Texas Football Faces BYU Saturday
Horns Play Host to BYU Saturday: After a convincing season-opening victory over North Texas in the debut of first-year head coach Charlie Strong, the Longhorns will face BYU on Saturday (6:30 p.m. Central) in Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. The teams have met just four times, though two of those have occurred in the last three years. Texas downed the Cougars, 17-16 in Austin in 2011, but BYU knocked off the Longhorns, 40-21, in Provo, Utah, last season behind the rushing of QB Taysom Hill and RB Jamaal Williams.
(Also See: Texas Longhorns Football vs North Texas | Video Highlights)
Texas Opens 2014 with Win: The defense accounted for four interceptions and allowed just 94 yards of total offense, leading the Longhorns to a 38-7 victory over North Texas Saturday. WR John Harrisset career highs with seven receptions and 110 yards, and Texas used a balanced offensive attack to control the game. David Ash was 19 of 34 for 190 yards and a TD, while running backs Johnathan Gray andMalcolm Brown (two TD's) contributed 84 and 65 rushing yards, respectively.
Texas Begins Strong Era: Texas has opened its 122nd season in program history and first under the guidance of Charlie 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.
(Also Read: Texas Football | Charlie Strong Suspends Harrison, Estelle for BYU Game)
Streaks, Trends and Milestones:
• Texas won its 15th straight season-opening game by defeating North Texas on Saturday. UT improved to 102-17-3 (.848) all-time in season openers. The Longhorns are 80-7-2 (.910) when opening the year at home.
• Texas has won all 10 meetings with North Texas and outscored the Mean Green 186-14 over the last four games.
• Dominic Espinosa made his 40th straight start at center which leads the team. DE Cedric Reed leads the defense with 20 consecutive starts. Espinosa's starting streak will come to an end Saturday as he fractured an ankle and is out of action indefinitely.
• 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.
• Jaxon Shipley needs 24 more receiving yards to become the eighth player in UT history with 2,000 in his career.
• 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 Haines, Jordan Hicks, Adrian 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.
• 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.
• Five true freshmen saw action vs. North Texas: 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 included CB Antwuan Davis, LB Naashon Hughes, DE Logan Mills, DB Dylan Haines, FB Dominic Cruciani, OL Jake Raulerson and OL Darius James.
Directing the Offense: David Ash is 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. However, Ash (head) has been ruled out of Saturday's BYU game. Tyrone Swoopes, who saw action as a true freshman in six games last season, will get the starting nod. True freshman Jerrod Heard will serve as his backup.
Another New 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. Two players who made one start each last year – junior Sedrick Flowers and sophomore Kent Perkins – replacedTrey Hopkins and Mason Walters as the starting guards. Marcus Hutchins, who came over from the defensive line during preseason camp, started the UNT game at right tackle. Redshirt freshman Jake Raulerson took Espinosa's place vs. the Mean Green. Other offensive linemen seeing action vs UNT included Taylor Doyle and Darius James. Senior offensive lineman Desmond Harrison was suspended for the opening game, but is expected back for 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. 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 165 receptions (seventh on the UT career list) in his career after catching six for 43 yards in the opener. Behind Shipley, Johnson is the leading returning receiver in terms of yardage, having caught 22 passes for 350 yards (15.9 ypc) last year. Harris displayed big-play ability in 2013 when he averaged 28.2 yards on five catches, including a pair of touchdowns, and was the breakout player vs. UNT as he posted career highs in receptions (seven) and yards (110) while also catching a TD. Head coach Charlie Strong praised Harris for having an excellent preseason camp. 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 opener due to suspension. True freshmen Armanti Foreman and Lorenzo Joe saw action vs. UNT.
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 played vs, North Texas. 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.
In the Trenches: The Longhorns will rely 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. saw action.
• A first-team All-Big 12 selection in 2013, Reed is a disruptive force who has started in 20 straight games. 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 66 games and started in 28. 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.
Playmakers in the Secondary: With experienced playmakers Quandre Diggs, Duke Thomas and Mykkele Thompson, the Longhorns have a well-equipped secondary and proved that by allowing just 15 passing yards in week one vs. UNT. Diggs, a three-year starter, and Thomas, a junior who started 10 games a year ago, will man the cornerback positions. With 37 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 will be Thompson, a senior who has seen action in 39 career games including 19 starts. The last starting spot in the secondary was won by Adrian Colbert in the opener vs. UNT, while freshman Jason Hall and sophomore Dylan Haines also saw time. The Longhorns were without Josh Turner for at least the opener 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. Sophomore Bryson Echols as well as redshirt freshman Antwuan Davis saw time at cornerback in the opener.
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 connected on 1 of 2 field goals vs. UNT (missed from 38, made from 34). Senior William Russ took over as the No. 1 punter. In his first action as a punter, Russ averaged 38.2 yards on five punts placing two inside the opponents 20-yard line.
(via press release/University of Texas Athletics Department)