AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas has changed its play-caller.
But it will not change the plays Major Applewhite calls.
"I don't see a lot changing before the bowl game because they were already into the game plan and so we will be pretty much who we have been all year in the bowl game," said Texas coach Mack Brown.
Yep, the offense it had under former co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin is good enough for Oregon State and the Valero Alamo Bowl. So take a seat D.J. Monroe. Grab a spot on the sideline Daje Johnson. And find a place to put that helmet down Malcolm Brown.
OK, it probably won’t be that extreme despite the fact that, for weeks at a time, it was that extreme under Harsin. When Harsin ran what he liked to call a multiple attack it really translated into the myopic singling out of players for time and touches. One week Johnson wouldn’t get a touch, questions would be asked, and suddenly there he was featured prominently the next. Ditto for Jaxon Shipley and others.
Eventually Harsin just gave up the fight and allowed that there was only one ball to go around. The fifth-grade talent show juggling act was over. Or at least the guise that Harsin was attempting to or even knew how to juggle was finally over.
Now Applewhite has been left to pick up the pieces. Texas doesn’t want to mess with where Applewhite place those pieces too much given that practice time is limited as is this team’s capacity for adroitly adapting to change. It will be spring before offensive changes will be implemented.
"We want to get through the bowl game first and then start looking at changes in scheme and we'll start looking at some of that," Brown said. "We will still have a lot of who we are and what we are in the spring, but I think all of these guys have their own ideas, and they will move forward."
But the idea that Texas could unfurl the exact offense against Oregon State and then have it hang as limply as the one against Kansas State, TCU and Oklahoma might inspire some to walk a short plank over the San Antonio River Walk. And it is those three teams -- KSU, TCU and OU -- that most closely resemble this Oregon State team. All four defenses are ranked in the top 45 nationally with the Beavers at No. 33.
Kansas State, TCU and Oklahoma managed to hold Texas to an average of 334 yards. While that is enough to get a job at Arkansas State, it is not enough to beat Oregon State. The three teams that beat Oregon State – Washington, Stanford and Oregon -- averaged 427 yards in those games. The nine teams Oregon State beat only averaged 329 yards on offense.
To not think that Applewhite won’t at least tinker with some of the offense given that it scored two touchdowns of consequence in the last two games -- two others were scored on desperation drives with Texas trailing by 10 or more with less than 3:30 left in the game -- is akin to looking at the 200 or so inside the Alamo and then out at the 6,000 Santa Anna had and believing a fair fight was about to ensue. It’s naive and delusional.
Applewhite is sure to make some changes. Not fundamental shifts in blocking schemes, etc., but undoubtedly more skills from more players will be exploited in an effort to dictate the offensive game rather than allowing the defense to dictate what is done on offense. That’s not say Applewhite is not going to exclusively just take what Oregon State gives his offense – that was his MO as a quarterback after all – but with the talent at his disposal exclusively being reactionary in play-calling simply does not work.
That fact had to be evident as the film from the final two games was picked apart. What also cannot be overlooked is that Johnson and Monroe touched the ball a limited number of times in Texas four losses, but were the top playmakers on the field when they did touch it.
Monroe had three overall touches in the four losses and averaged 19 yards per touch. Johnson had only had an average of four touches per game in the four losses and averaged 13.75 yards per touch. Malcolm Brown averaged 6.4 yards on his 13 touches against Kansas State, the most of the three traditional running backs.
The point is to change the direction of the offense, Applewhite doesn’t have to change all the offense all that much. He just has to get the ball in the hands of those players who have proven the ability to make plays within the offense that has already been established at Texas.
Do that and maybe there will be some change for the Longhorns.