Texas' poor showing against BYU last weekend needs to be a one-week struggle, as the Longhorns prepare to host Ole Miss Saturday night.
Texas has faced a lot of adversity since the 40-21 loss to BYU.
Quarterback David Ash left the game against the Cougars with a shoulder and head injury and is questionable for the Ole Miss game. Wide receiver/running back Daje Johnson, who has been projected to be a star for Texas this season, suffered an ankle injury in Provo, Utah, and has been ruled out for Saturday's game. And let's not forget Mack Brown replacing defensive coordinator Manny Diaz with Greg Robinson.
In other words, Texas has all of the odds stacking up against it and could likely be 1-2 heading into Big 12 play.
Ole Miss started the 2013 football season on a high note, beating SEC opponent Vanderbilt 39-35 in Week 1 and will head into Austin with a 2-0 record. Last season, Texas crushed Ole Miss 66-31, but expecting an outcome similar to 2012 is just wishful thinking for Longhorns fans.
When: Saturday, September 14, 8 p.m. ET
Where: Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, Austin, Texas
TV: Longhorn Network
Austin Radio: KVET 98.1 FM/1300 AM
Satellite Radio: XM Radio, Ch. 202; Sirius Ch. 117; XM Radio, Ch. 970 en Espanol.
Spread: Texas (-4.5), per VegasInsider.com
It's no secret that the Texas defense will be looking to prove that the game against BYU was just a fluke. Even if the Longhorns' defense did not perform as poorly as it did against BYU last weekend and weren't going to be coached by a new defensive coordinator, it would still not be an easy task stopping Ole Miss' offense.
After the Longhorns gave up a school-record 550 yards rushing to BYU, the Rebels figure to test Texas' run defense with the combination of running back Jeff Scott—who led the Rebels with 846 yards rushing in 2012 and has averaged 10.4 yards per carry in the first two games of the 2013 season—and quarterbacks Bo Wallace and Barry Brunetti.
The quarterback duo has combined for 24 more carries than Scott and five rushing touchdowns compared to one for Scott. Until the Longhorns show otherwise, the easiest way to pick up points and yards against Texas is on the ground.
If you watched Texas' offense against BYU's defense, you would know the offensive line is the weakest link. The Cougars three-man front manhandled the Longhorns' offense, picking up four sacks against quarterbacks David Ash and Case McCoy.
To Ole Miss' advantage, the Longhorns will be without impact player Daje Johnson and may have to rely on Case McCoy to call the snaps, as starting quarterback David Ash will be evaluated all week for a head and shoulder injury suffered against BYU. If the Texas offensive line plays the way it did against BYU, the Rebels' defense should have no problem shutting down the Longhorns.
The Longhorns' offense will likely be a bit shaken Saturday without wide receiver/running back Daje Johnson (Ankle) and with quarterback David Ash (shoulder/head) questionable. If Ash is ruled out against Ole Miss, Texas will be forced to rely on either senior Case McCoy or true freshman Tyrone Swoopes
Regardless of which quarterback starts the game, the success of the Texas offense will be determined by the offensive line. All off-season, Mack Brown continued to say how excited he was to have depth at the o-line and that this will be one of the best line's in recent years at Texas. But the Texas offensive line was the weakest link on the Longhorns' offense against BYU and that has to change. The line has to protect the QB and help open gaps for the Longhorns trio of running backs.
If you look solely at the stats, the best way to game plan against Ole Miss is to throw the ball, as the Rebels rank 82nd in passing efficiency defense compared to 32nd in rushing defense.
It is no secret the Longhorns' defense struggles to execute game plans and play a physical brand of football. As much as Texas fans want to point the finger at Manny Diaz, he was not the one missing tackles and getting gashed in the run against BYU.
Ole Miss ran the ball 50 times against Southeast Missouri and threw the ball 47 times in the 39-35 win over Vanderbilt. After witnessing the Texas run defense give up 550 yards rushing in Week 2, it is very likely Ole Miss is going to attempt to run the ball down the throats of the Longhorns' defense. But stopping the run is not the only thing the Longhorns need to be prepared to see.
Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace has shown the ability to throw the ball and has a lot of weapons around him, with wide receivers Laquon Treadwell and Donte Moncrief and tight end Evan Engram. The trio has a combined 370 receiving yards of the Rebels' 543 yards in the first two games of the season.
New defensive coordinator Greg Robinson will have six days to prepare the Longhorns' defense for an Ole Miss offense that has the ability to run and pass the ball. No pressure Mr. Robinson.
Junior quarterback Bo Wallace is the clear-cut starter for Ole Miss, but senior backup quarterback Barry Brunetti may see some playing time Saturday. Brunetti rushed for 115 yards and three touchdowns in the Rebels' first two games.
The Longhorns failed to stop BYU quarterback Taysom Hill on the ground, even though they did not have to worry about his attempting many passes. Wallace is a far better passer than Hill and is mobile. Combine that with Brunetti's running ability and the Longhorns could have another tough game Saturday evening.
True freshman defensive end Robert Nkemdiche was the consensus No. 1 recruit in the 2013 recruiting class and has shown his strengths in the Rebels' first two games. Nkemdiche's 6'5", 294-pound frame looks more like something you would see on the offensive line, but his ability to overpower offensive linemen and his athletic ability are uncanny. The Texas offensive line will have its hands full against Nkemdiche.
With Daje Johnson out, Texas has moved junior wide receiver Jaxon Shipley to the slot position to replace him. Johnson was a key element in the Longhorns' offensive game plan against BYU, but left the game after suffering an ankle injury on the third play of the game.
Shipley does not have Johnson's speed, but he has been an impact player for the Longhorns since 2011. With Ole Miss' defense giving up more explosive plays against the pass, expect a lot of balls to go Shipley's way on Saturday.
There is not one player you can single out, as entire unit needs to step up its game. Much like BYU, Ole Miss incorporates a lot of quarterback runs and the read-option, so Texas' defense will need to show it can handle this type of offense.
If it can't stop Ole Miss, the hopes for the Longhorns in Big 12 play may be lost, since the Longhorns' next three opponents—Kansas State, Iowa State and Oklahoma—all run a similar offense.
It is not rocket science. The Texas defense has to be lined up right, stop the run and not allow yards after contact to be able to have a chance against Ole Miss.
Texas offensive coordinator Major Applewhite on difference between Ole Miss this year and last year:
I see a strong, quick front with more depth than last year. I see a team that plays with more confidence. [Ole Miss] has more size, more strength and movement up front. They are definitely better and deeper this year.
Texas head coach Mack Brown on Robert Nkemdiche:
6-foot-5, unbelievable freshman. He can rush the passer and run right over you. He's such a man. He will be an All American, first-round draft choice before he leaves there.
Texas senior safety Adrian Phillips on challenge of Ole Miss:
With the performance we had last week, [Ole Miss] is going to feel like we're vulnerable, but we can't be. Our defense is going to have to come together more than ever now. This is the time where it will either make or break our season.
Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze on Texas changing defensive coordinators:
It certainly is an uncomfortable feeling. We already had a shell of a game plan together based on what they had done last year and early this year. Is it still a good plan? I don't know.
Freeze on Texas' emotions:
I expect them to be very emotional in front of their home crowd and they'll raise their game. I expect to see them as best that they can be. I don't think it will be hard to get our guys up.
The Texas-Ole Miss game is nearly impossible to predict without knowing the status of Texas quarterback David Ash (shoulder/head).
As of Tuesday evening, a Texas spokesperson told Chip Brown of Orangebloods.com that Ash did not practice Tuesday. But he has not been officially ruled out for Saturday's game.
When Ole Miss and Texas faced off last season, the Longhorns were a -9.5 favorite, but proved to be even better than that, crushing the Rebels 66-31 in Oxford. That doesn't figure to the case this time in Austin.
There is too much uncertainty for Texas right now, and Ole Miss appears to be getting better with each week. After watching BYU destroy the Texas defense, it's clear that Greg Robinson is not going to immediately be able to fix the issues on the Texas defense.
There may not be a coach in America who can do that. One of the biggest issues lies in the players' inability to execute the game plan. Senior safety Adrian Phillips admitted to that Monday, saying the Longhorns' pitiful effort against BYU was the result of a "lack of focus and lack of execution." How is Robinson going to change that with six days of preparation?
Until the Texas defense stops resembling the 2012 unit and the offensive line can protect whatever quarterback is starting for the Longhorns, Texas doesn't deserve the benefit of the doubt.
Prediction: Ole Miss 33 Texas 21
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.
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