It’s pretty simple. Run for 200 yards. Get the win.
Under Mack Brown, Texas was a perfect 70-0 when topping the 200-yard mark on the ground. But Oklahoma State made it 70-1 by handing the Longhorns a 38-26 loss Saturday, their second-straight despite rushing for 231 yards, 217 of them in the first three quarters. Texas did not do much damage in its passing game with only one quarterback, freshman David Ash, taking snaps.
“We’re obviously better running it than we are passing it,” said head coach Mack Brown. “We’re not near where we need to be in the passing game.”
Printed on Monday, October 17, 2011 as: Brown's game, running yards are not strong enough to win
While Ash struggled, another true freshman, Malcolm Brown, had the best day of his young career. Brown needed only 19 carries to rack up 135 yards and two touchdowns, both career-highs. Coming out of high school Brown was one of the most highly touted running backs in the country, and he is living up to the hype: So far as he is on pace to run for more than 1,000 yards this season.
“We knew that he’s a guy that we can get the ball to and can make things happen,” said co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin. “He can bounce it out and break the first tackle. He continues to get better and better.”
While the rookie Brown was having a breakout performance, senior Fozzy Whittaker was reminding everyone that Texas has more than one great running back. Whittaker ran for 36 yards on nine carries and returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown for the second consecutive week.
Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert also scored on a 100-yard kickoff return on the play before Whittaker’s long return to make each of the second half’s first two
“We always talk about it on the field when we’re practicing, and we say, ‘This is the play that could change the game,’” Whittaker said. “They make holes for me. All I have to do is hit it.”
Whittaker has gotten many of his carries on direct snaps out of what he calls the “Wild” formation, but Harsin didn’t reserve trick plays for just one of his running backs. Instead, the former Boise State offensive coordinator brought back his most memorable play call from his days coaching the Broncos.
Harsin called for the Statue of Liberty play with the Longhorns at the Cowboys’ 24-yard line in the third quarter. Ash faked a throw with his right arm but handed the ball off to Brown with his left behind his back. Twenty-four yards later, Brown had his second touchdown and brought Texas within four, making the score 28-24.
Later in the third quarter, Oklahoma State running back Jeremy Smith reeled off a long run of his own when he darted through the middle of the Longhorns defense for a 74-yard touchdown. Like his first touchdown, a 30-yarder on a fourth-and-one play in the final minute of the first half, Smith raced into the end zone relatively untouched. Brown’s 7.1 yards per carry set another career-high but didn’t come close to Smith averaging 20 yards per carry.
“Those were a couple self-inflicted wounds that have to be corrected,” said defensive coordinator Manny Diaz. “It’s frustrating. It’s correctable. I thought our kids fought their absolute tails off. That is an unbelievable offensive football team that puts you under attack from the moment they get off the bus.”
Smith’s 140 yards paced Oklahoma State, who also ran for more than 200 yards. Texas has beaten teams with great running attacks. But no Mack Brown-led Longhorns team had ever lost while rushing for at least 200 yards. But with a passing game as unreliable as the one Texas has, the Longhorns will have to lean on players like Brown and Whittaker a whole lot this season.