Blitzing can be fun.
Well it certainly appears most of you are already in full game week mode. Sometimes it takes us till midweek to completely lock in on our next opponent and put the last game in our rear view mirror. Not this week. Despite yours truly not feeling too optimistic (for good reasons) about next weekend's game, BNers are already picking away at various aspects of this game.
Might as well keep the ball rolling this Tuesday by taking a look at the overall stat lines for both teams. It's probably way too early in the season to pick up trend lines from reading stats (give the short sample size of 3 games against out of conference opponents). Still in this game, the numbers might give us some idea of what to look for on Saturday. We will start with the matchup between the Bruin offense (which for good reasons have been much maligned this season) and the vaunted Longhorns defense:
|Bruin Offense||10 Rank||Per game||Longhorn Defense||10 Rank||Per Game|
|Rushing offense||31||203.67||Rushing defense||1||44.00|
|Pass offense||118||100||Passing defense||34||162.67|
|Pass eff. offense||120||74.21||Pass eff. defense||41||111.33|
|Total offense||99||303.67||Total defense||2||206.67|
|Scoring offense||105||17.67||Scoring defense||9||12.67|
Doesn't take much to see that at least on paper it appears to be somewhat of a mismatch. Our rushing numbers look decent and certainly much improved from previous season. However, they are going to have an immense challenge going up against the Longhorn defense which features the number 1 rush defense in the country. Robert Kuwada gives us some of the crazier numbers involving this defense:
Texas is ranked No. 1 in rushing defense and No. 2 in total defense in the FBS, but that is only part of the story. The Texas defense has been on the field for 36 series, not counting three that ended with halftime or the end of the game, and on 22 of those drives the opposing offense ran three plays or fewer.
One of those drives ended with a score (congrats, Rice!), but two have been ended with Texas interceptions, two with Texas fumble recoveries and 17 with a 3-and-out punt.
Texas Tech has been known to field some high-scoring offenses - it was ranked 11th in passing offense and 17th in scoring offense heading into its game with the Longhorns.
YIKES. FWIW the Red Raiders rushing offense is now ranked 113th in the nation. Texas' two other opponents this season - Rice and Wyoming - are buried in the bottom of NCAA rankings (106th and 120th respectively) in rushing statistics as well.
So one of the key questions on Saturday is going to be how well our improved OL is going to stack up against the Texas frontline? There is no doubt Norm Chow and Rick Neuheisel is going to look to get some drives going by relying on Jet Ski, Malcolm Jones and may be Derrick Coleman (hopefully mixing in Damien Thigpen as well). However, I don't see our rushing game seeing a lot of daylight if Kevin Prince and his receiver do not step up in Austin.
Don't think Prince needs to have huge day for Bruins to have a shot on Saturday. However, what he did against Houston is not going to be enough (never mind the putrid performance in first two games). I think for Bruins to have any chance of even hanging in this game, Prince is going to need to throw for somewhere around 170-200 yards. His receivers will have to help him out by aggressively going after every catchable ball and they will also have to minimize turnovers. Otherwise, if the Bruins cannot put together a credible passing attack, we can expect the ground game to come to a screeching halt against Texas. More after the jump.
In many of those instances it hasn't been an issue of opposing defenses stopping UCLA so much as the Bruins stopping themselves. UCLA has both thrown and handed away chances the past two weeks. Bruins quarterback Kevin Prince was intercepted on the Stanford 12 and 34 in the Cardinal's 35-0 romp over UCLA on Sept. 11. Richard Brehaut, Prince's backup, was picked on the Stanford 21.
In Saturday's 31-13 victory against Houston, freshman tailback Malcolm Jones fumbled on the Cougars 16 and 11 yard lines.
Prince also threw a pick against Houston while the Bruins were in position to score again. If Bruins make those kinds of mistakes against a team like Texas, we can expect them to get destroyed. I have heard a lot this year from Prince about how he and his team-mates will have to "fix" the "little" things. That all sounds nice during spring and fall practices. However, it's starting to get a little tiring three games into the season. I hope the Bruins do their best in giving themselves a shot in hanging in this game and putting them in position to compete. However, they must cut down their mistakes that have really hurt them in early part of this season.
Meanwhile, here are how the units stack up on the other side of the ball:
|Bruin Defense||10 Rank||Per game||Longhorn Offense||10 Rank||Per Game|
|Rushing defense||105||210.67||Rushing offense||65||152.33|
|Passing defense||27||155.67||Pass offense||71||207.00|
|Pass eff. defense||52||119.50||Pass eff. offense||82||119.01|
|Total defense||76||366.33||Total offense||72||359.33|
|Scoring defense||80||26.33||Scoring offense||50||30.67|
The numbers for Texas offense is not very impressive by Longhorns' standards. It appears that they are still working through the kinks with a brand new QB (who made a courageous debut in the grandest stage of college football). Still it appears that the locals in Texas are getting anxious about their ground game. Kirk Bohls from the Austin Statesman put the Texas OL coach - Mac McWhorter - on "pink slip alert":
The Texas offensive line coach has underperformed in getting the most out of his players during the last two years, and again through three games this season.
It is true that he should be cut a little slack because of the loss of three line starters and the drastic change in offensive philosophy from the true spread formation to the balanced attack. But Texas has recruited some of the best offensive linemen in the state with very few positive results to show for it.
Mack Brown was seen chewing on McWhorter in an animated conversation during the win over Texas Tech, although the head coach was reluctant to discuss the sideline scene in any substantive way.
"I talk to our coaches on the sidelines all the time," Brown said, desperately trying to defuse the volatile situation. "It isn't anybody's business. That's personal."
It also appears that there has been some grumbling about the play calling of Greg Davis (Longhorn's OC) and concern about high number of penalties (which all sounds very familiar to all of us). So the Longhorns are going to try to lock in this week to get all of their "issues cleaned up" before they get ready for the marquee matchups of their conference season.
I agree with those that Chuck Bullough cannot afford to stay within his base defense scheme to keep the Longhorns in check. However, I also don't think we can just load up the boxes all the time and expect to beat Texas in Austin. They have enough explosive athletes in their arsenal to pulverize our defense if we keep coming with one dimensional look.
What I think the Bruins will need to do is to maximize the available athleticism in our roster by giving Garrett Gilbert different looks. This might mean using nickel packages and bring in disguised blitzes. I'd like to see Bullough use guys like Dietrich Riley, Glenn Love and Dalton Hilliard to relentlessly attack from different directions. I'd like to see Bullough use Owa (instead of Damien Holmes), keep Nate Chandler at DT, and unleash Akeem Ayers from different positions.
Bruins will have to keep the pressure on Gilbert constantly not just in terms of physicality but they also have to give the young QB a lot to think about by mixing up their coverage. Gilbert has thrown a total of 5 TDs and 7 interceptions since he was thrown into the national spotlight against Alabama in the Rose Bowl. His 7 picks came against Bama (4 of them) and Texas Tech. It's a small sample size and there is a very good chance that Gilbert can "come of age" at the Bruins' expense (unfortunately many college players often do). However, his numbers to date show he has been vulnerable against decent defenses.
It was encouraging to see Bullough come out his conventional shell against Houston. He will have to take another step forward in terms of showing creativity and attacking mindset this Saturday.