Mack Brown has won 150 games in 15 seasons as the Longhorns’ head football coach. Winning 10 games a year for that long a period of time is quite an accomplishment but Brown hasn’t topped that double-digit win plateau since Colt McCoy was taking snaps for him four years ago.
On paper, this is the best Texas team since McCoy, the school’s all-time winningest quarterback was behind center. Much of the offseason discussion surrounding the Longhorns has centered on their implementation of an up-tempo offense and who is engineering the attack – junior quarterback David Ash.
But, if the formula for how Brown-coached Longhorns squads have done well is any indication, it shouldn’t. If Texas plans to regain its status as a perennial conference and national title contender, the numbers tell us it should focus on refining its ground game.
Over the last three years, the Longhorns have posted a 22-16 record – losing as many games over the past three seasons as they did during the previous nine. In those 22 wins, Texas actually averaged fewer passing yards per game (226.3) than it did in the 16 losses (228.4). In fact, the Longhorns threw it 11.3 fewer times in the 22 victories (26.9) than in the 16 defeats (38.1).
On the other hand, Texas averaged 209 rushing yards per game in its 22 wins over the past three years, compared to 132 rushing yards per game in the 16 losses. During that span, the Longhorns averaged 4.7 yards per carry in their wins and 3.7 yards per carry in their losses. More importantly, they ran the ball 7.2 more times in those 22 triumphs (42.9) than in the 16 losses (35.7).
The discrepancies between the significance of a productive running game and a prolific passing attack are even more pronounced over Brown’s entire tenure with Texas.
In the 150 games Brown has helped the Longhorns win, they have averaged 209 rushing yards per game, compared to a nearly even 100 rushing yards per game in his 43 defeats – an 108.9 percent increase.
Meanwhile, Texas has thrown for 252.7 passing yards in those 150 victories and 229 passing yards in the 43 losses – merely a 10.4 percent increase.
The Longhorns have averaged 6.3 fewer pass attempts and 10 more rushing attempts in their 150 wins under Brown (30.4 pass, 42.7 rush) than in their 43 losses (36.7 pass, 32.7 rush).
Since Brown arrived at Texas in 1998 after reviving a dormant North Carolina program, the Longhorns are 121-16 (.883) when running it more than they pass while making it a near-coin toss when they throw it more than they run, going 29-27 (.518) in all other games.
Under Brown, when Texas runs it at least 10 more times than it passes, it has been even more successful, posting a 86-7 (.925) record. The Longhorns are 14-15 (.483) when passing the ball at least 10 more times than they run it.
The switch to an up-tempo offense, designed to give the Longhorns around 15 more plays per game to work with, is an exciting change. It should be embraced.
But, no matter what scheme Texas runs, it’s imperative they establish an effective running attack this season.