Well, WYO had their crack at Texas this past week and gave them a good fight...ultimately falling to Texas 37-17 in a spirited contest that was only truly over until eight minutes into the fourth quarter. You can see a ten minute recap here, or an abridged highlight reel here.
Whether name recognition matters to you or not, the opponent we face this week is significant in their depth and in the caliber of athlete that we line up against. Insurmountable? No way. But it will take a good gamelans, some ingenuity in the play call and an extreme attention to detail with our execution mechanics (coupled with our skill set) to stay in a fight with a generally bigger, generally faster opponent. We could always use a little momentum when the gettin's good...Y'all.
There are three things that are going to help us to prevent this game from getting away, but first, I'm going to break down the fire hydrant's worth of coverage that this team has to offer in a series of preview posts chronicling both sides of the ball in Longhorn country. If Texas is going to play the role of bully in this game, it's time to find out who's going to be the #1 on their lists....and it always stars with defense.
First off, Texas will have two general areas to boast on the defensive side of the ball. If I have to take one particular to spotlight, I have to say that their D-line has to present the most clear and present danger to the Lobos.
The NFL called him, but he told them no: Alex Okafor decided to come back for his senior season this year. Phil Steele puts Okafor and Junior DE Jackson Jeffcoat as the #2 & #4 best available ends for the draft this fall.
The bad news is both of these ends are either consensus or partial All-Americans.
The good news? Texas' big bad, D-line had a grand total of ONE sack against WYO last week marked up to Okafor.
Though they did hurry the quarterback steadily, they're starting slow at the beginning of the season and so far have only showed potential in concert with critic's praise. Having WYO running a spread probably seen in the past (Missouri) through Christensen, kept the penetration of the front seven to conventional methods and not specialized secondary blitzes.
Texas' scheme is varied, multiple in nature, but ultimately rooted in the 4-3 defense. Expect big tackles in the middle and lots of rotation during any UNM series....especially after scouting our rushing totals and general outlook from the Southern game. Whatever we do, they'll have their star ends in the game as much as possible to protect the edges if we run to the outside.
Steele and Athlon rate Texas' D-line as 4th & 3rd respectively in their unit ratings. Not really a stretch with the three deep filled with 3* and 4* recruits throughout. If there's a silver lining to this position, you can find it with the relatively underplayed underclassmen at defensive tackle along with JUCO's looking for playing time. Brandon Moore Jr. is a 335 DT JUCO that might fill up the middle in place of sophomores on the roster on Saturday and a run inclined line up will probably get the start.
Texas' secondary is also one of their perpetual strengths with NFL prospects through out. Carryington Bynum, CB (#20 projected, Steele) Kenny Vaccaro III, SS (#5 projected, Steele) are eligible this year and Quandre Briggs, CB, was the Big 12 freshman defensive player of the year in 2011. They're generally deep and loaded in their three deep with top shelf prospects, returning a hodgepodge of DB's (4) with limited starts (<5 games) after their true starters.
Steele and Athlon both rank the secondary as the #1 respective DB units in the country this year. Holding WYO's spread to 276 yds last week wasn't stellar (to MWC standards anyway) but Herron of WYO had a monster game and claimed two thirds of that total.
Quandre Diggs is listed as a third team All-American @ CB by Athlon sports, though not a consensus.
Tall, fast, and Vaccaro III showed to bring the wood in run support last week. You will see him assist on his side of the field next Saturday.
If there's a soft spot on this defense it's in Texas' linebackers....but please, take it for what it's worth. Steele still puts them as the Top 20 linebacker unit in the country. They're only outclassed by a smattering of other BCS schools and almost all of them are prestigious in their own right.
They have a top 20 draft prospect in OLB Jordan Hicks and every guy on their depth chart is under #50 in their respective national recruiting ranking. I could go through their depth chart line by line, but I think this run-through is pointing towards a bigger point. Disseminating their LB's isn't going to do a ton of good aside from what all this information's theme points towards. Which is:
There's one big point that keeps ringing in all the information I sift through, and that's being prepared in our play call, personnel and game plan in UNM's case. Playing someone that's looking to use an advantage you don't possess equally (in this case, raw physical attributes) means you can't approach them the same way they're trying to beat you. You have to change the game and pick your battles...using the tools at your disposal.
Texas will be able to overload pressure at will and will look to certain times to stack the deck against us when we're at our most vulnerable. 3rd down and long, 1st down passing incompletion, so on and so forth. I saw it in the WYO game and I see it in general of all OOC games when teams personnel don't match up properly. Our coach will need to know when to fire the preverbal trigger and have back up audible to adjust in a hostile environment. This is where good leadership comes into play in our staff and upperclassmen.
At least one INT came from direct pressure in the WYO game and if we don't show that we can threaten them in multiple facets of the offense, they'll play the pressure card early and often to create havoc, possibly turnovers. UNM's pistol has the luxury of speedy play development, but our reaction time is narrowing against the Texas defense.
The Texas defense can't dictate field position in this game or we will have far too much of a hill to climb with a counterpunch. We can't let our team be put in these kinds of bottleneck situations and try to stop the Texas offense point blank if we're to win. This will have the game be decided in less than two quarters. We have to let Texas try to beat us by going the length of the field. 3-and-outs + personnel mismatches + field position from turnovers or special teams = game over and we can't make this game easier by any means if we're going to take it.
When Texas DOES need to drive down the field, make their time of possession condensed enough compared to ours, so a hurried offense can make mistakes playing catch up. If our time of possession margins are the same, we lose. Mack Brown knows this and addressed it in a preliminary press conference today with our offense.
Every option we have in the offensive playbook has to have a number of directions to deliver to ball if we're going to remedy pressure. We have to have a way to make the Texas defense pay if they start to take calculated risks and when we have them on their heels, we can truly start to open up and play our game to it's utmost potential.
Keep it close, keep the clock on our side and make them pay when they're predictable. That's how we have a shot at taking them down. Preferably before you've seen Austin (or not) and are promptly escorted out of town.