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Monday, October 4, 2010
Texas should shelve power running game

By David Ubben

It made sense at the time, and in theory, Texas should have had the offensive line to do it.

Garrett Gilbert
Texas' best offensive player has been sophomore Garrett Gilbert.
"We did a lot of self study and found out that we had more explosive plays when the quarterback was under the center in the running game as well as the tailback being right behind the quarterback," Texas coach Mack Brown said during Big 12 Media Days. "The other reason that we feel like we need to go ahead and run the ball more and better is the last two years in the BCS we played two-back downhill running Ohio State, and this year we played two-back downhill running Alabama. And in both cases, we didn't tackle the great tailbacks very well. We feel like by having downhill runs and working more in the running game and against the running game in practice would help us if we go out in conference and see someone who wants to just line up and run us."

Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but Texas probably shouldn't expect to run into Alabama or Ohio State this postseason.

Maybe the Longhorns intended approach is best for the long term, especially with superstar recruit Malcolm Brown on the way next fall. Texas wanted balance. Through five games this season, it's clear that the running game Texas hoped to establish won't arrive with any consistency, despite three senior offensive linemen and three experienced running backs.

Texas' best chance to salvage something meaningful from this season rests with putting the ball in the hands of its best offensive player: Garrett Gilbert. Gilbert's big mistakes have been limited and the offense has been most productive when the Longhorns have spread out and let him sling it.

Big deficits forced Texas to do it against UCLA and Oklahoma.

Now, the Longhorns should choose to do it.

Its most explosive play against Oklahoma's suspect rush defense didn't come with power between the tackles. It came from the shotgun, a jet sweep handoff to a streaking D.J. Monroe, Texas' fourth running back, who quickly proved how much faster he was than anyone else on the field with a 60-yard touchdown that brought Texas to within 14-7.

It's been five games, and Texas hasn't had a longer run from scrimmage than Monroe's. So much for explosiveness from under center.

Letting Gilbert, a sophomore who will make his sixth career start in two weeks against Nebraska, determine the result of Texas' season doesn't sound appetizing.

But can Texas really trust a running that is averaging more than four yards a carry? Remember, see that number drop is likely to drop when the Longhorns hit the meat of their conference schedule.

Gilbert taking over could also help speed the development of Texas' second-best offensive player, freshman receiver Mike Davis.

Gilbert hasn't shown a tendency toward game-breaking mental or physical mistakes. In his worst game of the season -- Texas Tech -- two of his three interceptions were tipped at the line of scrimmage. Deep balls to James Kirkendoll and Malcolm Williams against Oklahoma and another to Kirkendoll against Texas Tech showed his potential. The more opportunities he gets to nurture that potential, the better.