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BCS CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

Texas to focus on a strong running game in BCS title matchup

The Longhorns have struggled with that aspect of the game this season, but now they want to take the pressure off quarterback Colt McCoy against Alabama.

January 04, 2010|By Chris Foster

Texas has a Colt, but whether the Longhorns have the horses remains to be seen.

There is little doubt that Alabama will have a hungry eye fixated on Texas quarterback Colt McCoy in Thursday's Bowl Championship Series title game, with Terrence Cody, Rolando McClain and the rest of the Crimson Tide defense waiting for the dinner bell to ring.

This seems a good time for the Longhorns to be a little more grounded. But no one, it seems, wants to hang his 10-gallon hat on the team's ability to run the ball.

"We have not been able to run the ball as consistently as we would like," offensive coordinator Greg Davis said Sunday. But he added, "We're not interested in any kind of special number of rushing yards."

McCoy dittoed that, saying, "I think Coach Davis is right on." But McCoy added, "I think this game will come down to execution and not turning the ball over."

The dilemma is this: The Longhorns yearn to run the ball to take the pressure off McCoy, and have so all season. They just don't know whether they can.

"That definitely hits close to home as far as an offensive lineman is concerned," center Chris Hall said. "As far as what we can do now, we have only one more opportunity, so we'll give it our best shot."

That good ol' college try may not be enough.

Alabama ranks second in the nation against the run -- behind Texas -- giving up 78 yards per game. The Crimson Tide offers a formidable front, starting with the 365-pound Cody.

Davis said of watching game tape of Alabama, "What you see a lot of times is the offensive lineman has him covered up but nothing happens. They are like two monsters in the old sci-fi films. All of sudden, the ball carrier gets close, the offensive guy gets discarded, and the monster eats your back up."

The Longhorns offer as an appetizer Tre' Newton, one of four tailbacks who have started at least one game this season. This, though, has not been so much Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse outlined against a blue-gray October as it has a merry-go-round at the Texas State Fair.

Vondrell McGee was the starter when the season began, but he was replaced by Newton after the third game. Then it was back to McGee, followed by Foswhitt Whittaker, Cody Johnson, then Newton again.

"We have struggled some games and been balanced in other games," said Newton, the son of former Dallas Cowboys offensive lineman Nate Newton.

"But we need to run the ball to open things up for Colt."

Newton has a team-high 513 yards rushing. He became the flavor of the moment after gaining 80 yards in seven carries off the bench against Baylor. He started the last three games, which included a 107-yard effort against Texas A&M.

"We're just looking for a guy who would run with patience, who would run with vision and be able to give us the opportunity to make an explosive play," Davis said. "He was doing that while he is in there."

Texas has been devoid of a strong running game for two seasons. Vince Young rode to the national championship with tailback Jamaal Charles as a sidekick. Charles remained for McCoy's first two seasons, and gained 1,619 yards in 2007.

The current quartet has combined for 1,353 yards. The Longhorns' best individual effort this season was 175 yards -- by McCoy against Texas A&M.

McCoy also had a team-high 561 yards last season.

"It falls on everybody," Davis said. "Sometimes it's the line. Sometimes it's the back."

Said McCoy, "Obviously we need to run the ball a little bit to be effective. If we can get three or four yards on first down and kind of stay ahead of ourselves with the running game, I think that'll definitely be an advantage for us."

chris.foster@latimes.com

twitter.com/cfosterlatimes

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