Tuesday, September 13, 2011
First Look: Texas at UCLA
By Peter Yoon
When Texas and all its tradition travels to the Rose Bowl to play UCLA on Saturday in a 12:30 game on ABC, the Longhorns will be looking to erase a couple of bad memories.
First, they'll be looking to extract revenge for UCLA's 34-12 victory in Austin last year and second, they want to expunge their brains of the bad feelings lingering from the last time they played in this building: A loss to Alabama in the 2010 National Championship game.
This Texas team is much different than either of those, however. The Longhorns (2-0), ranked No. 24 in the Associated Press Poll, have 14 freshmen in their two-deep depth chart and have played 18 true freshmen and seven redshirt freshmen this season. And like UCLA, they have new offensive and defensive coordinators.
Still, even though Texas is in a bit of a rebuilding mode and coming off of a 5-7 season in which it lost seven of its last nine games, the Longhorns are always an intimidating opponent. Texas is second on the all-time college victories list with 852, has won four national championships and has won 28 conference titles.
"It’s one of the top programs in the country on a yearly basis," UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel said.
Having a revamped coaching staff isn't the only thing Texas has in common with UCLA. The Longhorns are also without a No. 1 quarterback after Garrett Gilbert, the starting quarterback in last year's game, lost his starting job last week after going two of eight for eight yards and two interceptions in the first half of a 17-16 victory over Brigham Young.
Case McCoy, brother of former Longhorns star Colt, and freshman David Ash, an athletic, tough runner, split the duties in the second half last week and are expected to split the game against UCLA. McCoy, a sophomore, is the more polished of the two with a better command of the offense and will probably start.
With such inexperience at quarterback, expect the Longhorns to look to run first with true freshman Malcolm Brown (30 carries, 154 yards), junior D.J. Monroe (eight carries, 81 yards) and senior Fozzy Whittaker (13 carries, 37 yards) getting the bulk of the carries. The Texas quarterbacks will also run, especially Ash who had nine carries for 36 yards last week.
True freshman Jaxon Shipley, brother Longhorns of all-time receptions leader Jordan, is the top wideout target so far with five catches for 93 yards. Whittaker, who has six catches for 67 yards is also a receiving threat out of the backfield.
Last year, UCLA ran ragged on Texas, with Johnathan Franklin rushing for 118 yards, Derrick Coleman adding 94 and Kevin Prince chipping in with 50. The Bruins rushed 56 times for 264 yards while attempting only nine passes, but Neuheisel said the game play may differ this season.
"This is a completely different defense," he said. "Same personnel, but completely different schematically."
Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, who came from Mississippi State, runs a more aggressive style, Neuheisel said, and it's difficult to determine where the open spots will be. So far, Texas is 15th in the nation in total defense, giving up only 229.5 yards per game and they have allowed only 25 points to their first two opponents.
"It’ll be a tremendous challenge for our offensive line and our offense to track them and get body on body because they make it difficult with all their fire zones and different ways to get the quarterback," Neuheisel said.
The top defensive players are senior linebackers Emmanuel Acho and Keenan Robinson, who combined for 217 tackles last season and have 36 in two games this season. The defensive backfield is young with two sophomores and a freshman starting, but they have two interceptions already.