Texas Football: 5 Questions for the New Mexico Game
The Texas Longhorns came away from their first game of the season with a win over Wyoming. Despite the victory, the Horns are still far from where they would like to be as a BCS contender.
For the upcoming game against New Mexico, one of college football's worst defensive teams last year, the Longhorns are in a position to build off of what they were able to piece together last weekend in both phases of the game.
Offensively, can the passing game get some more explosive plays, and will the running game take off even faster with potentially more touches for the young running backs?
Defensively, will the Texas secondary tighten up after the miscues last weekend?
And what of the kicking game?
Here are five questions to think about for this weekend's matchup against New Mexico.
Will David Ash and the Passing Game Take Bigger Steps?
The player with the biggest spotlight has to be sophomore quarterback David Ash, and although he did well in managing the offense and making some good throws last week, improvement from visual and statistical perspectives will be very indicative of any progress made.
We saw Ash look more comfortable and poised than ever, but he still lacks some touch in finding the right throws at the right times. He held onto the ball too long on some occasions, resulting in missed opportunities for completions.
The Longhorns will have their running game out in force to establish consistent offense, but there is no doubt that most fans would like to see the quarterback create some explosive plays through the air and really chalk up the scoreboard.
On the other end of things, the receiving corps has to be more relevant.
Jaxon Shipley and Mike Davis will have their moments, the former more than the latter, but what of the rest of the pass-catchers?
Marquise Goodwin, Bryant Jackson, D.J. Grant and Kendall Sanders all had one catch and were pretty much invisible the rest of the time. Will more receivers enter the fold and hit the box score this week? How deep are the Longhorns at these positions?
The passing game remains the biggest question for this offense, and it will continue to issue pressure until the answers come.
Were Texas' Defensive Miscues a Fluke or an Ugly Reality?
While the Longhorns were strong up front in stopping the run, a prized defensive unit suffered from miscommunication and poor discipline on the back end, allowing Wyoming's passing game too many holes in the secondary.
So is this the standard to anticipate?
Simply put, absolutely not.
Texas' mistakes in the defensive backfield are correctable and not a result of a lack in quality. For a unit that prides itself on its secondary, especially for a group that has performed extremely well in the pass-heavy Big 12, the Longhorns stumbled out of the gate but will pick themselves up quickly.
There is too much talent back there to expect poor performance. In fact, the Longhorns may have better talent in the secondary than their 2005 championship-winning team.
Switching back to this weekend's contest, the Longhorns will face a New Mexico offense that is entirely different than the unit they encountered a week ago.
The Lobos run a triple-option set, meaning much less passing and much more running. Judging from its performance last weekend, Texas is in a good position to be successful if it can employ good discipline in reads and tackles.
There is no fluke here.
How Will the Longhorns Fare Against New Mexico's Triple-Option?
In an opponent-specific perspective, the Longhorns will have the task of handling New Mexico's triple-option running game, a scheme that saw the Lobos rush for 347 yards and five touchdowns in a dominating 66-21 win over Southern.
Texas is not Southern, and the Longhorns boast at least the best defense in the Big 12. Though the defensive unit did give up some big plays last weekend, it will be a well-disciplined team that walks out onto the field on Saturday.
New Mexico's offense could frustrate the Longhorns early if they do not stay disciplined in their lanes. But with the speed on the Texas defense, the Horns may be able to compensate on a broken play more so than, say, Southern.
It is a vastly different offense the Longhorns will see Saturday, but how Texas copes with the packages will be a good barometer of getting back into form defensively.
Will Someone Have a Breakout Game?
The Longhorns ran the ball extremely well against Wyoming, but nobody stood out as a superstar.
Malcolm Brown was excellent early, and Joe Bergeron hung tough and finished with solid numbers after strong runs late in the game. D.J. Monroe was impressive but had limited touches, and the passing game was nothing to write home about.
Jaxon Shipley had his influence in several plays in a variety of formations.
But nobody stood out as a superstar.
Defensively, Texas was solid, but it did demonstrate some holes.
Kenny Vaccaro had a strong game with a great interception and his expected big hits. Alex Okafor recorded the lone sack of the game, though the entire defensive line played up to par.
But alas, there was no one who really shone above the rest.
There is little doubt about the type of talent on campus, and it is only a matter of time before someone makes a break for the big game.
Against a lowly opponent in New Mexico, perhaps it is fast approaching.
What of the Kicking Game?
As a Longhorns fan, you would have to hope that Nick Jordan's two missed field goals were just a nerves thing that can be ironed out over time. The kicking game just has to be better than that.
Texas is still waiting to see the full complement of its transfer players over the summer.
Punter Alex King has already debuted for the Longhorns, and he impressed—to say the least. But Penn State incomer Anthony Fera came to Austin with a pre-existing groin issue, and once that is revolved, he has to figure to be in the mix immediately.
The 37-17 win that is in the books would provide a different impression if Jordan was 3-for-3 on field goals.