Texas Longhorns: Bo Wallace
Still can't stop the run: Ole Miss played it smart. There was no need to get complicated on offense when the same play kept working again and again. The Rebels kept going back to the Jeff Scott sweep play, found zone read and play action wrinkles off it, and Texas just had no answer, much like the BYU game. Scott rushed for 164 yards and a touchdown and was never stopped once behind the line of scrimmage. Bo Wallace added 64 yards (excluding sacks), and together the combo was too much for the Longhorns to handle. As Mack Brown conceded after the game, you can't expect to win if you don't stop the run.
Defense needs time: Greg Robinson was not going to get this defense fixed with only three days of practice. He made one lineup change -- Josh Turner at safety for Mykkele Thompson -- but for the most part, ran a similar defense to what Manny Diaz put on the field a week ago. More changes should be on the way as Robinson gets comfortable with his personnel, and there's a lot of room for growth going forward. But the defense is still a serious work in progress after three games.
Offense needs Ash: Nobody would say it after the game, but Texas knew it couldn't run the exact same offense with Case McCoy running the show that David Ash is capable of. We saw a lot more power rushing, a lot more plays under center and less big-time play-action passing. Offensive coordinator Major Applewhite prepared a solid gameplan for McCoy that was well-executed in the first half, but it's still clear that this is a more limited passing attack when Ash isn't in the game. That's to be expected, of course, but we got a much better sense Saturday of why Ash makes this a more complete offense in several ways.
1. With David Ash sidelined, Case McCoy will lead the Texas offense. Believe it or not, the senior is making his first career start at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. McCoy is 3-3 as a starter in his career.
3. If Robinson can simply make Texas a better tackling team, he’ll see serious, immediate results. Last week against BYU, the Cougars picked up an incredible 271 yards after contact. That says it all about Texas’ continued problems with missed tackles.
4. Texas is 16-1 at home in nonconference games since 2007 and is averaging 41.9 points per game during that stretch. But only one of those 17 teams was ranked. Mack Brown is 1-1 at home against SEC teams, with both of those games coming against Arkansas.
5. Injury update: In addition to Ash being ruled out, running back/receiver Daje Johnson (ankle) will miss the Ole Miss game. The severity of his injury is unknown, though he could be sidelined several weeks.
1. “This team is going to be a player-led team. No matter who the coach is coming in, as leaders, we'll get this thing corrected.” -- DE Jackson Jeffcoat
2. “We totally go back to work. This isn't the first time I've had things said about me and it won't be the last. The only way you can change the way things are outside is win. My total thought is on beating Ole Miss.” -- Mack Brown
3. “Our confidence level is very high in all of our quarterbacks. Whichever quarterback they put in, we feel comfortable that they can get the job done and do a great job.” -- RB Johnathan Gray
4. "He’s behind. We’ve just got to continue to teach him the things we know and just continue to learn on the go. I feel like since he’s been around, he’s watched practice, he’s watched us since two-a-days, he knows some of the things. We continue to get him up to speed and we still have great coaches that help him get up to pace and we have great GAs that know the system. I feel like he has a great supporting cast.” -- CB Quandre Diggs, on new DC Greg Robinson
1. Bend-don’t-break defense: What can we really expect from Robinson’s debut? He’s had so little time to fix things, but you have to think Texas will focus on stopping the run. As his predecessor used to preach: All that matters is holding Ole Miss to one point fewer than Texas. That’s especially true this week as the Longhorns scrap together their new defense.
2. Score early: We’ll keep harping on Texas’ inability to get off to a fast start on offense until that trend changes. Last week, after talking all week about that trend, the Longhorns went three-and-out on its first three drives against BYU. The offense has to help this defense out as much as possible on Saturday.
3. McCoy magic :Texas needs the McCoy that beat Texas A&M, the one who makes wild plays and makes his teammates better. He doesn’t have to be the Favre-ian gunslinger who tries to make plays out of nothing and gets picked off. Remember, McCoy is 3-0 when he doesn’t turn the ball over.
Two key players
Gray: McCoy is an obvious choice here, but he’s going to need help from Gray. The sophomore back produced 90 yards against BYU, but he needs to get off to a fast start as much as anyone on this offense. Gray has rushed for 48 first-half yards this season, and Texas needs more than that.
Ole Miss QB Bo Wallace: Hey, after what Taysom Hill did to Texas last week, every dual-threat quarterback should be feared going forward. Wallace has wheels, too, and he’s a lot better passer than Hill. That versatility could be a problem for the Longhorns, and Wallace’s three-interception game last season will have him plenty motivated on Saturday.
Texas 24, Ole Miss 21
Everything we’ve witnessed in the past week tells me to go with Ole Miss. That’s the safe, logical choice. But for some reason, you just get a sense that this is going to be a weird game and it’s possible we’ve overestimated the Rebels as we did last year. This can be one of the more remarkable wins of Brown's tenure or one of his worst losses. It can really go either way. Somehow, I think Texas survives.
No. 1: 182.5
That's the number of rushing yards Ole Miss has averaged per game since coach Hugh Freeze took over last season. The most the Rebels have rushed for in a game since 2012 was 330 yards, and against Southeast Missouri State last Saturday, they put up 272. The Ole Miss school record, in case Texas’ run defense completely falls apart again this week, is 515. That was set back in 1951.
Mack Brown made the change at defensive coordinator because he refused to let Texas’ problems with run defense continue. Freeze has already expressed concern and discomfort about the fact Texas will be throwing a new defense at Ole Miss, and it’ll be interesting to see how he attacks that run D early and often. After Texas’ performance in Provo, what coach wouldn’t?
No. 2: 67th
New Texas defensive coordinator Greg Robinson has not coached a top-50 defense (in either scoring or yardage) since he left Texas following the 2004 season. His best season was in 2005, as first-year head coach of Syracuse, when the Orange finished tied for No. 67 in the nation in scoring defense and No. 57 in total defense. In his final season as Michigan defensive coordinator, the Wolverines were No. 110 in total defense and No. 108 in scoring defense.
Brown doesn’t care about those numbers. He’s said Robinson was working with bad players and a bad team at Michigan, and he’s confident that the Greg Robinson who takes the field on Saturday night will be much like the one he remembers from 2004. Texas doesn’t expect perfection in his debut vs. Ole Miss, but Brown is hoping his team plays more physical and tackles much better.
No. 3: 3-0
Texas got on a roll in 2012 in its 66-31 beatdown of Ole Miss thanks to three Rebels' turnovers, all interceptions thrown by Bo Wallace. Winning the turnover battle 3-0 in Oxford was no doubt critical to a runaway victory. Turnovers didn’t doom Texas last week against BYU, but they could this time.
Believe it or not, Case McCoy has only thrown interceptions in three games of his Longhorn career. Six of his seven career interceptions, though, came in the only two games of his career when he’s thrown for 300 or more yards. He led Texas up and down the field against Baylor in 2011 and Kansas State in 2012, but if he makes similar mistakes on Saturday, this game can get away from him like the last two did.
Three more to remember
113: The number of rushes of 10-plus yards that Texas has given up since the beginning of the 2012 season. That ranks second-worst in FBS behind Indiana.
9-2: Texas’ record when receiver Mike Davis scores a touchdown. He has three this season.
6-0: Texas’ record when playing on the Longhorn Network.
Campus location: Oxford, Miss.
All-time record vs. Texas: 1-6
Last game: Ole Miss jumped out to a 31-0 lead in the first half against Southeast Missouri State and went on cruise control from there for a 31-13 victory last Saturday. Bo Wallace threw touchdown passes of 64 and 67 yards and sat out the second half, and backup quarterback Barry Brunetti rushed for 111 yards. Getting a chance to rest starters and work on depth early in the season is always a good thing.
Last meeting with Texas: Steve Edmond took one of three Bo Wallace interceptions to the house to start off this blowout, and the Longhorns got a comfortable 31-10 lead by the half. They traded big plays the rest of the way, and Texas made a few concerning busts on defense but still won 66-31. Marquise Goodwin had one of the great games of his career with a 69-yard touchdown run, 55-yard touchdown catch and 198 all-purpose yards. The downside? Texas lost Jordan Hicks for the season and Malcolm Brown for much of it on that night.
Key player: Ole Miss’ two-quarterback system. Considering how much trouble Taysom Hill gave Texas last week, you can bet Texas will be ready for Wallace and Brunetti. Wallace is a far better passer than Hill with an array of dangerous receivers, and he’s mobile. Brunetti could be a problem, too. He’s rushed for 115 yards and three TDs in two games and can make plays in the read option game. Texas couldn’t handle that last weekend. The QB duo has combined for more carries (40) than top running back Jeff Scott (16).
Why Ole Miss might win: You watched that Texas game last week, right? The Longhorns have a lot of work to do in one week, and a lot will be asked of new defensive coordinator Greg Robinson. This Ole Miss offense can attack teams in a lot of different ways, and its athletic defensive line will also be a handful.
Why Ole Miss might lose: It is possible we’ve overrated and overhyped Ole Miss, just as we did this time last year. If their secondary is vulnerable to the deep ball again, Mike Davis and Kendall Sanders could blow this game wide open. We should see Texas players come out more focused than ever after the events of the past week, and the fact is they have much more talent than their inconsistent play suggests. Just when you count Mack Brown out, his team just might come strong, punch the Rebels in the mouth and surprise a lot of folks.
Ole Miss record in 2012: 7-6, 3-5 in the SEC
Last meeting against Texas: The Longhorns won 66-31 in Oxford, Miss. in 2012.
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Jackson Jeffcoat is out. Gone for the season. He tore his pectoral muscle. This time it was the right one. Last year it was the left one. So much for Texas having the top two defensive ends in the Big 12. Instead Texas is just left with big questions at a time when it is searching for answers.
The foremost is: Can Cedric Reed or Reggie Wilson even come close to producing at Jeffcoat’s level? The answer is no. If they could, they would have had the starting spot.
Jeffcoat does stuff like that every game. The junior had four sacks, 11 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery for a touchdown already this season. Reed and Wilson have a combined five tackles for loss and one sack.
But Jeffcoat’s game went beyond stats. He, along with bookend Alex Okafor, was able to pin in quarterbacks and shrink their options. The reason Geno Smith was unable to roll the pocket and therefore roll Texas was because he had Jeffcoat to his left and Okafor to his right every time he dropped back. It was the combined pressure of the two that forced Smith to take four sacks and be stripped of the ball twice.
Without that type of pressure the Texas secondary, which already has issues in coverage, is susceptible to being picked apart by a quarterback like Baylor’s Nick Florence. Florence, the FBS leader in total offense, just so happens to be the next QB Texas faces.
The Longhorns might consider pulling the redshirt off someone like Shiro Davis in order to get more speed on the edge. But, as Texas has proven in the past two losses, it is very tough to play fast as a defensive player when you do not know where you are going.
Without Jeffcoat, Texas, a team that has allowed 111 points and more than 1,100 yards in the past two games, might be wondering where it is going.
Ash not ruled out
Texas has prepared itself since the spring to use two quarterbacks. Now the Longhorns might have to do just that.
While quarterback David Ash has not been ruled out with a bruise to his non-throwing wrist, he has not been cleared to play, either. That means Texas might once again be turning to backup Case McCoy.
The junior, who was 3-2 as a starter in 2011, lost out on the starting job after what was an eight-month competition. But the Texas coaches qualified their selection of Ash by stating, repeatedly, that they felt McCoy was more than an adequate backup and that they would not hesitate to play him.
Well, now the time might have come and it might be against Baylor, which happens to be the last team McCoy started against. In that game, McCoy was responsible for five turnovers. That, as much as anything, is what led to his demotion.
The coaching staff could not abide a quarterback who played fast and loose with the ball. They wanted a game manager. Ash better fit that role. McCoy, on the other hand, is much more of a draw-it-up-in-the-dirt player.
But McCoy has matured. He has added 15-20 pounds and put more zip on his intermediate throws as well as length on deep throws.
If he is the quarterback, it is almost a certainty that co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin will play it close to the vest and try to get McCoy to distribute the ball to playmakers such as Daje Johnson, Marquise Goodwin and Johnathan Gray. That has been when Texas is at its best. And to beat Baylor, a team that is No. 2 in total offense and No. 4 in scoring offense, Texas’ offense will have to be at its best.
But what if that offense puts up 66?
By the conditions of his simple directive, Diaz’s defense more than did its job Saturday night against Ole Miss. Texas did win by five touchdowns.
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Nothing short of a great win for Texas tonight. Definitely felt a lot like David Ash took some big steps toward maturity in the Longhorns' first road trip of 2012.
He completed 15 consecutive passes from the first to third quarters, and showed some big improvement as the Longhorns rolled over Ole Miss, 66-31.
Time for some instant analysis:
It was over when: Texas opened the second half with a dominant drive, going 78 yards in seven plays and capping it with a powerful D.J. Monroe 10-yard touchdown run. That put the Longhorns up 38-10 and took even more energy out of an amped crowd at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Any idea of an upset ended when Texas asserted itself to open the half and prevented the Rebels from gaining any momentum.
Gameball goes to: Ash. Did we just see his career breakout game? Ole Miss' secondary looked ragged for much of the game, but Ash, a sophomore, played the best game of his career, and showed plenty of promise that he could be depended on later in the season. He finished 19-of-23 for 326 yards, four touchdowns and still has yet to throw his first interception of 2012. Did anyone think we could see this kind of performance out of Ash this early in the season?
Stat of the game: Texas won the turnover battle, 3-0. That included an interception from Steve Edmond that opened the game's scoring. He returned a Bo Wallace pass 22 yards for a touchdown.
Unsung hero of the game: Texas' offensive line. The big uglies up front gave David Ash all day to throw, and the holes were roomy and frequent for Texas' rushing attack all night long. The focus in this game will be on Ash's performance, but the offensive line deserves plenty of credit, too.
What Texas learned: The offense can look like a juggernaut from time to time. We haven't seen an offensive performance like this from Texas in a long, long time. Texas hadn't scored this many points since the Big 12 title game in 2005, and the next game ended with the Longhorns hoisting a national championship trophy. It's too soon to have any talk close to that, but Ash's development makes that power running game up front even tougher to stop. His difficult freshman season seemed pretty far in the rearview mirror tonight.
What Ole Miss learned: The defense has a long way to go. Receivers were open all day, and when Ash put the ball in the air, the Rebels defensive backs never seemed to be able to find it. The front seven were dominated, and the Longhorns made this win look easy. Could be a long season in Oxford for Hugh Freeze's first season.
Stat of the half: Texas has had most of its success on the ground. The Longhorns rushed 22 times for 182 yards. Included in that total is Marquise Goodwin's 69-yard run. That is the longest run from scrimmage for a Texas player since Jamaal Charles went for 75 against Oklahoma State in 2007.
Player of the half: Quarterback David Ash threw two touchdown passes and engineered four scoring drives for Texas. The sophomore hit on a 47-yard pass to Goodwin, the longest pass play for Texas since the Baylor game in 2011. It was Ash's second-longest throw at Texas. He hit for 48 yards against Iowa State.
What's working for Texas: The Longhorns are getting solid defensive pressure on quarterback Bo Wallace. Texas has three sacks and both of Wallace's interceptions came when the quarterback was under duress.
What is not working for Texas: The Longhorns have been unable to stop Ole Miss on third down. Make that long third downs. The Rebels converted third downs of 18 and 17 yards on their two scoring drives. The first was a 30-yard pass play to set up a touchdown. The second came on a personal foul called on Jordan Hicks.
What Texas needs to do to keep winning: If the Longhorns continue to run the ball, they should continue to control the game. The Ole Miss defensive line has had trouble even staying in front of the offensive line of Texas. And the Texas defensive line has spent most of the night in the backfield of Ole Miss.
This game is going to be closer than the experts think. Texas has a more talented team than Ole Miss but the Rebels seem to have more continuity on offense. In the third week of the season this is a defining games for the Longhorns defense. Texas will allow the ball to move between the 20s but will force Mississippi into multiple field goal opportunities. David Ash will show his mettle as he will have to come back from hard hits and adversity in the first road game for the Longhorns.
- Sean Adams
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So Freeze broke out some film. He told Werner these were a few guys he’d considered pursuing.
When they started rolling tape of a familiar junior college kid, Werner stopped the search.
“I saw his film and said, ‘Let’s go get him,’” said Werner, the Rebels’ offensive coordinator. “He didn’t tell me who any of them were.”
Ole Miss wanted Bo Wallace more than anyone else. That’s why he chose the Rebels over Mississippi State, Indiana and Baylor.
Had Texas wanted him, there’s a chance Wallace could’ve been a Longhorns this weekend in Oxford. For one week in January, that was at least a distinct possibility.
Texas’ unsettled quarterback situation prompted offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin to make the call. This wasn’t a quick-fix move or one to bolster depth, Harsin says now. He was looking for “the right situation at that time.”
Wallace said he had two or three conversations with Harsin during that week. No offer, no visit, nothing more than that.
The Rebels went 2-10 and ended the season winless in their final seven games, signaling the end of Houston Nutt’s time in Oxford, Miss.
The 6-foot-4, 204-pounder has stabilized an unsure quarterback position coming out of fall camp and given life to a passing game that was one of the worst in the nation a season ago.
He is 35-of-46 for 438 yards, including touchdown passes of 53, 25, 55, 51 and 3 yards already. He has also rushed 24 times for 148 yards and two touchdowns. Wallace is on pace to throw for 2,628 yards, which would far exceed the 1,820 yards Ole Miss had in 2011.
Wallace has completed 76.1 percent of his passes (Ole Miss completed just 49.4 percent in 2011), is averaging 9.5 yards per completion (5.8 in 2011) and has a passer efficiency rating of 187.6 as opposed to the 99.5 the Rebels attained a season ago. All three of those 2011 statistics were among the 10 worst in the FBS.
“You can watch on tape what he's doing when he carries himself,” Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said. “He can make bad plays, good plays for them. What he's also doing is he's not making bad plays disasters.”
The Longhorns know full well that if they want to win their 14th straight road game in September they are going to have to contain a quarterback that once flirted with the idea of transferring to Texas.
“I think it's exciting. I'm up for the challenge,” senior safety Kenny Vaccaro said. “I mean, it puts stress on the defense to have a dual-threat quarterback. We've got to load the box and bring people out. So it will be a good challenge for us and a good ballgame.”
There’s only a small sample size to go on of Wallace’s capabilities against non-junior college competition, and it came against Central Arkansas and UTEP. But he’s put up admirable numbers throughout his career.
He led East Mississippi to a 12-0 season and the NJCAA national championship last season while setting NJCAA single-season records for passing yards (4,604), total yards (4,810) and touchdown passes.
And his running abilities have made Ole Miss’ read-option ways turn like a well-oiled wheel. The Rebels’ 283.5 rushing yards per game is tops in the SEC whereas, last year, they were 11th.
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No. 1: 0-14
While Ole Miss resides in the SEC and everyone trembles at the feet of that conference, the Rebels are not exactly a team that sends opponents running for cover. In fact, Ole Miss is an opponent on which teams usually do cover; at least BCS automatic qualifying teams.
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