Wyoming (0-0) at (15) Texas (0-0)|
Saturday, September 1, 8:00 p.m. (et)
From The Sports Network
By Gregg Xenakes, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: Winners of 12 straight season openers under the direction of head
coach Mack Brown, the 15th-ranked Texas Longhorns aim to extend that streak
this weekend as they welcome the Wyoming Cowboys to Darrell K. Royal-Texas
Memorial Stadium in Austin for a non-conference showdown.
Since running the table in the regular season back in 2009 before losing to
Alabama for the national championship, 37-21, the Longhorns have under-achieved
by their only lofty standards. Two seasons ago, the program was a mere 5-7 and
missed out on the postseason, and in 2011 the squad was also sub par even
though it was 8-5 overall and took out California in the Holiday Bowl.
During one stretch last season, Texas bowed in five of eight Big 12 matchups,
which is why it finished 4-5 in league play and perhaps expectations have been
tempered a bit heading into 2012.
"We are still young but it's a very talented young team," coach Brown says of
his roster. "John Bianco (Associate AD/Media Relations Director) told me this
morning (Monday) we have 15 freshmen in 18 different positions, because some
of them double-up in the kicking game, and 60 percent of our roster is
underclassmen. I think we could have four seniors starting which is probably
as few as anybody in the country."
As for the Cowboys, led by head coach Dave Christensen who is entering his
fourth campaign in Laramie, they kicked off 2011 well enough with three
straight wins over the likes of Weber State, Texas State and Bowling Green, but
there were a few bumps in the road for the program along the way. Nevertheless,
Wyoming did reel off eight wins in 12 tries during the regular season,
finishing 5-2 versus the rest of the Mountain West Conference, but then was
crushed by Temple in the New Mexico Bowl.
"They just played physically better than us," Christensen said of the Owls at
the time. "My hat's off to them. They're a good running team. They're a good
In terms of the all-time series between the programs, Texas has won all three
pf the previous matchups, including a 34-7 decision in the most recent meeting
back in 2010. Outside of putting up a 13-5 record against Texas-El Paso, the
Cowboys don't have a winning record against any school from the Lone Star
While he didn't exactly have the best day against Temple in his final
appearance in 2011, Wyoming quarterback Brett Smith has nothing to be ashamed
of, not even those three interceptions that stung the Cowboys. Smith, the
Mountain West Conference Freshman of the Year, has plenty of time to show his
ability after setting a new MWC freshman record with 3,332 yards of total
offense in 2011. A solid passer who is only going to get better, Smith is
capable of carrying the Wyoming offense with his legs as well after rushing for
Set on making Smith even more productive down the field are receivers Chris
McNeill and Robert Herron, who are the top two returners at the position who
combined for 85 receptions leading to close to 900 yards and 7 touchdowns. In
the case of McNeill, he did his damage (team-high 504 yards) in just nine
games, so give him a full slate and the sky's the limit.
The defense at the point of attack was a huge concern for the Cowboys last
season as the squad ranked sixth in the conference and 115th in the country in
run defense (232.0 ypg allowed), and was 108th in tackles for loss (4.38 per
game), so hopefully the unit has made some changes in an effort to bolster both
of those areas.
Losing both Gabe Knapton and Josh Biezuns who combined for 11.5 sacks and 19.5
TFLs will be tough to replace, but at least senior free safety Luke Ruff brings
some stability for the defense from the secondary after he placed second on the
team in total tackles with 103 a year ago.
Get the starting nod for the Longhorns at quarterback is David Ash, after
having split time with Case McCoy last season. Ash didn't exactly set the world
on fire with his play, throw for just 83.0 ypg and half as many TDs (four) as
he had INTs (eight), but he does think he and the offense are ready to make
improvements right off the bat.
"We don't want to hurt the defense in any way, because we have a great
defense," Ash claims. "But at the same time, I think our offense can be as
explosive as anybody. I think we can put a lot of points up on the board, and
for sure, we are not going to turn the ball over. We are going to keep the ball
in our hands and take the shots when they are there, and just play good, solid
All three primary receivers from 2011 are back in Mike Davis (45 receptions,
609 yards, 1 TD), Jaxon Shipley (44,607, 3 TDs) and Marquise Goodwin (33, 421,
2) so certainly the expectations for Ash and the rest of the offense to
flourish are there from the very beginning.
As a freshman, Malcolm Brown led the team in rushing with 742 yards and 5
touchdowns, even through he appeared in just 10 games, so again Brown is
expected to deliver for the 'Horns.
As good as the offense might be for Texas, the defense is always the top story,
particularly one that ranked first in the league and sixth nationally in
stopping the run with just 96.2 ypg allowed. Attacking at the line of scrimmage
also gave the Longhorns opportunity to register 7.38 TFL per game which was
third in the Big 12 and 15th in the country a year ago.
Jackson Jeffcoat, a junior defensive end, should be feared by everyone who
lines up to try and push him back. Jeffcoat, a Second-Team All-Big 12 choice
following his sophomore campaign during which he led the team in sacks (8) and
TFLs (21) is on the preseason watch lists for the Nagurski Trophy, Bednarik
Award and Lombardi Award, but is trying to keep his perspective.
"Well, we think we can be good, but you never know until you play that first
game you and keep going. I mean, you've got to take it game by game."
Sophomore defensive back Quandre Diggs also set the bar high for himself last
season with 4 interceptions and 19 passes defended, so he too will have to rise
to the challenge of making the Texas defense even tougher.
As much as the Cowboys might think they can compete with the Longhorns,
tradition and recent history says otherwise and really Wyoming just needs to
keep the score from getting completely out of hand.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Texas 38, Wyoming 13
08/31 10:28:45 ET