Offensive line needs to step up

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Texas' offensive linemen try to make push up front for quarterback David Ash. The line was hammered by Oklahoma all game, giving up eight sacks and 17 tackles for loss.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

Many units were considered strengths for Texas heading into this year’s Red River Rivalry before getting embarrassed against Oklahoma. The offensive line was no different.

Despite giving up only five sacks in its four games, the Longhorns offensive line allowed the Sooners to rack up eight. Oklahoma’s defense also made 17 tackles for loss as Texas averaged fewer than one yard per carry in spite of the production the Longhorns got out of running backs Malcolm Brown (59 yards), Fozzy Whittaker (45 yards) and D.J. Monroe (23 yards)

“We did not play well in the offensive line,” said head coach Mack Brown. “We did not make the yards we needed to make. We did not protect the quarterback like we needed to. We’ve got a lot of work to do this week at that area.”

There could be a bit of movement along the offensive line as there is now an “or” between senior Tray Allen’s and true freshman Josh Cochran’s names on the depth chart at left tackle. Allen, who waited four years behind players such as Kyle Hix and Adam Ulatoski to start, was the top-rated offensive tackle coming out of high school in 2007. Cochran, on the other hand, is in his first season at Texas and was not nearly as highly touted of a prospect as Allen.

“[Cochran]’s a guy that comes in and competes,” said co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin. “Like a lot of our young guys, you’re wanting to get those guys experience and you’re wanting to get those guys
to play.”

Another first-year offensive lineman who has also caught the coaching staff’s eye, Sedrick Flowers, is finally over an ankle injury. The earliest the 6-foot-3, 310-pound guard would see the field, however, would be after the Longhorns’ bye week against Kansas Oct. 29.

“We think he has a chance to be really good,” Brown said. “He’s better but he hasn’t been able to get the experience in practice we’d need him to get so he’s not as far along as we’d like him to be at this time.”

Even though Texas held Oklahoma to 86 yards rushing, 64 of them coming on one long, Dominique Whaley-touchdown run, the Longhorns were out-rushed as they managed only 45 yards on 36 carries.

Texas lost 51 yards on eight sacks and a whopping 117 yards on Oklahoma’s 17 tackles for loss, including going backward 35 yards on back-to-back sacks of David Ash.

“That stuff can’t happen, especially against a good team,” said senior guard David Snow. “You can’t have that. You play a really good team and make mistakes, it’ll cost you.”

Another chunk of lost yardage came on trick plays, which had worked wonderfully in the Longhorns’ first four contests. Freshmen receivers Miles Onyegbule and Jaxon Shipley were both brought down for big losses on reverse-pass plays. One piece of trickery was effective, however, when a screen pass went for a sizable gain with Allen lining up near the left sideline and throwing a nice lead block.

Oklahoma State’s defense, even though it ranks near the bottom of the Big 12 in yards allowed, is superb at getting takeaways. The Cowboys have already forced 17 turnovers and the nation’s third-best turnover margin, along with 14 sacks in five games, which is good for 21st in the country and third in the Big 12 behind Oklahoma and Texas A&M. Texas’ offensive line should have easier time with Oklahoma State’s defensive front than it did with Oklahoma’s.

“We played a very good opponent up front,” Harsin said. “Those guys did a very good job of giving us some different looks and obviously being talented. I thought the O-line did a nice job of competing. It wasn’t perfect, nor was any position on the field, but those guys kept competing.”

The blame for turnovers is often placed on those who commit them. However, the fact that McCoy and Ash had their worst game the same week that their offensive line did is no coincidence. Texas won’t be giving up eight sacks or committing five turnovers anytime soon but that doesn’t mean the Longhorns offensive line doesn’t have to step up this weekend.