his huge output should look to the Texans’ second receiver Jacoby Jones to fill for the former Miami great. Jones is still available in 90 percent of ESPN leagues so he should be an easy temporary replacement.

    Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons
    He is usually a must start from week to week, but his numbers have been inconsistent this season. This week they are playing the Green Bay Packers, so expect a high-scoring game and very little running of the ball, especially if the Falcons fall quickly behind, which is something the Packers have managed to do to teams all season long.

    Players on their bye weeks
    Just a reminder to those that might not be completely aware that this is the first week of bye weeks this season. So owners of players from the Redskins, Rams, Cowboys, Browns, Ravens and Dolphins need to sit their star players from these teams and look to the bench to fill in.

  • Stat Guy: It's 2004, all over again

    Michael Huff returns an interception against Texas A&M in the Longhorns’ 26-13 win over the Aggies on Thanksgiving in 2004.
    Michael Huff returns an interception against Texas A&M in the Longhorns’ 26-13 win over the Aggies on Thanksgiving in 2004.

    Playing in the secondary is like running a track meet. Playing in the secondary against Oklahoma? An Olympic track meet.

    As a cornerback or safety lining up opposite Landry Jones and his battalion of receivers, the game play can be somewhat intimidating.

    Oklahoma receiver Ryan Broyles has already hauled in 38 receptions for 476 yards and six touchdowns. Add a recently healed Kenny Stills, and the Longhorns could possibly be facing the most talented wide receiver tandem in the country.

    The Texas secondary is a mix of both veterans and inexperienced players. Sophomores Carrington Byndom and Adrian Phillips, junior Kenny Vaccaro and senior Blake Gideon anchor a defense allowing 14.75 points per game. Not only will they have to deal with Broyles and Stills, but there’s also a pretty good quarterback looking to pick them apart: Heisman Trophy candidate Landry Jones. Interestingly enough, Texas faced a similar situation seven years ago.

    In 2004, sophomore Aaron Ross, juniors Cedric Griffin and Michael Huff and senior Phillip Geiggar were members of a Texas defense that was allowing 11.75 points a game. Oklahoma quarterback Jason White, who won the Heisman in 2003, had multiple all-American receivers backing him. The Sooners were ranked No. 2 at the time, while the Longhorns sat at No. 5 in the USA Today rankings.

    And who said history doesn’t repeat itself? Let’s take a look at how the 2004 Longhorns performed in the passing game.

    White completed 14 of 26 passes for 113 yards and two interceptions. While the end result — a 12-0 loss — wasn’t what the Longhorns were hoping for, the defensive backs showed promise.

    Huff led the Texas secondary with fifteen tackles, including an impressive eleven tackles unassisted. He also picked off White. Griffin added eight solo tackles including one tackle for a loss. Ross compiled five tackles, four of which were solo, and deflected a pass. Geiggar, the Blake Gideon of the 2004 secondary, racked up 11 total tackles, including six solo stops. Geiggar also wowed fans by forcing and recovering a fumble. Overall, it was a solid performance by a secondary not expected to have a great showing against White and future NFL receivers Mark Clayton and Travis Clayton. In fact, Oklahoma’s only touchdown on the day came from the team’s backup running back, Kejuan Jones, in the fourth quarter.

    “We knew that Jason White wanted to go to Clayton,” Geiggar told the Texan. “OU had the No. 1 offense in the country, and we held them to only six points until late in the fourth quarter. What was key for us was that we all were on the same page in the back. Huff and I had our best games in this game, we had a good connection back there, and we trusted each other.”

    There are many similarities between this weekend’s Red River Rivalry and the one in 2004: the age spread, the combined talent on each squad and the teams’ records and rankings. Safe to say, we’ve seen this before.

    “The secondary now is not only athletic, but they are smart too,” Geiggar said. “They played well last week, so I’m sure that will carry over to this week. Duane Akina is a great [defensive backs] coach, and he’ll have those guys ready this week. I’m looking forward to watching my Longhorns play and definitely rooting for my DBs.”

    They match up well. Age is not a factor. It all comes down to knowing what Oklahoma wants to do and making plays.  

    Printed on October 6, 2011 as: Sooners will test Longhorns defensive backfield

  • Gilbert elects to transfer, not sure where

    Garrett Gilbert has elected to transfer after a little more than two seasons at Texas. 
    He was 7-7 as the Longhorns starter, threw for 3,301 yards, 13 touchdowns, and 23 interceptions while at Texas. But after getting replaced against BYU after throwing first-quarter interceptions and undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery ten days later, Gilbert announced Wednesday that he had taken his last snap at Texas. 
    “This was a very difficult decision because I love the University of Texas and have had a great time playing there,” Gilbert said. “I can’t thank all of my teammates and everyone at Texas enough for all of their support.”
    Gilbert was reportedly seen at SMU watching practice Wednesday morning, although he has not yet decided where he will transfer to. Gilbert, who will continue to take classes at Texas this fall, was granted an unconditional release from his scholarship.
  • The Stat Guy: Texas’ new quarterbacks vs. the Sooners

    Every athlete has to have a beginning. However, not every athlete’s beginning is against the No. 1 team in the USA Today Poll. While Case McCoy and David Ash have both had their fair share of reps, they haven’t experienced a team quite like Oklahoma just yet.

    The Red River Rivalry is a completely different environment: from the craze of the fans, to the State Fair outside the Cotton Bowl and to the importance of the 111-year-old rivalry itself. The atmosphere can make a spectator’s knees tremble, let alone the starting quarterback’s. So just how have the first-year Texas quarterbacks fared against the Sooners? Let’s take a look at — you guessed it — the stats.

    In the 2003 matchup between the Longhorns and Sooners, a redshirt freshman Vince Young had an abysmal 11 completions out of 21 attempts for 135 yards and two interceptions. Texas lost the game in a 65-13 rout, at the hands of Jason White and company. On a brighter note, Young rushed for 127 yards and a touchdown, flashing early glimpses of what was to come.

    In 2006, Colt McCoy got his first shot at Oklahoma and didn’t disappoint, passing for 108 yards and two touchdowns, without turning the ball over. Texas defeated the Sooners 28-10, ending the Adrian Peterson reign on a high note.

    In co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite’s first taste of the Sooners in 1998, he led the Longhorns to a 34-3 victory, connecting on 14 of 27 passes for 293 yards and two touchdowns.

    Taking it back a few years to 1944, a freshman Bobby Layne registered two touchdowns in a 20-0 shutout of Oklahoma, back when the Big 12 was the Big 6.

    For the most part, first-year quarterbacks have had success against Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry. But how good was Oklahoma in those specific years?

    In 2003, Oklahoma was No. 1 in the polls when it met up with the Longhorns. Texas fans needn’t worry about a 52-point blowout though — the Longhorns defense is far too athletic. The Sooners were No. 14 in 2006 and unranked in 1944 and 1998.

    So, the consensus answer to the question: not very good.

    This Saturday will mark an opportunity for McCoy and Ash to be the first, first-year starters to have success against a top-ranked Sooner team. An underdog, Bryan Harsin-led offense has defeated a powerful Oklahoma team before (see: 2007 Fiesta Bowl, Boise State). Will it happen again?

    Printed on Tuesday, October 4, 2011 as: McCoy, Ash making debuts against Sooners this week