Forget about the Rice game, the Longhorns will have their first true test of the season on Saturday against BYU.
Texas failed to dominate the point of attack in the season-opener and the team won’t have it any easier this time around against a Cougars squad coming off a hard-earned road win at Ole Miss.
The key to success this week will hinge on the Longhorn’s ability to control the line of scrimmage. Texas must win the battle of the trenches for it to come out on top.
The Longhorns’ run defense was not up to par in Week 1 as the Owls gashed them for 130 rushing yards, with most coming in the middle of the field. Questions about Texas’ toughness remain and head coach Mack Brown is ready for some answers, which he thinks he will get some against BYU.
“We’ve been concerned about our toughness on both lines of scrimmage,” Brown said. “We’ll get some answers Saturday night because this bunch (from BYU) is tough. There’s no question they come in here tough.”
Brown has the Longhorns preparing for an old-fashioned, grind-it-out affair.
“This will be a street fight,” he said. “They’re so physical, they’re big, they’re strong, the strength of their team is both lines of scrimmage. They will fly to the ball and hit you.”
The Longhorns pride themselves on stopping the run, and senior linebacker Keenan Robinson says his team will need to limit the Cougar’s run game early and often. But the key to Texas stopping the BYU tailbacks starts along the defensive line with senior tackle Kheeston Randall.
Randall will certainly have his hands full going against an imposing Cougars front five.
“They’ll probably be one of the biggest offensive lines that we face this year,” he said.
Randall wasn’t pleased with the defense’s performance against Rice, when the Longhorns reverted to their form from year ago — a unit that allowed 138.2 rushing yards per game.
“We gave up entirely too many yards up the middle,” Randall said. “We didn’t get enough penetration, we went back to the old way that we played and that’s unacceptable.”
No defensive lineman recorded more than one tackle against the Owls. That needs to change. Randall is a proven player, but someone else must emerge and solidify the line. And with Texas’ next two games against quality opponents in BYU and UCLA, the time is now for a second and third tackle to rise to the occasion.
“I don’t think we’re at the point right now where we’ve answered that other tackle spot,” Brown said. “And we need at least three to get where we need to get. We need two more guys to really step up.
“For the next two games, both of these will have physical offensive lineman blocking them, we’ll know more (then). Our guys are going to see really good looking teams for the next two weeks.”
Sophomore tackle Ashton Dorsey will return against BYU after missing the Rice game because of a suspension. Still, the Longhorns are young and inexperienced inside. Randall is the only senior at a position that includes three sophomores and two freshmen.
“We have a lot of maturing to do as a unit,” Randall said.
Texas will also be tested along the offensive line. While the Longhorns plowed their way to 229 rushing yards a week ago, they will need a better effort against the Cougars. BYU limited Ole Miss to 64 yards on 29 carries and knocked out three of the Rebels running backs.
“It’s going to be a big test for us,” said senior left guard David Snow.
The Cougars are coming to Austin with something to prove. They beat an SEC school on the road last week and they’d love to put a Big 12 school on their resume.
The Longhorns, though, welcome the challenge. They have something to prove as well.
“If it is a dog fight we’re going to be ready,” said senior linebacker Emmanuel Acho.
The Longhorns’ toughness up front will be tried early and often. It’s up to them to fight back. Expect a “street fight.”