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No matter how it comes about 3rd-and-long is more often than not a drive killer, and the Longhorns need to avoid it as much as possible if they hope to live up to the expectations in 2012.
Much like it was in the red zone, Texas struggled on third down all through last season as they converted only 40.1 percent for a first down. Much of these struggles on the most critical down can be attributed to the fact that Texas faced a lot of 3rd-and-long situations, which are especially hard for a team that is built around the run.
Though the running backs are talented enough to rip off a big-gainer on 3rd-and-long once in a while, converting a 3rd-and-long usually falls on the quarterback. This is fine for a team such as USC because it has Matt Barkley, but David Ash is simply not good enough to consistently deliver on obvious passing downs. Even further this is where he is most likely to throw an interception, which was a problem for him last season.
This is not a team built to consistently handle long third-down situations, so first and second down need to be positive. This means the offense needs to show supreme discipline by avoiding costly penalties and stupid mistakes like botched hand-offs and fumbled snaps. For the coaches, this means they need to call pass plays on the earlier downs to spread the field for the running backs.
Third-and-long situations are unavoidable throughout a season, but minimizing mental mistakes and avoiding being one-dimensional/predictable will keep them to a minimum and will greatly help this team.