Everything You Need To Know for Today’s Game Against UCLA | Horns Illustrated


via TexasSports.com

The Football team will venture out of Austin for the first time this season when the Longhorns head to Arlington, Texas, Saturday to face 12th-ranked UCLA in the AdvoCare Cowboys Showdown (7:15 p.m. Central at AT&T Stadium). The Longhorns will look to regroup following a 41-7 home loss to BYU. The Bruins survived a home scare from Memphis, prevailing 42-35 behind 396 passing yards and three touchdowns from Brett Hundley.

UT-UCLA Series:  Texas and UCLA have met six times in their history, with the series tied, 3-all. The Longhorns won the first two meetings, 20-17 in Austin in 1970, and 28-10 in Los Angeles the following season. The Bruins then won the next three contests, 66-3 in Austin (1997), 49-31 in Los Angeles (1998) and 34-12 in Austin (2010). The Longhorns were victorious in the last meeting, a 49-20 triumph in Los Angeles in 2011.

Texas Begins Strong Era: Texas is in its first season under the guidance ofCharlie Strong who was hired in January as the school's 29th head coach, but just sixth in the last 58 years. Strong spent the past four seasons as Louisville head coach, re-energizing a program that had a 15-21 record in the three years prior to his arrival. He posted a 37-15 record, which included a pair of Big East Conference Championships (2011, 2012). Strong was named Big East Coach of the Year in both 2010 and 2012, and led the Cardinals to four bowl appearances with three wins. Over the past two years, Louisville was the nation's fourth-winningest program, posting a 23-3 record (88.5 percent). Prior to his stint at Louisville, Strong was a long-time successful defensive coordinator, spending four years at South Carolina (1999-2002) and seven at Florida (2003-09).

Starters Returning: Texas welcomes back starters at 12 positions, including five on offense and seven on defense. There are 12 offensive players who started a game in 2013 back for 2014, while the defense includes 13 players with at least one start last season.

Starters Lost: Texas is replacing 10 offensive and defensive starters, as well as its punter and place-kicker. Eight of those 10 starters earned All-Big 12 honors last season and two - DE Jackson Jeffcoat and PK/P Anthony Fera - were consensus All-Americans. The group of 10 starters accounted for 421 games played, including 297 career starts. Those totals do not include Fera, who served double duty last season as the place-kicker and punter. He was a finalist for the Lou Groza Award and Jeffcoat captured the Ted Hendricks Award as the top defensive end in the nation.

• Texas will be playing in AT&T Stadium for the second time when it faces UCLA Saturday. The Longhorns downed Nebraska, 13-12, in the 2009 Big 12 title game to advance to the BCS Championship.
• The Horns rank No. 15 nationally in total defense, surrendering an average of 261.5 yards over the first two games. The passing efficiency defense checks in at No. 4 in the FBS with a 62.42 rating. UCLA's Brett Hundley enters Saturday's game ranked No. 16 nationally in passing yards per game (319.0) and No. 26 in completion percentage (68.8).
• Texas has five interceptions already this season after posting 10 all of 2013. The Horns rank No. 9 nationally in turnovers gained (6).
• The Longhorns have combined for 10.0 sacks over the first two games and rank tied for fourth in the FBS (5.0 per game). Nine players have been involved in a sack this season and the defensive tackles are leading the way. Malcom Brown leads the team with 2.5 and Hassan Ridgeway is second with 2.0.
• The UNT offense never advanced to the red zone and did not convert a third-down opportunity until early in the fourth quarter of Saturday's game. The Mean Green were unable to convert their first nine attempts and ended the game 3-for-15. Last season, UNT ranked No. 20 in the FBS in third-down conversions (47 percent).
• The Texas defense forced North Texas into four interceptions, the most since the 2009 Oklahoma State game (Oct. 31). The Longhorns totaled 10 interceptions during the 2013 season. Dylan HainesJordan HicksAdrian Colbert and Demarco Cobbs each recorded his first career interception.
• UNT averaged 1.8 yards on 43 rushing attempts and its longest play was 8 yards.
• Five true freshmen have seen action this season: TE Andrew Beck, WR Armanti Foreman, RB D'Onta Foreman, DB Jason Hall and WR Lorenzo Joe. Other players who saw their first career action in the first two games included CB Antwuan Davis, LB Naashon Hughes, DE Logan Mills, DB Dylan Haines, FB Dominic Cruciani, OL Jake Raulerson, OL Darius James, WR Ty Templin and LB Trey Gonzalez.
• Two players on both offense (RT Marcus Hutchins, WR John Harris) and defense (DE Shiro Davis, S Adrian Colbert) started for the time in their careers in the North Texas game. On offense, C Jake Raulerson, RG Taylor Doyle and QB Tyrone Swoopes started for the first time vs. BYU. On defense, S Dylan Haines earned his first career start in the Cougars game.

Streaks, Trends and Milestones:
• Jaxon Shipley posted five receptions for 36 yards vs. BYU. He became the eighth player in school history to reach 2,000 career receiving yards. He now has 170 receptions (No. 7 in school history) for 2,012 receiving yards (No. 8). He needs four more receptions to move to No. 6 (Kwame Cavil, 174/1997-99).
• Dominic Espinosa, who fractured an ankle in the season opener vs. North Texas, had his team-best 40-consecutive game starting streak snapped vs. BYU.  DE Cedric Reed, who has started 21 straight games, now has the team lead. TE Geoff Swaim now has the most consecutive starts on offense with seven.
• For just the 14th time on UT record, the Longhorns held an opponent to under 100 yards of total offense when they limited North Texas to just 94 (79 rushing, 15 passing). The 94 yards yielded rank No. 13 on the UT single-game list and it marked the first time since Oct. 29, 2011 that the Longhorns held an opponent under 100 yards. Texas was one of just three schools in the FBS to allow that few yards in week one (also Pittsburgh, 57, and Louisiana-Monroe, 94). The 15 passing yards surrendered to UNT rank No. 9 on the UT single-game list.
• Senior LB Demarco Cobbs recorded his first career interception in the fourth quarter vs. North Texas, returning it 28 yards for a touchdown. DT Chris Whaley had UT's last interception return for a score (31 yards) in the 2013 Oklahoma game.

Directing the Offense: Sophomore Tyrone Swoopes is directing the offense after starter David Ash suffered a head injury in the season opener, causing him to miss the BYU game. In his starting debut vs. the Cougars Swoopes was solid, completing 20-of-31 passes for 176 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He completed his first eight attempts of the game, and although he was unable to lead his first scoring drive as a starter until the third quarter, he showed promise. On the TD drive, Swoopes led a 13-play, 75-yard drive in which he went 6-of-6 for 53 yards, including a 13-yard TD to John Harris. Swoopes also displayed a rushing ability on the drive, forging ahead two yards for a first down on fourth-and-1 early in the drive, then scrambling for 14 later in the drive.
• Ash was hoping to replicate a 2012 season which saw him start in 12 of 13 games and finish 15th in the FBS in completion percentage (67.3). Ash played in just three games last year, missing the final 10 to injury and earning a medical redshirt. He's one of the most experienced quarterbacks in the Big 12 having played in 29 games with 22 starts. He ranks eighth on the UT career passing yards list (4,728). In the season opener, Ash went 19 of 34 for 190 yards, one passing TD and one rushing TD. In all, he directed five scoring drives. He was ruled out of playing against BYU the Monday following the season opener.

2023 Texas Longhorns Football Season Tickets

Another Look on the Offensive Line: With three starters lost from last year, the Longhorns were going to have a somewhat different look to the offensive line this year. Dominic Espinosa entered the season having started the last 39 games at center, but after suffering a fractured ankle vs. North Texas the senior is out indefinitely and the Longhorns are now minus their most experienced lineman. Junior Kennedy Estelle made eight starts a year ago and opened the UNT game at left tackle, but did not play vs. BYU due to suspension. Potential starting tackle Desmond Harrison missed the first two games due to suspension. Against BYU last week, Texas' offensive line came into the game with a combined five starts: sophomore right tackle Kent Perkins had two, junior left guard Sedrick Flowers had two and junior left tackle Marcus Hutchins had one. Hutchins moved over from the defensive line during preseason camp. Meanwhile, right guard Taylor Doyle and center Jake Raulerson were making their first career starts vs. BYU.

One-Two Punch in the Backfield: Senior Malcolm Brown and junior Johnathan Gray form one of the most talented – and productive – running back duos in the country. Brown and Gray are one of just six twosomes in the nation to return after each rushing for more than 750 yards last season. Brown rushed for 904 yards and nine touchdowns while averaging 105.1 rushing yards over the last eight games. Gray is fully recovered from a torn Achilles that caused him to miss the final four games last season. Gray averaged 4.9 yards per carry on 159 attempts, finishing the season with 780 yards on the ground. Both are threats to catch the ball out of the backfield: Brown had 17 catches for 195 yards and Gray had 15 catches for 61 yards. In the opener, the pair combined for 147 yards on the ground (Gray - 82, Brown - 65), while Brown scored two touchdowns and Gray had a game-high 42-yard run. However, the pair was held to a combined 75 yards vs. BYU. Behind Brown and Gray, the Longhorns will be youthful with just two scholarship running backs on the roster: true freshmen Donald Catalon and D'Onta Foreman. Seeing his first collegiate action vs. UNT, Foreman rushed twice for 37 yards including a long of 34.

Catching On: With the departure of Mike Davis, who ended his career fourth in UT history in both receptions (200) and receiving yards (2,753), Texas did not have much returning production beyond senior Jaxon Shipley and junior Marcus Johnson. Shipley has posted 170 receptions (seventh on the UT career list) in his career after catching 11 for 79 yards in the first two games. Behind Shipley, Johnson is the leading returning receiver in terms of yardage, having caught 22 passes for 350 yards (15.9 ypc) last year. Senior John Harris has been the breakout wide receiver, posting seven catches for a career-best 110 yards and a TD in the opener, and following it up with a career-high eight catches for 77 yards and a touchdown in week two vs. BYU. Harris has 15 catches for 187 yards and two TDs after coming into the season with just nine catches for 190 yards in his career.
• Jacorey Warrick made his first career catches (two for 30 yards) vs. UNT. Junior Daje Johnson figures to be a factor after posting 24 receptions for 178 yards last season. He has big-play ability with five career plays of 45 or more yards, but missed the first two games due to suspension. True freshmenArmanti Foreman and Lorenzo Joe have also seen action.

Looking for an Increased Role: Texas has three tight ends on the roster with extended playing time. Seniors Greg Daniels and Geoff Swaim were the starters last season, including five games together. While Daniels and Swaim were a key in the running game last season, the duo combined for just six catches. M.J. McFarland, the No. 3 tight end, did not have a reception in his 11 games. Last season at Louisville, Charlie Strong's offense had two tight ends - Gerald Christian (28) and Ryan Hubbell (14) - combine for 42 catches. During 2012, Hubbell (14) and Nate Nord (13) combined for 27 receptions. That same season, McFarland (8) and Daniels (5) were more involved in the UT passing game, combining for 13 catches. Daniels is out of action with a knee injury so freshman Andrew Beck was moved to tight end in the preseason and has played in the first two games. McFarland posted two catches for 7 yards in the opener as Texas started the game in a two-tight end set with McFarland and Swaim. Swaim had a pair of catches for 14 yards vs. BYU.

In the Trenches: The Longhorns are relying on a stout and experienced defensive line. Senior Cedric Reed and junior Shiro Davis are the starting ends while senior Desmond Jackson and junior Malcom Brown occupy the tackle positions. The quartet made their presence known from the onset of the opener vs. UNT, setting the tone and helping Texas allow just 40 yards of total offense in the first three quarters. The Longhorns have depth on the line as evidenced by reserves DT Hassan Ridgeway making two sacks and DT Alex Norman making one. In addition to those two, DE Caleb Bluiett, DE Bryce Cottrell and DT Paul Boyette Jr. have seen action.
• After recording four sacks vs. UNT, the Longhorns had six vs. BYU and their 10 this season rank tied for fourth in the FBS. Against the Cougars, Brown had a career-high 2.5 sacks, matched his career best with 10 tackles and forced a fumble. Davis posted 1.5 sacks, while Reed and Bluiett each assisted on one.
• A first-team All-Big 12 selection in 2013, Reed is a disruptive force who has started in 21 straight games which leads the team. The senior forced five fumbles and recorded 19 tackles for loss and 10 sacks last year. His 79 tackles were third on the team and are tops among returning players. Davis, a junior, made his first career start vs. UNT. He saw action in all 13 games last season and made 15 tackles, four of them for a loss. Jackson and Brown bring plenty of experience to the middle of the line. Combined, the two have played in 68 games and started in 30. Jackson recorded a career-high 39 tackles last year, along with a pair of sacks and five tackles for loss. Brown, meanwhile, finished the season tied for third in PBUs (5), third in tackles for loss (12) and seventh in tackles (68).

Depth at Linebacker: Texas has depth at linebacker, where five players that started in at least one game last season return. Senior Steve Edmond, an honorable mention All-Big 12 selection last year, anchors the middle, while senior Jordan Hicks and junior Peter Jinkens start at the outside positions.Dalton Santos (seven starts) and Timothy Cole (one) also bring starting experience from last season, while Demarco Cobbs (six starts) and Tevin Jackson(two) have starting experience from 2012. Edmond, who has made 22 career starts, recorded 73 tackles last year. Hicks is returning from an Achilles injury that caused him to miss the final 10 games a season ago, but hopes to return to the form that saw him make 41 tackles in the first four contests of 2013. Jinkens started in six games last year, playing his best in the final two when he made a combined 21 tackles. Redshirt freshman Naashon Hughes also figures to enter the mix for playing time. Hicks and Cobbs had excellent season debuts as each made an interception, with Cobbs returning his 28 yards for a touchdown, and finished with five tackles apiece. Against BYU, Edmond and Hicks each posted 14 tackles. That was a career high for Edmond and the second-best total of Hicks's career. Hicks leads the team with 22 tackles and Edmond is second with 19.

Playmakers in the Secondary: With experienced playmakers Quandre DiggsDuke Thomas and Mykkele Thompson, the Longhorns have a well-equipped secondary and proved that by allowing just 98 yards per game in the first two contests (15 vs. UNT, 181 vs. BYU). Diggs, a three-year starter, and Thomas, a junior who started 10 games a year ago, man the cornerback positions. With 38 career starts under his belt, Diggs is the most experienced player on defense and second-most on the team (Dominic Espinosa – 40 starts). Manning one of the safety positions is Thompson, a senior who has seen action in 40 career games including 20 starts. The last starting spot in the secondary was won by Adrian Colbert in the opener vs. UNT, while freshmanJason Hall and sophomore Dylan Haines also saw time. Haines also started vs. BYU, as the Horns opened the game with three safeties. The Longhorns were without Josh Turner for at least the first two games due to suspension. He played in 12 games (three starts) last season and posted 37 tackles. Colbert, who had six special teams tackles in 2013, had an interception vs. the Mean Green as did Haines. Diggs made the ninth interception of his career when he picked off Taysom Hill of BYU. Sophomore Bryson Echols as well as redshirt freshman Antwuan Davis have also seen time at cornerback.

Replacing the Kickers: Texas had  to replace its punter and place-kicker this season. Anthony Fera served a dual role last year and turned in one of the best performances in school history. Fera was a finalist for the 2013 Lou Groza Award after connecting on 20 of 22 field goals, including a streak of 15 consecutive that matched Phil Dawson's school record (1996-97). His 90.9 percent field-goal accuracy ranks second on the UT all-time single-season list. He also averaged 40.7 yards on 75 punts. Junior Nick Rose took over as the place-kicker after serving as the kickoff specialist each of the last two years and has connected on 1 of 3 field goals so far (missed from 38, made from 34 vs. UNT; missed from 43 vs. BYU). Senior William Russ took over as the No. 1 punter and is averaging 40.9 yards per punt.

Do you have a prediction for today's game against UCLA? Sound off below! 

James Schleicher

James Schleicher is the publisher of Horns Illustrated magazine. He's also a fifth generation Texan and lifelong Austinite. Follow @HornsIllus twitter to keep up with all things Horns Illustrated.

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