Louisville

Sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes looks to recover from an inconsistent season and fight to remain the starter.
Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones kick-started his college career by lighting up the scoreboard against some of the best competition in the nation and winning a national championship in his first three games. The offensive outburst by the redshirt sophomore prompted an outpouring of praise for Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer and his ability to recruit and coach a roster with three All-American caliber quarterbacks.

Back on the 40 Acres, the mood was a little more gloomy. Jones’ downfield rockets and Meyer’s bold and creative play calling stood in stark contrast to the Longhorns’ dismal performance at the AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl, where the burnt orange and white accumulated only 59 yards of total offense.

If the Longhorns want to rejoin Ohio State as college football royalty, they will need to find a quarterback and coaching duo to lead the way. The options at quarterback look promising, as Texas will likely burn freshman quarterback Jerrod Heard’s redshirt next season, and sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes will have the off season to develop. Kyler Murray, five-star quarterback recruit and Texas A&M commit, even stopped by the University of Texas campus for a visit Wednesday.

The tutelage of Shawn Watson, Texas’ assistant head coach for offense and quarterbacks, who coached current Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater at Louisville, is set to launch one of the Longhorn quarterbacks into All-American consideration. At this point, however, it is hard to tell if Watson is the right man to coach Heard, Swoopes or any other quarterback on the roster.

Watson was a member of head coach Charlie Strong’s staff at Louisville when the Vikings drafted Bridgewater, but it is still unclear at the moment whether it was Watson who bolstered Bridgewater to prominence or the other way around.

When at Louisville, Bridgewater was a mobile quarterback who could still thrive when sitting back and embracing his role as a pocket passer. Watson tried to run a similar offense in his first year of play-calling duties at Texas, but to no avail.

Swoopes showed he is not Bridgewater, as he often looked uncomfortable dropping back and scanning the defense — a requirement for a pocket passer. When the offense went downhill in the Kansas State game, Watson and the rest of the staff seemed to make little effort to change the game plan in order to attempt to use Swoopes’ powerful legs to their advantage.

Heard is the clear next-in-line if the “Tyrone Swoopes experiment” does not work out, but his blazing speed appears to be better suited for an offense that avoids under-center sets and embraces the option. It has yet been determined whether Heard can achieve success when sitting back and reading a defense. If he cannot do so, the Longhorns will have to spend springtime courting pocket passers or start making serious changes to the offense.

Watson showed moments of brilliance as a play caller, even with a patchwork offensive line. But if Watson’s young quarterbacks prove incapable of being pocket passers during spring practice, he will have to put Louisville’s formula for success behind him and tweak the offense in a way that better incorporates his quarterbacks’ skill sets.

Photo Credit: Sarah Montgomery | Daily Texan Staff

When Charlie Strong upset West Virginia at the helm of Louisville in 2011, his players hoisted him up and sent him crowd surfing in the locker room to celebrate the win.

It was one of his first signature victories with the Cardinals, whom he would lead to two ten-win seasons and a couple bowl victories, including a Sugar Bowl win, in four seasons.

Three years later, in his first season at Texas, he faced West Virginia again — this time in a burnt orange mock turtleneck — and was faced with the challenge of beating a top-25 team, something the Longhorns hadn’t done at home since 2008. 

After knocking off the Mountaineers again, it was déjà vu for Strong, who was hoisted up in the Texas locker room and sent crowd surfing once again.

The celebration was a sign that Strong had claimed his first signature win at Texas and is starting to turn around a program that has been mediocre over the past four seasons.

“For us to go out and get a win like that where we’re at and what we’re trying to develop and really get our program started here, it’s a very gratifying win,” said Shawn Watson, assistant head coach for offense. 

Watson came with Strong from Louisville, where, over the course of three years, he helped form a team that went from 4-8 the year before they arrived to 12-1. Ten games into the 2014 season, it is easy to see that the Longhorns are starting to buy into what Strong is selling and that the change he made at Louisville is starting to be made here in Austin. 

Strong’s players have long claimed to have witnessed an attitude change since he arrived at Texas, but, on the field, that change hasn’t been so visible. 

Through the first two-thirds of the season, the Longhorns failed to produce a complete game in all three phases, and consistent
mistakes cost the team an opportunity to turn a couple close losses into victories.

But, as the season progressed, the team did also. 

On Saturday, it was easy to see the fire and passion Strong has created. 

Although the offense struggled in the second half, it did enough early on to give the Longhorns a lead they would not relinquish.

And on the defensive side of the ball, where Strong is at his best, the Longhorns had one of their best performances of the season. 

Even with time running out and the victory having been sealed, Texas produced a goal-line stand to prevent the Mountaineers from closing the gap, showing the desire of a changed Longhorn team.

While the victory was just the Longhorns’ fifth of the season and the first time that they have claimed two consecutive wins this year, it marked a significant leap for Texas. 

It proved that Strong is starting to impact the culture and attitude around the Longhorn program and that his players are starting to buy into his winning formula.

Men's swimming and diving

In a quad meet characterized by electric times and tight finishes — including one touch separated by one one-hundredth of a second — the men’s swimming and diving team defeated Indiana and Louisville comfortably, but was narrowly edged out by Michigan.

The Longhorns took down the Hoosiers by a 91-point margin and the Cardinals by 81 points. Long before the final event — the 400-yard freestyle relay — Texas had secured its win over the two teams, but the overall victor of the meet remained uncertain.

All-American sophomore Will Licon captured first in the 200-yard breaststroke with a time of 1:57.11, good for the nation’s top time to date in that event.

Sophomore Jack Conger also got national recognition, earning the second-fastest time in the country this season with a dominating win in the 200-yard individual backstroke with a time of 1:45.18. Freshman Jonathan Roberts also hopped on the record train with the nation’s top mark in the 500 freestyle.

Michigan held the lead, but Texas kicked up a rally that narrowed its deficit, thanks to sophomore Mark Anderson’s and senior Will Chandler’s second- and  third-place finishes in the 3-meter diving event.

However, Texas couldn’t catch up and was closely defeated by Michigan, 183-170.

Softball

Texas softball won its third fall scrimmage against Galveston Community College in a 10-3 blowout this weekend. 

Galveston scored all three of its runs in the top of the third off a fielder’s choice, an illegal pitch by sophomore pitcher Lauren Slatten and an RBI groundout. To revive Texas’ pitching, freshman pitcher Erica Wright retired six hitters in order.

“Once you get on the mound, adrenaline takes over you, and you just get in the moment,” Wright said. “Erin [Shireman], the catcher, made some
really nice calls.”

The Longhorns scored scored one run in the bottom of the third and three in the fourth before blowing the game open in the fifth with six runs.

Texas faces St. Edward’s at McCombs Field at 5 p.m.  Thursday.

Women's rowing

The women’s rowing team grabbed three first-place finishes Saturday at the Austin Rowing Club’s Head of the Colorado Regatta. Although it’s traditionally a 5,000-meter course, this year’s races were limited to 4,000 meters because of an infestation of cabomba weeds in Lady Bird Lake.

The first top finish came early in the day for the Longhorns, with Texas’ boats claiming the top seven spots in the open pair race at 8:10 a.m. The first-place boat finished with a time of 16:23.5.

Success continued in the open 8+ race, taking the top three spots.

Texas edged out a boat from Big 12 rival Oklahoma to place second in the first novice 8+ race with a time of 15:50.1.

The Longhorns also grabbed first place in the open 4+ race with a time of 15:34.3, which was good enough to beat out teams from SMU, Texas A&M and Rice.

Texas finished the day with 10 top-three finishes and will look to carry that momentum into next weekend when it competes at the Head of the Hooch in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Women's soccer

Although Texas soccer entered the weekend barely hanging on to the final spot in the Big 12 Championship tournament, wins Friday and Sunday over Oklahoma and Baylor punched Texas’ ticket to the postseason.

It took only 45 seconds for the Longhorns to generate enough offense to knock off conference rival Oklahoma on Friday night.

Less than one minute into regulation, senior defender Whitney Jaynes gained possession along the left flank and chipped a cross into the 6-yard box where leaping freshman forward Morgan Murphy nodded the ball in for her first career goal.

Murphy’s header was Texas’ only shot on goal, but a stifling Longhorn defense held the Sooners to just six shots all game, with only two of those
on goal.

“Anytime you can get a ‘W,’ you’ll take that opportunity,” Texas head coach Angela Kelly said. “Credit to Oklahoma, this match was a back-and-forth battle. I’m just really pleased with the win.”

Texas took much longer to get the offense clicking Sunday against Baylor, but late heroics by sophomore midfielder Julia Dyche allowed the Longhorns to leave Waco with a 2-1 victory.

Junior midfielder Lindsey Meyer equalized with a goal in the 75th minute, and Dyche put Texas in the winner’s column when she blasted a rebound into the back of the net with just 30 seconds to go in regulation.

The Longhorns’ next action will take place in the regular season finale at home against Oklahoma State at 7 p.m. Friday.

Women's swimming and diving

Texas’ women’s swimming and diving team kicked off its season with a 3-0 start after a two-day quad meet this weekend against Michigan, Louisville and Indiana. Texas beat Michigan by a 199-154 margin, Indiana by a 204.5-148.5 margin and Louisville by a 243.5-109.5 margin.

Michigan and Indiana battled for a few wins in the pool and proved to be tough competitors, but by the conclusion of day one, Texas led after winning three events.

Sophomore Tasija Karosas, senior Gretchen Jaques, sophomore Brynne Wong and senior Sarah Denninghoff started off the meet with a 400 medley relay victory in 3:38.87. Jaques won again, leading a 1-2 Texas finish with a split of 1:01.37 in the 100 breaststroke, just in front of freshman Bethany Leap, who finished in 1:02.36.

It wasn’t until later in the day that sophomore Madisyn Cox solidified the third win for Texas, winning the 200 IM with a mark of 1:58.56. Cox also came out with a win in the 400 IM with a time of 4:14.51, due to the in-race disqualification of Louisville senior Tanja Kylliainen. 

Day two began with a swift comeback by freshman Rebecca Millard, who closed the gap to gain yet another win for the Longhorns in the 200 freestyle relay. Jaques, Millard, Wong and Denninghoff clocked in at 1:32.24.

All-American senior diver Emma Ivory-Ganja placed first in Texas’ big 1-2-3 finish in the one-meter dive with 301.85 points, alongside teammates junior Meghan Houston and sophomore Murphy Bromberg.

Women’s swimming and diving preview

This weekend, the women’s swimming and diving team will fly to Ann Arbor, Michigan, to swim at the Canham Natatorium in its first intercollegiate competition of the season.

The No. 6 Longhorns have their work cut out for them in this two-day quad meet. Although the 2014-2015 rankings have yet to be posted, three fellow top-20 2014 NCAA Championship teams will be competing: No. 11 Indiana, No. 20 Michigan and No. 13 Louisville.

Though Louisville is new to the mix this year, this trip will be familiar for the Longhorns. Last year, the women crushed their competition with eight victories, beating Indiana by a 155-141 count and Michigan by a margin of 210-90.

Head coach Carol Capitani desires more success this season, and hopes Texas can be a top competitor alongside Cal, Georgia and Stanford.

“Coming in ninth every year, it’s getting a little old,” said Capitani. “In swimming life, if you’re staying the same, you’re getting worse.”

The team will be led by seniors such as Gretchen Jaques, who won the 50 and 100 freestyle last year at this meet, and diver Emma Ivory-Ganja, who placed first in the three-meter event. 

Women's golf to Travel to San Antonio for Alamo Invitational

Following an eighth place finish at their home course in the Betsy Rawls Invitational, the women’s golf team will travel to San Antonio for the Alamo Invitational being held Sunday through Tuesday. 

The invitational will be hosted by UTSA at the Briggs Ranch Golf Club (par 72, 6,428 yards).

Texas will tee off for its first round at 11:40 a.m. Sunday, matched with Florida State and Tulane.

The invitational will host 15 teams, two of which are ranked in Golfweek’s Top 20: No. 7 Arkansas and No. 19 Auburn. The Longhorns have fallen four places to 44th since their last performance at the Betsy Rawls Invitational.

Other Texas teams will be in attendance, including SMU, TCU, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Houston.

Softball looks to win third fall scrimmage

The softball team will host Galveston College at 7 p.m. Friday in the third fall scrimmage at Red and Charline McCombs Field. 

The Longhorns have played well through the first two games, with a 5-0 win against McLennan Community College and an 11-0 victory over the University of Incarnate Word.

Through two games, sophomore infielder Kelli Hanzel is 4-for-4 with two doubles and three RBIs. Junior infielder Erin Shireman is also hot at the plate, going 3-for-5 with a home run and two RBIs.

If Texas continues to play the way its are playing, expect to see dominating performances from the pitching staff. In the first two scrimmages, the pitching staff has not allowed a run and has combined for a whopping 24 strikeouts.

Soccer to take on Baylor, OU in tough rivalry road trip

Texas soccer has another tough pair of conference games this weekend. The Longhorns will take on Oklahoma (8-5-3, 2-2-1 Big 12) in Norman, Oklahoma, Friday at 7 p.m., and then turn around and head to Waco for a 6 p.m. Sunday tilt against a physical Baylor squad (8-5-2, 2-2-1 Big 12).

Oklahoma was ranked as high as 15th in early September, but the Sooners have dropped off since then and are winless in their last three contests.

This season, Baylor’s offense has excelled where the Longhorns have struggled. The Bears have made the most of their opportunities, seeing just over half of their shots this season come on goal, while Texas has hit just 41.9 percent of its shots on target.

Junior goalkeeper Abby Smith will have her hands full against the pair of Big 12 offenses, but she should be fresher since head coach Angela Kelly gave her the night off against Arkansas-Little Rock.

Oklahoma and Baylor are hardly the elite of the Big 12, but the Longhorns have not made much of an impact since knocking off a then No. 6 Texas Tech team back in September. A 2-3-0 conference record puts Texas in a tie with TCU for the last spot in the Big 12 tournament, but wins this weekend could bring the Longhorns some much needed insurance in the closing weeks of the season.

Rowing team to kick off season

The rowing team will race in its first regatta of the fall season on Saturday at the Head of the Colorado, a 5,000-meter course on Lady Bird Lake. 

The regatta, which is hosted by the Austin Rowing Club, will be new head coach Dave O’Neill’s first opportunity to see his team in competition.

“I really won’t worry about the results from an outside perspective,” O’Neill said. “It’s going to be about, ‘Are we getting stronger physically? Are we rowing better? Is the team culture improving?’”

In past races at the Head of the Colorado, Texas has competed against schools such as Texas A&M, Baylor and Louisiana State University, all of which are club rowing teams. The Longhorns will face their true Division I competition later in the spring, using this weekend’s race to get all NCAA-eligible rowers, including walk-ons, practice in competition. 

“I’ll take a look at how hard they raced and how well they raced against each other,” O’Neill said. 

Men's swimming and diving faces first true test of season

In the men’s swimming and diving season opener last week, No. 6 Texas handily defeated the Aggies, winning all 15 individual and relay events. With a sweep over a rival fresh on their minds, the Longhorns will travel to Michigan for a quad meet with Michigan, Indiana and Louisville from Friday until Saturday.

At the NCAA Championships in March, all four programs finished in the top 11. Texas took second, Michigan took fourth, Indiana took 10th and Louisville took 11th.

It will be a showdown between some of the best teams in the country. At their last meeting, Texas dominated Indiana with a 204-96 win, but fell to Michigan, by a smaller margin. The Longhorns and the Cardinals have never competed against one another in a dual meet.

Texas has eight swimmers ranked in the top 20 nationally for their perspective events.

While the Longhorns have struggled this season with a 2-4 record, this isn’t unfamiliar territory for head coach Charlie Strong, who had the same starting record in his second season at Louisville.

Photo Credit: Lauren Ussery | Daily Texan Staff

It was just his second year at Louisville, but Charlie Strong surely had high expectations for his Cardinals in 2011.

With a full season under his belt, Strong had already had the chance to instill his values and hard-nosed playing style in a program that included several talented athletes, including quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and safety Calvin Pryor, who both went on to be first round picks in this year’s NFL draft.

As expected, the Cardinals beat Murray State, an FCS team, in the season opener in 2011, but the 21-7 victory was less than convincing and proved to be an indication of what was to come. Louisville went on to drop four of its next five games, all by nine points or fewer and found itself at 2-4 by the season’s midway point.

Three years later, now in his first season at Texas, the script looks awfully familiar for Strong and his staff, many of whom were with him at Louisville.

Strong hasn’t had as much time with the Longhorns as he did with the Cardinals, but the rough start to his inaugural season in Austin is eerily similar to the one he had in his second year at Louisville.

Texas opened this season with what appeared to be a convincing win over North Texas but, in hindsight, was likely just the result of the Longhorns taking advantage of a particularly weak Mean Green opponent.

Since then, Strong’s team has lost four of five games, with its lone victory coming against Kansas, another feeble foe. The losses, however, have come against some of the top teams in the nation, and Texas has hung around for at least the first two quarters in each of its losses.

“I just don’t think [our record] represents who we are,” senior running back Malcolm Brown said. “We’ve definitely been growing the past couple of weeks and just came up short on those losses that we’ve taken.”

For Strong’s 2011 Cardinals team, the halfway point proved also to be the turning point. After the rough start, Louisville bounced back with wins over Rutgers and Syracuse before a statement victory over West Virginia, which was a ranked team at the time.

“We were going to West Virginia, not knowing if we even had a chance,” Strong said. “That’s when they had quarterback Geno [Smith] and the receivers. Then we end up going up there and beating them, and that gave us some juice.”

With Bridgewater at the helm, the Cardinals went on to win two of their final three games after beating the Mountaineers and finished the regular season 7-5 — good enough to gain bowl eligibility.

Sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes is no Bridgewater, but his performance last Saturday against Oklahoma proved he is capable of leading this team to an equally strong finish this season.

A win at home against a struggling Iowa State team this weekend would give the Longhorns some momentum heading into next week’s matchup with Kansas State — one that could provide Texas with a season-changing victory much like Louisville’s win over West Virginia three years ago.

However, that’s all speculative. What is known is that Texas’ first six games have been virtually identical to that of the 2011 Louisville team. Now, it’s up to Strong, his staff and the players, to try and duplicate the second half as well.

Photo Credit: Cody Bubenik | Daily Texan Staff

Gone are the days of seeing head coach Mack Brown standing on the sidelines of Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in his usual pose — with his hands on his knees, nervously awaiting Texas’ next play. 

There is a new regime in town, led by head coach Charlie Strong, who is more likely to be found pacing the sidelines, pumping his fist or even chest bumping his players as they come off the field.

Strong assembled a staff of his own too, filled with some of the best coaches from all over the country. Tight ends coach Bruce Chambers, entering his 17th season at Texas, is the only holdover from Brown’s squad. Here is a quick look at the new team.

Charlie Strong — HC

From what’s been seen so far, the new boss is the polar opposite of Brown. Strong takes a very hands-on approach, often running drills with his players and trying to keep up with them in the weight room. He’s also demonstrated a penchant for discipline, having already removed seven players from the program since he was hired and suspending three more. His track record is impressive, and there has been plenty of talk about what he is capable of, but none of that will matter if he can’t win in Austin. He’ll get his first chance to prove himself this weekend.

Shawn Watson — Asst. HC, QB

Watson is one of several coaches Strong brought with him from Louisville. He served as Strong’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the Cardinals, working with current Minnesota Viking quarterback Teddy Bridgewater over the past few seasons. Watson will be tasked with play-calling duties this season and will also be responsible for developing Texas’ young quarterbacks, sophomore Tyrone Swoopes and true freshman Jerrod Heard. Given David Ash’s injury issues, the young guns may see the field sooner than expected.

Joe Wickline — OC, OL

Wickline was likely Strong’s most high-profile hire, as he snatched him away from conference foe Oklahoma State. With the Cowboys, Wickline developed a reputation as one of the top offensive line coaches in the nation, often turning unproven high school talent into NFL stars. He’ll have his work cut out for him this season with a relatively inexperienced group of linemen, but he will be able to rely on four-year starter center Dominic Espinosa as the leader of the group.

Tommie Robinson — RB

Robinson comes to Texas from USC, having served as the Trojans’ running backs coach and passing game coordinator last season. Robinson has a wealth of experience working with running backs, having coached the position at five different universities and in the NFL with the Arizona Cardinals. He inherits Texas’ strongest position group, with junior Johnathan Gray and senior Malcolm Brown making up one of the best running back combinations in the country.

Les Koenning — WR

A former Longhorn himself, Koenning comes to Texas with a great understanding of the pressure that comes with wearing a burnt orange uniform. He has coached twelve different teams over the course of his 33-year coaching career. Koenning has the difficult task of getting the most out of his inexperienced receivers immediately. The departure of Mike Davis and dismissals of Kendall Sanders and Montrel Meander have left the Longhorns very thin at the receiver position. If Koenning isn’t able to quickly fill those holes, the Texas passing game will struggle mightily.

Vance Bedford — DC, Secondary

Bedford is a former Longhorn defensive back and another coach that Strong brought from Louisville. He is perhaps best known for being the defensive backs coach at Michigan in 1997 when they won the national championship, and Wolverine defensive back Charles Woodson became the first and only primarily defensive player to win the Heisman Trophy. Bedford takes over a defense that returns eight players and a secondary that includes star defensive back Quandre Diggs. The talent is there; it’s just a question of what he can do with it.

Chris Vaughn — DB, ST

One of the younger coaches on staff, Vaughn comes to Texas from Memphis, but spent the majority of his coaching career at Arkansas. Vaughn drastically improved the Tigers’ secondary while at Memphis last season, moving their pass defense up 42 spots in the national rankings. He will also be tasked with coaching up Texas’ rookie kickers and improving the Longhorns’ return game.

Chris Rumph — DL, Asst. HC for Defense

Rumph is another young coach on staff, but has plenty of valuable experience, having won two championships as the defensive line coach at Alabama over the past three seasons. Rumph played an important role in developing the Crimson Tide defense into one of the best in the country and will be tasked with getting the most out of senior Cedric Reed, junior Malcom Brown and the rest of Texas’ talented defensive linemen this year.

Brian Jean-Mary — LB, Recruiting

Jean-Mary followed Strong to Texas from Louisville, where he became known for transforming an underwhelming group of linebackers. The linebacking corps at Texas has shown flashes of brilliance over the past few seasons, but clearly has plenty of improving to do. Jean-Mary will look to get his guys up to speed in a hurry, as strong linebacker play could make the Longhorn front seven the best in the league in 2014. He is also responsible for heading up Texas’ recruiting efforts.

Pat Moorer — Strength & Conditioning

Certainly the most intimidating man on Strong’s staff, Moorer has already developed a reputation as a fan favorite in Austin. He formerly served as Emmitt Smith’s personal trainer and has long been known for his intense workout regimen. So far, Moorer has made headlines for his famous “pit” workouts, used as punishment for players who violate team rules or are unable to practice due to minor injury.

2: In Charlie Strong’s four years at Louisville, the Cardinals played two games against teams in the top 25 of the Coaches’ poll, winning both. In Strong’s first season at Texas, the Longhorns will take on three preseason top-10 teams — UCLA, Baylor, OU — according to the Coaches’ poll in a four game stretch.

56-4: That was Texas’ record in the friendly confines of Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium from 2000-2009. But since 2010, the Longhorns are only 14-11 at home.

1: The number of times Texas has defeated Texas Tech, Kansas State and Oklahoma State in the same season since the inception of the Big 12 in 1996. Texas will face all three on the road over a four-game stretch from Oct. 25 to Nov. 16.

1-2: Texas’ last three head coaches started 1-2 in their inaugural season for the Longhorns. With North Texas, BYU and UCLA looming, the trend has a chance to continue this year.

3-6: The record Texas’ seniors hold against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Baylor combined entering 2014.

904: Number of yards senior tailback Malcolm Brown ran for in 2013, best in the Big 12 among returning players. 

780: The number of rushing yards junior tailback Johnathan Gray ran for in only eight games in 2013, fourth in the Big 12 among returning players.

6: The number of seasons since a Texas back has run for 1,000 yards. This could be the season that drought is broken.

81: The number of sacks allowed by Oklahoma State since the 2007 season, the fewest in the conference. The Longhorns allowed 160 sacks over that same span but now have Joe Wickline, Oklahoma State’s recent offensive line coach running the offensive and offensive line.

35: Rushing attempts per game by Louisville in 2013, 101st in the country with Shawn Watson calling plays. Watson is now the play caller and quarterback coach for Texas, and will likely get that number up.

20: Junior quarterback David Ash’s quarterback rating ranked No. 20 in the nation in 2012. When healthy, Ash can be brilliant, and his health will be a key to the 2014 season.

12.2: The number of points Louisville allowed per game in 2013, second fewest in the nation. The Longhorns have been outside the top 50 in points allowed per game the past two seasons, but Strong and defensive coordinator Vance Bedford should help to change that.

40: The average number of times opponents reached the redzone against Louisville the past two years, tying them for No. 20. Texas has allowed an average of 55 trips to the redzone the past two seasons, 115th in the nation.

89%: The conversion rate of teams in Texas’ redzone over the past two seasons, placing them fifth-worst nationally. Strong’s Cardinals allowed scores in 77.5% of trips, 21st best over the span.

0: The amount of times opponents ran for 200 or more yards against Louisville in 2013. Texas allowed five such occurrences in 2013 and fell in four of those five contests. 

16: Louisville gave up 16 first downs per game over the past two seasons, fourth fewest in the country. The Longhorns only ranked 60th over the two years. 

187: The Longhorns defense has allowed an average of 187 yards per game over the past two season, the 34th most over the span. When throwing out the 550 yards allowed against BYU, the Longhorn defense allowed 173 yards per game the 52nd most over
the time.

10: After four seasons of building the Louisville program, coach Strong’s defense ranked 10th in defensive F/+ efficiency. The Cardinals ranked 89th in 2009, the season before Strong took over for the program. Texas’ defense ranked 35th in F/+, so Strong faces a less treacherous climb. 

16.5: Cedric Reed recorded 16.5 tackles for loss last season, second amongst returning players in the Big 12. Reed also led the returning Longhorns in tackles last season with 77.

31: Senior defensive back Quandre Diggs has broken up 31 passes in his career, leading the team in that category all three years.

19: During his time on the 40 Acres, senior linebacker Jordan Hicks has missed 19 of a possible 51 games due to injury. He missed all 19 of those games the past two seasons.

39: Senior center Dominic Espinosa has started all 39 games in his Longhorn career. With another season of 13 starts, he could tie Blake Gideon (52) for the second-most starts in school history behind Colt
McCoy’s 53.

5: Senior receiver Jaxon Shipley has completed five of eight of his career pass attempts including three for touchdowns. His quarterback rating of 308.1
easily outpaces the rest of the team.

2: Junior receiver Marcus Johnson scored two touchdowns last season on the two longest passes of the season for Case McCoy. With deep threat Mike Davis gone, Johnson should emerge as Texas’ big play receiver.

1: Over the past two seasons, Louisville was 1st in its conference in time of possession per game. Over this same span, Texas ranked fifth in the Big 12. It’s safe to assume the Longhorns will look to run more clock with the new coaching staff.

Junior pitcher Parker French

Photo Credit: Joe Capraro | Daily Texan Staff

The Longhorns scored runs in three straight innings to take control of their elimination game against Louisville and win, 4-1, at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha Monday.

Junior pitcher Parker French got the start and responded with seven and a third innings of quality pitching, being responsible for the only Cardinals’ run in the eighth.

Louisville’s Anthony Kidston allowed three runs to score en route to a loss, the first of his collegiate career.

The Longhorns struck first in the third inning after a double by freshman third baseman Zane Gurwitz who eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by sophomore leftfielder Ben Johnson.

Texas scored again the next inning following back-to-back singles by sophomore shortstop C.J Hinojosa and junior rightfielder Collin Shaw. Senior designated hitter Madison Carter bunted the runners over, and freshman first baseman Kacy Clemens  drove in Hinojosa when he reached on an error.

In the fifth, senior centerfielder Mark Payton drew a walk and was eventually able to score thanks to two succeeding errors by the Cardinals.

French pitched smoothly through seven but ran into some problems in the eighth when he walked a batter then hit the next. He got the out at first on the following sacrifice bunt, but was pulled for sophomore pitcher Travis Duke after that.

Duke surrendered the Cardinals first run, but managed to stop the damage at that and wasn’t touched by the five batters he faced.

Texas tacked on an insurance run in the ninth thanks to another Cardinals error, their fourth of the game. Texas only left seven on base Monday, compared to 12 in Saturday’s loss, as the Longhorns took advantage of Louisville’s mistakes.

With the win, Texas survives to see another game and will face the loser of tonight’s Vanderbilt vs. UC Irvine contest to try to keep their season alive. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday night.

When he first heard that ESPNU wanted to feature ESPN Top-300 defensive tackle Poona Ford’s college announcement on National Signing Day, Hilton Head (S.C.) head coach B.J. Payne thought there was no way Ford would want to proceed with it. But Ford, much to his coach’s chagrin, agreed.

“I said, ‘Poona, that’s not you,’” Payne said. “‘You’re a quiet kid. That goes against everything that you are about. You know I’m not a fan of that.’ He goes, ‘Coach, when else does our high school have a chance be on the stage on national television and let me give a thank you back to the teachers and the school that made me who I am?’”

Taken aback by this gesture, Payne allowed Ford — who committed to Texas in February — to proceed and watched as the shy student, who usually avoids media attention, soaked it in as a tribute to those around him. It was a genuine motive but not at all surprising for a kid who once received 40 references by his teachers within an hour of them being requested and, during summer practices, ate lunch with Payne’s children because he’s their favorite player.

Ford’s arrival in Austin is a direct result of his bond with head coach Charlie Strong, which is why he originally committed to Louisville in August 2013. Ford visited the Cardinals that summer for a 13-hour visit, during which Strong didn’t leave Ford’s side. It seemed that Strong had broken through to the quiet Ford, who left the visit with Louisville as his top choice.

“I think Strong just has a way of putting guys at ease, almost that father figure where they open up,” said Hilton Head defensive line coach Joey Maddox, who took Ford to visit Louisville. “He just gave that family feel, and that’s one thing Poona’s always been around — his family.”   

“He’s an all-around great person, a good motivator, and there’s just something about him that makes me want to play for him,” Ford said about Strong.

When Strong left for Texas, Ford worried that he wouldn’t be asked to follow him, but that concern didn’t last too long. A week after declining the Cardinals, Ford visited Austin, and following trips to Missouri and Purdue, signed with the Longhorns on National Signing Day.

“At the end, I picked the right school that fit me,” Ford stated.

Ford’s decision to sign with Texas gave it a player whom Payne described as “a freak show, [who] just does things that people just shouldn’t be able to do.”

Undersized at 6-feet tall, Ford’s 80-inch wingspan allows him to swat down balls with ease. His 4.8 40 time and 600-pound max squat are a nightmare combination for offensive lines to block.

Ford’s game should fit perfectly into Strong’s defensive scheme. Maddox believes the system he’s played in high school should prepare him for playing in Texas’ defensive line under coach Chris Rumph.

“With the techniques that coach Rumph coaches are a lot of the techniques that I mirror, so it’s not a lot of new stuff,” Maddox said. “The only thing new is going to be the language, some of the jargon may be different from here to there. But, once he gets in line and puts two and two together, the techniques will be the same for him.”

It may be a while before Ford sees the field because of returning upperclassmen, such as senior Desmond Jackson and junior Malcom Brown. But, if he fails to play a significant role early, Payne believes that would be a tribute to the quality of Texas’ depth at defensive tackle.

“If there’s enough guys on Texas or any university in the country to keep that kid off the field his freshman year, I’ll tip my hat to them. He’s that good,” Payne said.

While Ford embraced the media — which he seemed to avoid over the recent years as he rose into an elite Division-1 prospect — on that one day in February, expect the quiet star to return to his business as usual.

When the offseason began, Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was the consensus number one pick in the upcoming NFL Draft.

During his three seasons at Louisville, Bridgewater threw 72 touchdowns and ran for six touchdowns. In his last two, Bridgewater led the Cardinals to 22 wins, including a Sugar Bowl victory over Florida. 

But, after a poor showing at the NFL Combine and Louisville’s Pro Day, Bridgewater is trying to salvage his promising draft stock.

Bridgewater has all of the intangibles. He has a solid arm and enough speed to outrun the blitz.

NFL.com scouts say that even though he doesn’t have an ‘elite’ arm he makes up for it with “prototype measurables with the intangibles and football intelligence that could elevate the other 52 players around him.”

Scouts aren’t questioning Bridgewater’s skills but rather his substandard performances in the NFL Combine and Louisville Pro Day.

 “[Bridgewater] should [have] aced this test easily,” ESPN’s Todd McShay said. “This was the rare occurrence where a quarterback comes out and does not perform as well as the tape. I wonder why … (NFL teams) all wanted to be wowed. None of them were.”

CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco was dissatisfied with Bridgewater’s display of arm strength.

“Bridgewater's arm was a bit of disappointment to me,” Prisco said. “I expected more. It was pretty good, but it's far from the gun that many said it was. I think he sometimes tried to get too cute with his throws rather than using the power he can sometimes show.”

Subsequently, Bridgewater’s projection has gone from the potential number one draft pick to a mid-to-late first round pick.

But that doesn’t concern Bridgewater, he is just focused on getting better.

After his pro day, Bridgewater didn’t convey a sense of disappointment. Instead he remained optimistic.

“Me being a perfectionist, it was nowhere near where I wanted it to be,” Bridgewater said. “But it’s a learning process. You can take away some things from those throws … Overall, I felt I had a great day throwing the football.”

Although his draft stock has fallen, Bridgewater remains focused on the big picture. He knows that he is going to get drafted and he may have to step in and start during his rookie season.

  “I just pay no attention to it — where my stock is,” Bridgewater said. “The draft can go anyway. I just continue, like I said, to control what I can control.”