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Insider

Texas abandons run game early vs. UNM

9/9/2012

AUSTIN, Texas -- Mack Brown told his team and his coaches at halftime of the New Mexico game that he "wanted to get this thing over with and let everyone play."

So then it came as no shock that the first five plays of the second half were called runs. The sixth was an inside shovel pass that might as well have been a run. The result was a 75-yard touchdown drive. Texas, after all, is a running team.

But for most of the first half, Texas was anything but a ground attack. The Longhorns shelved their running backs in the first 30 minutes and took to the air on 16 of 27 plays.

"We wanted to throw it more," Brown said. "Like we said, we knew we were going to win the game. We know we can run the ball. We're trying to get more balance. We wanted to get the ball in receivers' hands and work on our protections and do things that we needed to do and not beat our backs up so much."

No worries there. Malcolm Brown ran the ball twice. Johnathan Gray rushed it seven times. All told, the trio of backs had 20 rushes for 74 yards. That’s a far cry from the 34 touches and 214 yards they had in the opener.

But, again, when Texas needed it the run game was there. Joe Bergeron had six carries for 33 yards in the first two touchdown drives of the second half. The run game churned out 66 yards on those first two drives.

But those two series, the ones in which Texas decided to put away the game so everybody could play, were the only ones that heavily featured the run. Brown said that was OK with the running backs.

"This has been a team that understands their role," he said. "They know what we're trying to do, and why we're trying to do it."

The distribution of carries among the running backs going forward still remains a mystery. Just last week Brown said he would like to get each 15 touches a game. To do that, Texas is going to have to get more touches on offense. It only had 61 against New Mexico after having 75 against Wyoming.

One former Texas player who knows a little something about running the ball said equal time and carries for three backs might be untenable.

"I think somebody is going to have to step up and say, 'I’m the man that will take on the responsibility,'" said Earl Campbell, the winner of the 1977 Heisman Trophy.

The early indications are that Bergeron is that man. He has 26 carries to Malcolm Brown’s 16 and Gray’s 12. Not that anyone should read anything into that, especially when it comes to the distribution of carries against New Mexico.

"The way the flow of the game was and whose opportunity was to go in there and play was Joe's," said co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin. "That is nothing against Malcolm Brown or anything like that. It was just how the rotation was going."

Whether it continues to go that way might depend on how much Texas wants to work on its passing game. Almost assuredly Texas will be back to the ground game against Ole Miss.

Not that the Rebels have a stout defense -- it’s 40th nationally -- but the Rebels have played Central Arkansas and UTEP. The game, however, is on the road and Texas will want to wrest control of the clock and the crowd early. To do so, the Longhorns will turn back to what they do best -- run the ball.