Texas wins if
If the Longhorns plan on avoiding a second consecutive upset, they must keep the ball out of the Spartans’ hands. The easiest way to do so is to pound the rock early and often.
Last week, Texas found itself stuck in a deep hole midway through the second quarter, trailing by 20 points against Maryland. The situation called for the Longhorns to move the ball up the field as quickly as possible, limiting the number of designed runs the team could call.
However, the offensive line struggled mightily in pass protection, getting flagged three times for holding and allowing five sacks.
Though he’s not considered by most to be a dual-threat quarterback, the offensive line’s setbacks kept Shane Buechele on the run. The sophomore finished the game with 52 pass attempts and 15 carries — both single-game career highs. At 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds, Buechele is not physically built to take the quantity of hits he received from the Terrapins, as he has already bruised his throwing shoulder.
For comparison, all other Texas players combined for one pass attempt and 16 carries. Sophomore Kyle Porter was shaky as the starting running back, rushing eight times for just 21 yards. However, junior Chris Warren III made the most of his chances, gaining 31 yards from five touches.
The fact remains — the Longhorns must get the backfield more involved. Allocating more opportunities to the team’s tailbacks seem like the best bet to hold off San Jose State.
Texas loses if
Texas saw the lead grow out of hand early against Maryland due to the number of big, explosive plays they gave up on defense.
Junior halfback Ty Johnson ran all over the Longhorns, rushing 12 times for 132 yards. However, the majority of his production came off just two rushing attempts. Johnson broke off one carry for 50 yards in the first quarter and another in the third quarter for 40 yards and a score.
The Terrapins’ passing game took advantage as well. Wideouts junior D.J. Moore and senior Taivon Jacobs each received respective 46-yard bombs, with Jacobs’ resulting in a touchdown.
San Jose State has multiple weapons of burning Texas defenders, including freshman quarterback Montel Aaron and sophomore running back Zamore Zigler. Against Cal Poly last week, Aaron threw for 183 yards and three scores while Zigler ran for 121 yards and punched in another touchdown.
As a team, the Spartans offense had six plays that went for 20 yards or more. Limiting these type of plays will be crucial for the Longhorns to stop any opposing offense, let alone San Jose State.
A more aggressive pass rush wouldn’t hurt. Texas’ defensive front was stifled against Maryland’s deep offensive line, with junior defensive end Charles Omenihu registering the team’s only sack.
Getting after the quarterback would give the Spartans less time to allow plays to develop, increasing the chance they make a mistake. And as junior defensive back Holton Hill’s pick-six against the Terrapins proved, the Longhorns are more than capable of capitalizing on errors.