Texas Longhorns Football: Five Things That Must Improve Before The RRR
The annual Red River Rivalry pits the two Big 12 South juggernauts in Texas and Oklahoma in a battle at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, a 60-minute skirmish between the burnt orange and white and the cream and crimson.
Winners of four of the last five meetings, the Horns own the series to date 59-40.
The results never surprise, as the competition and hostility are palpable from the players on the field and the fans in the stands.
So far in the 2010 season, both the Longhorns and Sooners have had Jekyll and Hyde performances, though both squads remain undefeated.
Texas is no stranger to slow starts. Here are five things that must improve before the Red River Rivalry.
Penalties Must Go Down
One of the biggest problems so far this season for the Texas Longhorns has been penalties.
Holding penalties, personal fouls, false starts and chop blocks all have found their way into the playbook, costing them valuable yards on both sides of the football.
Flags are the drive killers, drive extenders, and ultimately cause countless facepalms from the coaches.
Texas was penalized 11 times for 95 yards last weekend against Texas Tech, and against the top-notch opponents like Oklahoma next weekend, those yellow flags may be the difference between winning and losing.
Once again, the running game garners a generous portion of attention heading into the grind of the schedule for the Horns.
Finding that consistent tailback to eat up yards on the ground has been a primary goal of the coaching staff, and they are still searching for answers.
Perhaps it is not solely the play of the running backs, but a combination of production and performance out of the offensive line shoulders some of the responsibility as well.
Failure to run the ball and achieve a multi-dimensional offense ultimately spells disaster as the passing game has yet to take off.
Uncovering that identity on the ground will be of the utmost importance as the days count down until the Red River Rivalry.
The lack of upperclassmen leadership at the wide receiver position can make or break the season this year for Texas.
Senior James Kirkendoll put together a strong performance last weekend in Lubbock, securing six catches for 122 yards, while junior Malcolm Williams definitely had a game to forget.
Consistency is one of the glaring issues that may be stunting the development of quarterback Garrett Gilbert. The sophomore signal caller hardly has a go-to receiver, and freshman Mike Davis and sophomore Marquise Goodwin have presented themselves as the top options going into the weekend against UCLA.
Discovering that release valve will be critical for Gilbert in the Oklahoma game, much like the Colt McCoy-Jordan Shipley connection in the past.
Winning The Turnover Battle
Texas prided themselves in the turnover battle last season, but their fortunes just have not been the same so far in 2010.
Despite securing three turnovers against the Red Raiders (1 fumble recovery, 2 INTs), the Longhorns' offense committed four of their own.
Luckily those miscues did not cost them the game, but in a matchup against a premier squad like Oklahoma, the results may end up a little sour.
Turnovers can change the atmosphere and flavor of the game, and achieving that positive turnover differential will certainly help this team win their matchups a little bit more easily.
The quick-scoring plays are the ones that change the tempo of the game. The 80-yard runs, the 100-yard kickoff returns, the 60-yard bombs.
Missing quite frequently from a Texas offense that fans remember to be high-octane and high-scoring are those explosive plays.
The Longhorns have plenty of speed throughout the roster, including a scat-back wide receiver type in D.J. Monroe, who has yet to see significant touches so far this season.
Monroe is set to get some looks at tailback against UCLA, and his contributions could open up the offensive playbook.
But against Oklahoma, Texas may need a couple of those tide-turning explosions to tip the scales in their favor.