Joe Bergeron delivered the knockout blow to the Wyoming defense with his 54-yard fourth quarter run, but it was the combined efforts from the Longhorn running backs that laid the groundwork for the burst.
Specifically, it was the 33 physically bruising rushing attempts prior to the big gainer that wore out the Cowboys’ front seven and enabled Bergeron to blow through to the second level.
The Wyoming defense was exhausted at that point, and the running backs smelled blood as they looked at the physical anguish on the defenders’ faces.
“You can see it in their body language,’ Bergeron said. “You can see it when they tackle you from the first hit to the second. It’s not as hard. You will break tackles easier than what you would have the first time.”
Utilizing Texas’ depth and skill in the backfield to wear down opposing defenses is a huge part of the Longhorns‘ offensive game plan for the season. Sophomores Bergeron and Malcolm Brown blend to form one of the country’s best one-two punches at running back, and when you add in the nation’s top overall tailback recruit, Johnathan Gray, the backfield has the potential to be incredible.
Texas had flashes of that ability Saturday when the Longhorns combined for 280 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. Two of the touchdowns came on the shoulders of Bergeron; Brown had one and senior D.J. Monroe added a score as well.
That’s a very balanced mix, and it didn’t even include Gray or senior Jeremy Hills, who is expected to see a fair share of carries. Texas’ ability to come at teams in waves is a huge advantage for the squad, and it made a big difference in the second half of Saturday’s contest.
“We have a stable,” Bergeron said. “It’s hard to wear down a running back when he has somebody behind him ready to go ... Once they get tired you have somebody else coming in and they’ll beat you down. While the defense is still out there and they’re getting tired, we’re having a nice rotation going.”
Head coach Mack Brown has stated that he would like to see Malcolm Brown, Bergeron and Gray each receive 15 carries a game. If Mack Brown can find a way to strike a balance with the passing game while giving the backs 45 touches a contest, the offense would be difficult to contend with.
Bergeron is the hammer of the Texas backfield at 230 pounds and should see the majority of the Longhorns’ goal line carries. Brown is the most balanced of the running back stable; he has excellent quickness in space and the speed to break away from defenses. Gray is the outlier of the group. If he can adjust to the speed of the college game, he could be the Longhorns’ lightning to Bergeron’s thunder thanks to his game-breaking, quick strike skill set.
It may sound difficult to balance the playing time of these studs, but according to the players and the coaching staff, it won’t be an issue.
“Those guys have to feed off each other and the nice thing is that both are in the game getting very good reps and playing time,” said co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin. “So when that does happen, when one needs a breather, the other guy can come right in and we are not going to miss a beat.”
Texas may not have any issues, but if the Longhorns rotate effectively, opposing defenses may have to invest in some high tech oxygen masks.
Printed on September 5, 2012 as: "Longhorn backs break it down"