tailback

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

RB Charles Sims (Sr.)

Charles Sims is the leading rusher for a very balanced Mountaineers offense. Sims has carried the ball 144 times this season for 754 yards and five touchdowns. His solid 5.2 yards per carry average puts West Virginia in a lot of good positions on offense when the passing game is taking too much time to get going. The senior tailback is a versatile playmaker who can also catch the ball out of the backfield, racking up 36 receptions for 300 yards and two touchdowns on the year. Sims is a bigger running back which helps him power through defenders when they try to wrap him up. The Longhorns defense has been vicious the last few weeks but Sims will be the guy they need to watch out for this week.

 

DB Darwin Cook (Sr.)

The Mountaineers defense is ranked No. 82 in the nation this season but Darwin Cook is not the reason for this. The senior safety leads the team in both tackles (65) and interceptions (four) this season, showing his versatility at the last level of the defense. Cook has a nose for the football and has emerged as a star for West Virginia’s defense. The Longhorns offense is on a roll but they can bet that Cook will be around the football often in this matchup so they must do everything possible to minimize his impact. The Texas receivers are feeling good about their performances the last few weeks but look for Cook to do his best to curb their success and make a huge play to put West Virginia in the driver’s seat.

 

WR Daikel Shorts (Fr.)

With receiver Ronald Carswell suspended indefinitely as of this week, the Mountaineers will look to leading receiver Daikel Shorts to carry much more of the offensive load. Shorts leads West Virginia this season with 37 catches for 430 yards and has caught two touchdowns. Just a freshman, Shorts has shown that he can be a reliable receiver every game out and his confidence has grown each week. He is a smaller receiver that will force the Longhorns to focus on tackling in this matchup. Likely the premier deep threat with Carswell out, Shorts will be targeted on both short yardage and long yardage throws. Texas will need to keep an eye on Shorts in this one. 

Photo Credit: Zachary Strain | Daily Texan Staff

No one complained when Malcolm Brown carried the ball just 41 times over the final six games of last season. A nagging turf toe injury kept him out of three of those games and rendered him in effective in the other three.

After running for 105 yards — two fewer than he did in the last six contests in 2011 combined — and a touchdown in Texas’ season-opening win over Wyoming, it wasn’t an injury that limited Brown’s playing time last weekend. It was purely personnel and play-calling decisions.

A presumably healthy Brown had just five yards on two carries in the Longhorns’ 45-0 victory over New Mexico last week, along with two receptions for 23 yards. The same Brown that came out of Cibolo Steele High School as the nation’s top running back prospect a year ago, replaced senior Fozzy Whittaker as the team’s top tailback in just his third career game, and ran for a team-high 742 yards last season got as many carries as the Longhorns’ backup quarterback.

That will have to change this week.

“Malcolm Brown played more actually than other guys in the game,” co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin said. “There were seven or eight plays that he was in on that were run-pass options or possibilities to check out of them. It just happened to work out that way. Malcolm’s done a nice job. When he was in there we had a more loaded box than what we had seen on film.”

If that’s truly the reason why Brown had such a limited workload this past weekend, then the solution is simple — don’t leave any wiggle room for Brown to not carry the ball when he’s on the field. Save the run-pass options for when Johnathan Gray is playing or check out of rushing plays in favor a pass when Joe Bergeron is in the backfield.

“Malcolm Brown played 22 plays but only had four touches,” head coach Mack Brown pointed out. “A lot of his plays were plays where David Ash checked out of a run into a pass because they were stacking the line of scrimmage when he was in there ... some guys touch it and some guys don’t depending on what’s happening on the line of scrimmage.”

Like Brown, Bergeron topped the 100-yard rushing mark in the Longhorns’ first game this year and deserves plenty of touches. Bergeron has led Texas in rushing in both of its games this season and has established himself as one of the team’s best tailbacks. Johnathan Gray gives the Longhorns another running back that was considered the best at his position coming out of high school and needs a steady dose of carries.

It also didn’t help that Texas was facing a team in New Mexico that ran a clock-chewing, triple-option style offense. The Longhorns ran just 26 first-half offensive plays, handing the ball off on just six of them. Coupled with the fact that an effort was made to let Ash throw more, there just weren’t many carries to go around. Bergeron had 11 carries while Gray had seven.

Of course, this is all assuming that Brown is healthy. There has been no official word on whether Brown is injured or not, but assume that he is hurt for a moment and put yourself in Mack Brown’s shoes. If you didn’t want to reveal your best running back’s injury, wouldn’t you play him enough to say that he was actually on the field more than any other tailback without actually giving him his usual number of touches?

If that’s the case, then Brown’s lack of carries becomes much more understandable. Otherwise, he needs to get on the field more — not as a decoy — and have the opportunity to make more of an impact.

Printed on Friday, September 14, 2012 as: BREAK LOOSE - Brown must receive more carries against Ole Miss

MANHATTAN, Kan. — If there was any team for Texas to run the ball against, it was Kansas State.

Coming into Saturday night’s game, Kansas State was ranked as the worst rush defense in college football — literally No. 120 out of 120 ranked teams. And Texas knew that.

Texas also knew that the Wildcats’ offense had one of the nation’s fastest running backs in Daniel Thomas, who has now rushed for over 100 yards in six different games this season. But Texas allowed him and quarterback Collin Klein to combine for 258 of the team’s 261 total rushing yards as Kansas State embarrassed Texas in a 39-14 romp.

“I don’t know [why we couldn’t stop them],” said head coach Mack Brown. “I thought we had a really good game plan, and I thought we’d line up and stop the running game. I thought it’d be a great test of us and we didn’t stop it.”

Kansas State started running the ball down Texas’ throats right from the first whistle when tailback William Powell returned the opening kickoff for 62 yards. Two plays later, Thomas scored on a 38-yard sprint to the end zone. Just 53 seconds into the game, Texas was down 7-0.

“It wasn’t the way the defense wanted to start the game,” said junior linebacker Emmanuel Acho. “That was huge momentum for them and a horrible momentum shift for us.”
The Wildcats continued to run all game long. They didn’t even have to pass the ball. In fact, Klein only went two of four for nine yards passing.

“They just had a really good game plan for us and executed well,” junior safety Blake Gideon said. “They were more physical than us, and whenever you can’t stop the run, there’s no reason for a team to pass.”

Texas’ defense made the exact same mistakes against Kansas State as it made in the losses to UCLA, Iowa State and Baylor — they didn’t cause turnovers and they allowed the Wildcats to go five of five in the red zone.

“We were really not helping our offense much,” Gideon said. “Seems to be a recurring issue that we aren’t giving our offense a short field for a change.”

Quarterback Garrett Gilbert truly suffered from starting almost every series with a long field. His drives weren’t productive as Texas went scoreless for three quarters, he threw five interceptions, one of which was in the end zone and many of his 27 incomplete passes were overthrown balls.

“I put our team in some bad situations,” Gilbert said. “We dug ourselves a hole and we had to throw the ball almost every play in the second half.”

Before the deficit got out of control, Texas wanted to run the ball. In the first quarter, tailback Fozzy Whittaker ran for two first downs in a row and it looked like Texas was going to gain some momentum when it was only down 7-0.

But then offensive coordinator Greg Davis called back-to-back passing plays — one was incomplete to tight end Barrett Matthews and the other was caught by receiver James Kirkendoll, but he was called for a holding penalty and the series, along with the running game, fizzled.

“We had to start throwing the ball to catch up,” Davis said. “But there might have been some situations where maybe we could have stuck with the run a little longer. We’ll have to go back and look at the film.”

Texas has tried so hard to have a balanced offense this year, but it should have taken advantage of Kansas State’s poor rush defense rather than force the passing game in the first place. The Longhorns only ran for 140 yards, 88 of which were by Gilbert.

The Longhorns don’t have much time to solve their problems and they don’t have time to panic, either. They need to win two of their next three games if they want to become bowl-eligible, and it’s not going to be easy with Oklahoma State and Texas A&M still left on the schedule.