Joe Bergeron better in second half

Bruising back hardly has issue with running between or right through tackles

Updated: September 6, 2012, 1:45 AM ET
By Carter Strickland | HornsNation

AUSTIN, Texas -- Somewhere near the end of his short stack of 12 pancake blocks, Texas guard Mason Walters looked up to see the twisted wreckage of the Wyoming safety and cornerback, crumpled beer-can style, as the guy with the 24 across his back running free and clear.

[+] EnlargeJoe Bergeron
John Albright/Icon SMIIn his short Texas career, Joe Bergeron has rushed for 409 yards in the second half of games.
Right then, when he saw the path of destruction wrought by the offensive line and the rest of the Texas run game, Walters knew the plan had worked. No matter the tensile strength of a defense, hit it enough times -- and Texas had already whacked Wyoming for 25 runs between the tackles -- and eventually that defense will break. And, oh, yeah, it helps to have a 236-pound sledgehammer.

"Nobody wants to come down and hit Joe [Bergeron] when he is behind his pads," Walters said.

Particularly not in the fourth quarter. That's when Bergeron and his Brunswickian style of splintering the pins has been at his best.

Against Wyoming, 89 of Bergeron's 110 rushing yards came in the second half. The stat, however skewed as it might appear, is not an aberration. In his brief Texas career, Bergeron has rushed for 164 yards and 5.5 yards per carry in the first half of games and 409 yards and 7.2 yards per carry in the second half of games.

Now to be sure, some of those numbers can be attributed to the fact that as a freshman the second half was when Bergeron typically saw most of his playing time. By that time Malcolm Brown might have softened the defense.

But it is also impossible to dismiss the effect Bergeron's running style likely has on defenders not exactly wrapping up with the same first-quarter ferocity they otherwise might have had.

"He has the weight and the strength to really put an impression on them," guard Trey Hopkins said, putting it mildly. "It's kind of like another offensive lineman pulling back there."

I haven't had to tackle Joe, and from where I'm sitting I think that's a good thing because I don't think I could.

-- Texas offensive guard Mason Walters on running back Joe Bergeron.
Actually there is not much pulling going on. It's more like bulldozing right through the line. In fact, of Bergeron's 15 rushes against Wyoming 12 were between the tackles. Those rushes accounted for 107 of his 110 yards. That's an average of 8.9 yards per carry inside the tackles. Here is the other thing: Bergeron averaged 5.9 yards after contact.

"I haven't had to tackle Joe, and from where I'm sitting I think that's a good thing because I don't think I could," Walters said.

Not when he gets a full head of steam. And that was the case against the Cowboys. Bergeron was never hit behind the line of scrimmage. Physics being what they are, when he crashed through the line at or near full speed Bergeron had not only size but also science on his side.

But science can only get a player so far. There is the little matter of mind over matter as well.

"You have to have a different mentality when you have the ball in your hand; just the mindset that nobody can bring you down," he said. "No one person is going to bring you down. Just whatever you need -- if it's a first down, a touchdown or whatever. That's the mindset you have to have."

That is the mindset all of the Longhorns have tried to carry into the season. Toughness has been a touchstone of many a Mack Brown speech. Now, after watching Bergeron and the offensive line in the second half against Wyoming, it might well be on its way to being a cornerstone of the 2012 season.

Carter Strickland | email

Reporter, HornsNation