Slow start trend alarming for Longhorns

AUSTIN, Texas -- The grumblings among the 101,142 people in attendance for Texas’ season opener against Wyoming on Saturday were as familiar as, well, the grumblings from those that struggled along with the Longhorns in 2011.

All the hype and newfound expectations for this team were met with one dud of a three-and-out on their first offensive possession, which Wyoming followed with a 10-play drive and a 3-0 lead.

Yes, Texas won the game comfortably, 37-17. But it ended the first quarter behind 9-7, begging the question: What’s with the continuous pounding of the snooze button during the early goings by this program?

“It was the first game jitters thing,” said junior defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat. “A lot of guys were nervous in their first starts. We just need to make sure we get back to working. They have that first game out of their system now. We are playing at home again and we’ve seen that before. It should be exciting and a different story.”

That could be. Several players were making their first starts for Texas, which also played 12 true freshmen.

But this is a trend that presented itself early and often in 2011 when the Longhorns were held scoreless in the first quarter five times and saw their opponent score first in nine contests.

Rice took a 3-0 lead less than five minutes into the season opener and Texas was only able to end the first quarter in a tie.

BYU jumped out to a 13-0 lead in the second game and took a 13-3 lead into halftime. Texas needed a Cody Johnson 4-yard run with 8:46 left in the fourth to squeak out a 17-16 victory.

The Longhorns got off to great starts in consecutive road games against UCLA and Iowa State but lost the Red River Rivalry before the third quarter kicked off.

Texas was in the game against No. 3 Oklahoma after the first quarter. But that 6-3 deficit ballooned into a 34-10 hole by halftime in a game it would lose 55-17.

The Longhorns had a chance to redeem themselves the following week when No. 6 Oklahoma State came to town but fell behind 7-0 after one quarter and were down 21-10 at halftime. They got to within 28-24 in the third but it was too little, too late in a game it would lose 38-26.

Texas demolished Texas Tech, 52-20, but still trailed 3-0 and was tied 3-3 after one.

For only the fourth time to date last season, the Longhorns actually took a first quarter lead against an opponent. But that 3-0 advantage against Missouri turned into a 14-3 deficit over the next 12 minutes in a game it lost 17-5.

The curse of Kansas State continued early the following week in Austin when the Wildcats took a 3-0 lead after the first and a 10-3 lead into halftime. Texas’ comeback bid wasn’t to be as Kansas State won their fourth straight over the Longhorns with a 17-13 victory.

The following week at Texas A&M saw the Aggies take a 13-0 lead early in the second quarter and a 16-7 lead into halftime before Texas used a 17-point third quarter and a last-second 40-yard Justin Tucker field goal to win 27-25.

The trend continued in the regular season finale against Baylor, which jumped out to a 14-0 first quarter lead in a game it would trail in the second quarter but eventually win handily 48-24.

Cal even took a 3-0 lead after the first quarter in the Holiday Bowl.

Luckily, for Texas, it has a knack for winning close games as it did twice last season in games decided by three points or less (BYU and Texas A&M); the Longhorns have won 18 of their last 19 games decided by that margin. Otherwise that 8-5 record could have been much more mediocre.

“It’s one of the things that Coach [Mack] Brown and Coach [Bryan] Harsin talk about is we need to start fast and I think that is important because if we start fast that builds momentum not only for the offense but for the defense,” Longhorns receiver Jaxon Shipley said. “It gets everybody hyped up. I think if we start fast it will obviously help us in the long run.”

The Longhorns didn’t start fast against Wyoming and that could have been because of the uncertainty of what the Cowboys would do defensively with a new defensive coordinator.

“So, we got off to a slow start offensively. We had to adjust to a lot of things," Brown said. "We tried to start with up-tempo because we thought that would make them more vanilla. But then we just didn’t do well in it so we came out of it and did a better job with conventional tempo.”

Texas has film of New Mexico’s 66-21 drubbing of Southern from Saturday so it should know what to expect from the Lobos this weekend. Now it’s just a matter of waking up at kickoff and easing off that snooze button.

"Hopefully this next game we will start off fast and that will build some momentum for us,” Shipley said.