Grading the Texas Longhorns: Week 3- Ole Miss Rebels
The Texas Longhorns came to the Grove with a chip on their shoulder in Week 3, and turned in the best performance of the season so far with a 66-31 thumping of the Ole Miss Rebels. Texas was largely dominant in every facet of the game against a Rebels team, that, while talented, will not be among the SEC‘s best this season.
Let’s take a look at how each positional grouping fared last night at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium:
Texas signal-caller David Ash looked like the David Ash Texas fans have been promised for all this time: confident, calm, and capable. Ash was 19-23 for 326 yards and four touchdowns, including two which tallied more than 45 yards- one to Mike Davis for a 46 yard touchdown and another to Marquise Goodwin for 55 yards.
Ash was slinging the long ball around the field with ease against a Rebels secondary that was over-matched for the task. While his deep balls weren’t always the most accurate, he continually put his receiving corps in the position to make plays and made very few truly errant throws.
If Ash can play with this level of poise and consistency as the Longhorns enter conference play against the Oklahoma State Cowboys in Stillwater on September 22nd, the Longhorns may have themselves a quarterback after all.
Running Backs: A
With the offensive focus on the passing game against the New Mexico Lobos in Week 2, the Texas running backs saw a slight down-turn in production, but picked things right back up last evening as the offensive balance was the best it has been so far. Malcolm Brown finished the evening with 21 carries for 128 yards and two touchdowns, while Joe Bergeron tallied 11 carries for 48 punishing yards.
Brown was dominant, using his combination of speed and power to slice straight through the Ole Miss defense. Bergeron, on the contrary, bullied his way to his 48 yards with several north-south runs. This duo will be a force to be reckoned with in Big 12 conference play, and with the improvement of true freshman John Gray (who had 9 carries for 50 yards) could be a pain to game plan against.
Wide Receivers: A
Marquise Goodwin was the Offensive MVP for Texas last evening, flashing the world-class speed that makes him one of Bryan Harsin and Major Applewhite’s more intriguing offensive options.
Goodwin took a jet sweep for 69 yards and a touchdown and caught another 55-yard touchdown pass from Ash in the second half for good measure, finishing the evening with 182 yards of total offense and two touchdowns on only four touches. This is the type of explosiveness the Texas coaching staff has been preaching as essential all season long.
Mike Davis’ five catches for 124 yards and a long touchdown were a glimpse of what he can produce in the right match-up.
Offensive Line: A
In a word, the Texas offensive line was dominant, constantly pushing Ole Miss off the ball and giving David Ash and the Longhorn running backs all the time in the world to execute. There’s really not much more to say here.
Defensive Secondary: B
For the second-straight week the Texas secondary played well, but still showed some focus gaps that will need to be addressed heading into the Week 5 battle with Oklahoma State. Again, it was obvious that a talented receiver can slice and dice the unit, and this is troublesome given the talent of receiving corps in the Big 12.
Quandre Diggs was the standout for the Horns, picking off two passes and doing his best to control who I thought was the best player on the field on either team last night, Ole Miss stud wide receiver Donte Moncrief. Moncrief finished the game with seven catches for 144 yards and a touchdown and made life miserable for Duane Akina’s troops all evening.
Steve Edmond had a very nice interception which was returned for a touchdown in the game’s opening minutes which set the tone for Texas and established momentum.
Linebackers / Ends: C
Surprisingly, the Texas Longhorns unit believed in the early season to be one of it’s best, has seen some of it’s greatest struggles. The Texas linebackers struggled to finish in the second-level last evening– especially with the departure of leading tackler Jordan Hicks due to an undisclosed injury–and allowed several mundane runs to turn into big gains for Ole Miss running back Jeff Scott, who finished the game with 95 yards and a touchdown on only 9 carries.
Alex Okafor was his usual dominant self, but as a whole Texas will need to be more consistent in the second-level going forward, wrapping up and finishing plays before short runs turn into explosive runs. The “explosiveness factor” is true on both sides of the ball.
Defensive Line: B
The Texas defensive line as a whole was strong last evening, and received a nice performance from it’s resident sleeping giant, Reggie Wilson. The other members of the line did a nice job all night getting enough pressure to make things difficult for Ole Miss signal caller Bo Wallace, who, with the right amount of time, definitely has the ability to dissect a defense.
Special Teams: C
The Texas kicking game was yet again a glaring weakness. True freshman kicker Nick Jordan again missed an easy field goal try, shanking a 37-yarder in the 3rd quarter. Jordan did knock home a 31-yarder late in the first quarter with ease but still doesn’t look like the Longhorns’ best option as a placekicker. Many Texas fans are eagerly awaiting the arrival/health of Penn State transfer Anthony Fera to shore up this position.
In his one kick, punter Alex King blasted a punt for 48 yards. King could indeed be a field position weapon for Texas when things get more interesting.
Kick returns were pretty mundane for Texas and were more functional than anything.
The Texas Longhorns enter a bye week today and retake the field for a September 22nd Big 12 Conference opener against the Oklahoma State Cowboys in Stillwater at a yet to be determined time.
Kris Hughes is the College Football Network Manager for Rant Sports and a member of the Football Writers Association of America.
You can follow him on Twitter or check out his Facebook page. Kris is also the host of the Rant Sports College Football Hour on the TSC Radio Network on Sunday evenings at 8 Central Time and Rant Sports Radio on the Blog Talk Radio Network Wednesday evenings at 8 Central Time.