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Offense Bigger in Texas

Vince Young says the Longhorns have more depth to their attack than USC. He has the stats to back it up.

December 23, 2005|Peter Yoon | Times Staff Writer

AUSTIN, Texas — The offensive numbers are mind-boggling.

More than 50 points and 500 yards in offense a game will get anybody's attention, especially when accomplished by balancing a rushing attack that has surpassed 3,000 yards with a passing game operated by one of the country's top quarterbacks.

Even so, the Texas offense somehow finds itself overshadowed.

The USC offense, led by Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush, has been touted as one of the best of all time. Yet, Texas has outscored USC, 611-600.

The Longhorns, led by quarterback Vince Young, the Heisman Trophy runner-up, outrushed the Trojans, 3,285 yards to 3,171.

So while USC has made headlines for its potent offense, featuring two Heisman Trophy winners and a host of skilled ballhandlers, Texas has somehow developed a reputation as Vince Young and his merry men.

That's just fine with Young, he said. USC can have the headlines because the Longhorns aren't trying to outdo the Trojans in any way except on the Rose Bowl scoreboard Jan. 4.

"I don't want to be on the same level as them," Young said. "I want to be Texas."

Texas, he said, has a deeper offense with more weapons. Bush, LenDale White and Leinart are the only Trojans with more than 20 carries. Texas has five players with more than 70 carries.

Outside of Texas, however, it's difficult to find anyone who can name a Longhorn other than Young.

Texas uses a tailback-by-committee approach, rotating Jamaal Charles, Selvin Young and Ramonce Taylor, speedy former high school track stars who have combined for 1,838 yards and 29 touchdowns.

Add the 850 yards and nine touchdowns by Vince Young, Texas' leading rusher, and you have 2,688 yards and 38 touchdowns, numbers comparable to the 2,888 yards and 27 touchdowns by Bush and White.

Henry Melton, Texas' fullback, is a 6-foot-3, 270-pound bruiser who has rushed for 432 yards and 10 touchdowns, mostly in short-yardage situations.

"We've got all the running backs you can think of," Young said. "We have different talent and different ways of running the ball."

Justin Blalock, one of three All-American Longhorn offensive linemen, said the depth at running back made Texas more difficult to stop.

"We got a lot of production from the tailback position as a whole," Blalock said. "It seemed like anybody that we plug in has been productive. So, I think you could say that makes us a little more unpredictable."

In the passing game, Young threw for 2,769 yards and 26 touchdowns, compared to 3,450 and 27 for Leinart. But Leinart threw 106 more passes.

Also, Young led the nation in passing efficiency with a 168.6 rating. Leinart was seventh at 158.3.

Texas' receiving corps is also solid, with deep threats Billy Pittman, Limas Sweed and Quan Cosby each averaging more than 17 yards a catch and tight end David Thomas leading the team in receptions with 40.

"What I like about our offense, there's nobody always trying to get the ball all the time," Young said. "If somebody is making a play, everybody is applauding that person. No matter who gets in the end zone, everybody is happy."

And although common thinking is that stopping Young is the key to stopping Texas, Young said it would be a mistake for USC to ignore others.

"I don't care if they try to contain me," he said. "I can sit in the pocket and deliver the ball to David Thomas or the receivers, or I can hand the ball off. Whatever it takes to win, it doesn't matter to me. I don't have to do nothing."

Texas Coach Mack Brown says there is no reason to have to choose between the two. He adds that USC deserves all the accolades it gets because of its 580 yards-a-game average, which leads the nation.

"Five hundred eighty yards is just amazing," Brown said.

Still, this will be the first time that teams averaging 50 or more points are playing for the national title. Only four times since 1937 has the nation's top-scoring team averaged more than 50 points.

For those reasons, Brown said, both offenses deserve mention in any conversation about the best offenses of all time.

"If you have two really beautiful girls, I don't think you have to pick," Brown said. "They're both really pretty. These are two great offenses. People that have watched them know that. Fifty points, that's hard to score."

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