If Mack Brown and Major Applewhite have their way, the Texas offense will become college football’s version of Loyola Marymount basketball.
Tempo, tempo, tempo.
No need for a play clock, right?
“We won’t be 100 miles an hour all the time,” said Applewhite, the Longhorns’ co-offensive coordinator who’ll be calling plays. “There will be times when we take our foot off the gas.”
Getting back to that basketball theme. Ash, entering his junior season as the starting quarterback, is the point guard of the offense. He believes more plays will add up to more opportunities to score.
“It’s like free throws,” Ash said. “You would rather have two than one.”
Texas averaged 35.7 points a game in 2012 and 68.5 offensive snaps. Respectable numbers, but there are larger expectations attached to this current team. Brown said the goal is to run at least a dozen more plays per game. And score, too.
Almost forgot that part.
Since this fan base is allegedly all about championships, let’s compare the 2009 numbers with Mack’s two most successful teams. In the 2005 title year, the Longhorns led the country in scoring at 50.2 points per game and ran 67.2 plays per game. That Vince Young-led offense ran some no-huddle, but didn’t run it at a breakneck pace. The number of plays is smaller compared to some others, but remember that the 2005 team was loaded with playmakers, and explosive players add up to more big plays and fewer overall snaps.
Judging from what they have said over the past couple of months, it’s safe to assume that Mack and Major are looking for a tempo somewhere in the neighborhood of what was happening on the 2009 team that fell to Alabama in the national championship game.
If Ash is looking for some game film to watch of a Texas quarterback running an up-tempo offense to near-perfection, he need look no further than Colt McCoy, who directed offenses that averaged more than 74 snaps per game in his final three seasons, including that ’09 offense that averaged 75.3 plays, the most of any Brown-coached offense.
Applewhite was the running backs coach on that team, under then offensive coordinator Greg Davis, but he also was in McCoy’s ear about the little nuances that went with running the no-huddle. That knowledge came partly from his role as the starting quarterback on the 1999 Longhorns, who ran 975 plays, which ties the 2007 team for the second-most plays under Mack.
Brown must walk that fine line between trying to tire out his opponent early in games with pace while weighing the very real risk of running his own guys into the ground, especially early in the season when games will be played in the September heat.
“The biggest challenge is us trying to determine how you practice it, because you’re out in 100-degree weather and you’re going hard on most every play,” Brown said. “We’ve worked through a lot of it trying not to wear guys down, but at the same time, we want to go 80 snaps a game.”
Ash joked Monday that he was feeling uncomfortable with the prospect of running such a quick-fingered attack, but seems pretty secure in his ability to call this thing. The cynic in me wonders if we’re about to witness the Longhorns lead the nation in three-and-outs if this idea doesn’t pop, but from the practices I watched, Ash seems to have a nice grasp of what’s being asked of him.
If you’re looking for a blueprint from a recent game, take a look at last year’s Alamo Bowl — Applewhite’s first game calling the plays for Texas. The Longhorns ran the no-huddle for most of the second half. Whether that was by design or because Texas was trailing is up for debate. The bottom line is they ran it well in spots and came from behind to win.
“It’s a good thing for an offense but it’s not the same for the defense,” Ash said. “If a defensive player misses a tackle, it’s six points. In the Alamo Bowl, we were trying to go fast, but we only had two weeks of practice. I’m looking forward to seeing where we are (with this offense).”
This quick tempo may even have its benefits on the other side of the ball. The defense struggled in games against up-tempo offenses like Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Baylor. Now after practicing all summer against this attack, defensive coordinator Manny Diaz describes his group as faster in both the physical and mental categories.
“We won’t be tired (against those teams),” safety Adrian Phillips said. “We’ll be able to get our calls out on defense now.”
The plays will come in rapid fashion for this offense.
We’ll see if first downs, points and wins come at the same rate.
TEXAS VS. NEW MEXICO
7 Saturday, LHN, 1300, 98.1
HORNS’ BUSIEST OFFENSES
Texas’ five most prolific offenses in the Mack Brown era, ranked by average plays per game:
Year | Plays | Points | W-L
2009 | 75.3 | 39.3 | 13-1
2007 | 75.0 | 37.2 | 10-3
1999 | 69.6 | 34.2 | 9-5
2008 | 73.4 | 42.4 | 12-1
2011 | 72.8 | 28.1 | 8-5
WHERE THE HORNS RANK
A look at Texas’ past three seasons, statistically, and where it ranked nationally in various categories.
Category | 2012 | 2011 | 2010
Rush off. | 171.4 (53rd) | 202.6 (21st) | 150.5 (66th)
Pass off. | 263.1 (41st) | 189.9 (86th) | 232.0 (50th)
Total off. | 434.6 (40th) | 392.5 (54th) | 382.5 (58th)
Rush def. | 192.1 (88th) | 96.2 (6th) | 138.5 (44th)
Pass def. | 212.0 (36th) | 209.8 (42nd) | 161.5 (6th)
Total def. | 404.1 (67th) | 306.1 (11th) | 300.1 (6th)
Scoring | 35.7 (23rd) | 28.1 (55th) | 23.7 (88th)
Scoring def. | 29.2 (73rd) | 22.2 (33rd) | 23.6 (49th)