Slow starts have been holding the Longhorns back during their first two games of the season. Although Texas got wins in both matchups, this trend could pose a big problem for both the offense and defense moving forward.
Whether it was first-game jitters or facing off against a triple-option offense, Ole Miss and upcoming Oklahoma State will not be nearly as forgiving as Wyoming and New Mexico if Texas continues to start games on its heels.
“It is something we talk about,” defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said. “It is something that is very important to us that we start the game fast, start the game early.”
Though the Longhorns eventually defeated Wyoming 37-17, a win seemed to be in question at the end of the third quarter. Wyoming struck first and scored on a 33-yard field goal and later quarterback Brett Smith’s 82-yard pass to Robert Herron put the Cowboys up 9-7 over the Longhorns.
Diaz preaches to his unit the importance of not giving up big plays, but Smith took advantage of the secondary in that quarter to the tune of 158 yards passing.
The Longhorns’ offense started this season with a three-and-out after two rushes by Joe Bergeron and one by David Ash did not produce any results. The offense prefers to start the game so they can come out to score and send a message to their opponent.
“We want to get a faster start,” co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin said. “That will never change. We want to come out and score every time we get the ball.”
Texas’ defense was not invincible during its shutout against New Mexico, either. In the Lobos’ first drive, Texas gave up a 26-yard and then a 16-yard play.
Not something you would expect from what is considered one of the best defenses in the country against an unranked New Mexico team. The Texas defense gave up 92 yards in that quarter. They conceded just 149 total yards during the next three quarters.
The Texas defense finished the first quarter of the game against New Mexico with a touchdown, but in the next three quarters the team scored 10, 14 and 14 points. The offense couldn’t complete a pass game during that quarter and the touchdown was scored on a 49-yard run by Ash.
During halftime, Harsin made some adjustments and the team came back to overpower the Lobos’ defense, scoring 38 more points in the second half.
“We got a slow start offensively,” said head coach Mack Brown after the game. “We tried to start with up-tempo because we thought that would make them more vanilla. But then we just didn’t do well in it so we came out of it and did a better job with conventional tempo with our offense.”
Brown credits some of the early defensive struggles to the young linebackers trying to figure out the defense. He also said that instead of preparing for the Lobos, the defense focused more on getting ready for its following two games, which are against Ole Miss and Oklahoma State.
Though starting strong is important, Diaz believes there are more important things and starting well doesn’t necessarily guarantee a win.
“I know this, we started games well last year that we did not play very well in when it was all said and done,” Diaz said. “There are some games last year that we didn’t start great on the first drive and we got better and better as the game goes on.”
Senior safety Kenny Vaccaro feels the trend of starting slow has been a trend for the Longhorns the past two years.
He also thinks there is a need to change that, especially with conference play coming up soon.
“The good teams will step on your throat,” Vaccaro said. “We need to be fighting the whole game to make sure that at halftime we’re not in a hole too deep to dig ourselves out of.”