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WHEN TEXAS HAS THE BALL

Shotgun Offense Gives Young Plenty of Options

January 04, 2006|Lonnie White | Times Staff Writer

Texas operates a shotgun-based offense that features zone-read schemes around quarterback Vince Young, who makes it look easy finding open running and passing lanes.

Throughout the season, opposing defenses have concentrated on stopping the Longhorn running game. Every game, Texas played against variations of eight-men fronts used in an attempt to slow down Young and Longhorn running backs Ramonce Taylor, Jamaal Charles, Selvin Young and Henry Melton.

This tactic did not work too well because the Longhorns rushed for 273.8 yards a game, third best in the nation. Behind All-Big 12 Conference linemen Justin Blalock, Will Allen and Jonathan Scott, Texas toyed with opposing defensive fronts all season.

Don't expect USC to try to stop the Longhorn ground attack by moving safeties Darnell Bing and Scott Ware closer to the line of scrimmage. That's not Coach Pete Carroll's style. He likes to keep at least one safety deep in order to prevent momentum-changing plays.

This puts a lot of pressure on the Trojan defensive front, especially ends Frostee Rucker and Lawrence Jackson. USC's line has to get penetration and force the Longhorns to operate at a speed they are not familiar with.

In previous BCS bowl games, Carroll's defenses surprised teams with their quickness and power. The Longhorns have enough athletes to match up with the Trojans, which may lead to the teams running plays and defenses they rarely executed during the season.

That was the case in the Big 12 Conference championship game, when Texas utilized a no-huddle attack to perfection in a lopsided victory over Colorado. It's an approach the Longhorns have used with success over the last two seasons and USC should expect to see it today.

Texas loves to spread defenses out in order to run the ball, but the Longhorns pass well enough to give the Trojans problems.

Young is good at completing passes down the hashmarks, especially to tight end David Thomas, who led the team in receptions. But again, most of Young's passing success came against defenses that did not have a safety help in the middle of the field.

USC's young group of linebackers -- Brian Cushing, Thomas Williams, Keith Rivers and Collin Ashton -- has to stay alert for Taylor and Charles, who combined to catch 39 passes for five touchdowns out of the backfield.

Texas' top wideout is Billy Pittman, who has been a game-breaker all season. Pittman averaged 23.2 yards a catch and scored five touchdowns working next to 6-foot-5 split end Limas Sweed and flanker Quan Cosby.

Young has to stay patient against the Trojan secondary, which often gives up short passes.

USC loves to bait quarterbacks into bad throws, which is part of the reason why the Trojans had 22 interceptions during the regular season.

Cornerback Josh Pinkard is a former safety who hits like a linebacker.

Expect the Longhorns to test his pass coverage and try to match Sweed against the Trojans' other cornerback, 5-10 Justin Wyatt.

In the end, this matchup will be determined by which team controls the line of scrimmage because Texas and USC like to jump on top of opponents early with physical play.

One major goal for the Trojans is to rough up Young and frustrate him.

If they can knock him out of sync early, the Trojans will have an edge.

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Texas team statistics

Points per game

TEXAS: 50.9

Opp.: 14.6

Rushing average per game

TEXAS: 273.8 yards

Opp.: 124.4 yards

Average per rush

TEXAS: 5.8

Opp.: 3.6

Passing average per game

TEXAS: 234.7

Opp.: 155.9

Average per catch

TEXAS: 15.0

Opp.: 9.6

Total offense average per game

TEXAS: 508.4

Opp.: 280.3

Total offense average per play

TEXAS: 7.1

Opp.: 4.1

TEXAS: 7.1

Opp.: 4.1

Total touchdowns

TEXAS: 83

Opp.: 20

3rd down conversion percentage

TEXAS: 51%

Opp.: 28%

Time of possession

TEXAS: 31:08

Opp.: 28.52

Source: University of Texas

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