Stat Guy: It's 2004, all over again

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Michael Huff returns an interception against Texas A&M in the Longhorns’ 26-13 win over the Aggies on Thanksgiving in 2004.
Michael Huff returns an interception against Texas A&M in the Longhorns’ 26-13 win over the Aggies on Thanksgiving in 2004.

Playing in the secondary is like running a track meet. Playing in the secondary against Oklahoma? An Olympic track meet.

As a cornerback or safety lining up opposite Landry Jones and his battalion of receivers, the game play can be somewhat intimidating.

Oklahoma receiver Ryan Broyles has already hauled in 38 receptions for 476 yards and six touchdowns. Add a recently healed Kenny Stills, and the Longhorns could possibly be facing the most talented wide receiver tandem in the country.

The Texas secondary is a mix of both veterans and inexperienced players. Sophomores Carrington Byndom and Adrian Phillips, junior Kenny Vaccaro and senior Blake Gideon anchor a defense allowing 14.75 points per game. Not only will they have to deal with Broyles and Stills, but there’s also a pretty good quarterback looking to pick them apart: Heisman Trophy candidate Landry Jones. Interestingly enough, Texas faced a similar situation seven years ago.

In 2004, sophomore Aaron Ross, juniors Cedric Griffin and Michael Huff and senior Phillip Geiggar were members of a Texas defense that was allowing 11.75 points a game. Oklahoma quarterback Jason White, who won the Heisman in 2003, had multiple all-American receivers backing him. The Sooners were ranked No. 2 at the time, while the Longhorns sat at No. 5 in the USA Today rankings.

And who said history doesn’t repeat itself? Let’s take a look at how the 2004 Longhorns performed in the passing game.

White completed 14 of 26 passes for 113 yards and two interceptions. While the end result — a 12-0 loss — wasn’t what the Longhorns were hoping for, the defensive backs showed promise.

Huff led the Texas secondary with fifteen tackles, including an impressive eleven tackles unassisted. He also picked off White. Griffin added eight solo tackles including one tackle for a loss. Ross compiled five tackles, four of which were solo, and deflected a pass. Geiggar, the Blake Gideon of the 2004 secondary, racked up 11 total tackles, including six solo stops. Geiggar also wowed fans by forcing and recovering a fumble. Overall, it was a solid performance by a secondary not expected to have a great showing against White and future NFL receivers Mark Clayton and Travis Clayton. In fact, Oklahoma’s only touchdown on the day came from the team’s backup running back, Kejuan Jones, in the fourth quarter.

“We knew that Jason White wanted to go to Clayton,” Geiggar told the Texan. “OU had the No. 1 offense in the country, and we held them to only six points until late in the fourth quarter. What was key for us was that we all were on the same page in the back. Huff and I had our best games in this game, we had a good connection back there, and we trusted each other.”

There are many similarities between this weekend’s Red River Rivalry and the one in 2004: the age spread, the combined talent on each squad and the teams’ records and rankings. Safe to say, we’ve seen this before.

“The secondary now is not only athletic, but they are smart too,” Geiggar said. “They played well last week, so I’m sure that will carry over to this week. Duane Akina is a great [defensive backs] coach, and he’ll have those guys ready this week. I’m looking forward to watching my Longhorns play and definitely rooting for my DBs.”

They match up well. Age is not a factor. It all comes down to knowing what Oklahoma wants to do and making plays.  

Printed on October 6, 2011 as: Sooners will test Longhorns defensive backfield