Defense gears up for unconventional attack

AUSTIN, Texas -- New Mexico may be one of the cupcakes on Texas’ schedule and a 38-point underdog, but Manny Diaz certainly isn’t overlooking them.

The Longhorns’ defensive coordinator knows this week of preparation is an unusual one. Texas spent weeks preparing for a Wyoming spread offense that frequently lined up in four- and five-receiver sets and managed to make big gains through the air against UT’s touted secondary.

Now he’s working to get his defense ready for an unconventional challenge from New Mexico.

Its new coach, Bob Davie, hasn’t coached since 2001. College football offenses have changed considerably in a decade. That’s one wild card.

Its new offensive coordinator, Bob DeBesse, came to Albuquerque after a successful stint at Sam Houston State, the 2011 FCS title game runner-up. Texas coaches must study that team’s offensive film as well.

And its season opener, the one UT coaches began dissecting on Sunday? New Mexico hung 66 points on Southern. How they did that is what’s keeping Diaz busy this week.

New Mexico unveiled a pistol option offense that had no need for a passing game.

The Lobos ran the ball 51 times for 347 yards. They threw it 10 times, completing seven for 70 yards. Four different players ran for 65 yards or more.

“It’s a whiplash game,” Diaz said. “I think Wyoming, about a third of the game, they had no backs and they were in some sort of five-wide receiver look. And we’re about to play a team that 75 percent of the game, when it’s all said and done, is going to have three backs in the backfield.

“We are going from one side of the galaxy to the other side of the galaxy.”

The trick to New Mexico’s offense is DeBesse’s ability to disguise running backs. They could line up in the backfield or at receiver, tight end or fullback. There may only be one back behind the quarterback at first, but others will motion into the play.

“When it’s all said and done,” Diaz said, “there’s going to be three: A dive guy, a lead blocker and a pitch guy. And then the quarterback is a run guy, so really it’s four.”

That means the defensive coordinator must quickly train his Texas players on defending the triple options and its various facets and wrinkles.

Diaz knows the Lobos’ goal. The distraction of extra backs helps create blocking advantages. An option offense can, with good blocking, decide which gaps it wants to open up for Texas defenders and essentially choose which one will have to make the play.

That creates many one-on-one confrontations. If a lineman or linebacker misses, the rusher has room to break off explosive gains.

And that’s the fun of college football, Texas' coordinator said. There’s lots of ways to move the ball, lots of way to score points. Diaz’s goal, regardless of what scheme his defense faces, is unchanged.

“No matter what it is, you still have to find a way to stop people from doing what is easiest to do, which is run the ball in a straight line,” he said.

Texas’ defense gave up only 69 rushing yards against Wyoming. This weekend, it'll be put to the test -- and Diaz knows it’ll be a very different test.