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September 16, 2011

Ultimate preview - UT vs. UCLA

TEXAS VS. UCLA
The Opponent
Who: UCLA Bruins
Location: Los Angeles, California
Colors: UCLA Blue, Gold
Series Record: UCLA leads 3-2

Record: 1-1 (0-0 Pac-12)
National Ranking: N/A

Head Coach: Rick Neuheisel
Record at UCLA: 16-23 (4th year)
Total Record: 82-53 (12th year)


The Game
When: Sept. 17, 2011, 2:30 p.m. CDT
Where: Pasadena, California
Venue: Rose Bowl

TV: ABC
Radio: Longhorn Sports Network Radio (affiliates)

Vegas Line: Texas -4

The Numbers

1: Through two games, Texas has recorded just one sack. That came courtesy of defensive tackle Ashton Dorsey's takedown against UCLA last week.

27: Total passing yards allowed to UCLA in the 2010 match-up.

41: Mack Brown has now played 133 of a
possible 323 true freshmen (41.2%) in his
14 seasons at Texas.

264: Total rushing yards allowed to UCLA in the 2010 match-up.

The Quote
"UCLA is the most explosive offense we've played. We've gotten off to a good start on defense because we've not allowed big plays. The longest run UCLA had was 9 yards, and they had two passes over 20 yards and none over 30. That's part of our philosophy. UCLA will, by far, be the sternest test in terms of their speed. They have running backs who can go all the way. They have receivers who can win one-on-one down the field and take it all the way. And they have a tight end (Fauria) they can stretch the field with.

"UCLA has the by far the biggest play potential we've faced. So our mistakes can be punished at a level they have not been punished before. They have guys who can hit home runs. That's our challenge - to keep the ball in the yard."
- Manny Diaz

At some schools, a 2-0 start is worthy of celebration. At Texas, when that start is accompanied by a sluggish offense, it means a quarterback change.

Junior Garrett Gilbert saw his run as starter end after victories over Rice and BYU that came mostly in spite of the offense rather than because of it. Instead, coach Mack Brown will go with some combination of sophomore Case McCoy and freshman David Ash under center.

"We thought Case did a good job on the final drive for sure to lead to points. We thought David still brings that different dimension," Brown said. "I thought Garrett did a great job, and what Garrett will do is compete again like he has throughout this competition to go back and try to get his job back. And while he's doing that, I'm sure he'll be pulling for the other guys. That's the type of young man he is."

There's also a change in the depth chart at running back, where Malcolm Brown is now listed alongside Fozzy Whittaker, and at wideout, where Marquise Goodwin is back among the starting 11. It's all an attempt to reboot an offense that, for much of the BYU game, was painful to watch.

"We're just trying to put enough plays together right now on offense to get an identity because we've still got to find out who we are," Brown said. "For whatever reason, we just seemed confused the other night. We weren't in sync. We didn't have confidence, and then all of a sudden we come out of halftime, and they look like they're on the same page and they're moving forward. So all those things are what we're got to figure out."

The big name among all of the new starters is McCoy, whose brother Colt is a Longhorn legend and current NFL quarterback. He'll be the focus of attention when he's on the field against UCLA, and Brown sees some similarities between the siblings.

"The things that are similar, if you put the same number on them and you throw out names and just put them out there-he's got the quick release. He's very accurate. He's got an easy ball to catch. He's got quick feet. I thought when he scrambled on the fourth-down play to D.J. Grant, 'we've seen that before,'" Brown said. "So I do think there are a lot of similarities."

The Longhorns are hoping not to see any similarities to the last game with the Bruins. That came a year ago, when UCLA came to Austin and dominated in a 34-12 upset.

"We all remember last year and what they were able to do to us," safety Blake Gideon said. "To put it lightly, that was embarrassing, especially in the second half, what they were able to do to us. You know, it's one thing if a team can throw against you if they have a quarterback and a set of receivers that are just lights out. But to run the ball on you, especially between the tackles, that's a test of manhood. That's a test of how much work and how many hours you put in the weight room-physicality."

NOTES, QUOTES

• The key to Texas' 2-0 start is its dominance in the fourth quarter. Through two games, the Longhorns have outscored their opponents 21-0, have 14 first downs and surrendered one, and allowed just 50 yards of total offense.

• Much has been made of the Longhorns' hope to get revenge for UCLA's beat-down in Austin a year ago. That's good motivation, but a lot of the players on the roster weren't playing key roles in 2010. Chief among them: the freshman class. Of the 23 true freshmen on the roster, 18 have played already this season, including likely starting running back Malcolm Brown and a possible starter at quarterback in David Ash.

Players To Watch:  

QB David Ash-Among the two quarterbacks listed atop the depth chart, Case McCoy is the big name, thanks to the success of his older brother in Austin and in the NFL. But Ash looked very good at times against UCLA, throwing, running, and even catching a pass for yardage in key spots. As the freshman gains more experience and makes better decisions with the ball on the option, he has the potential to be a top college quarterback.

CB Quandre Diggs-The true freshman has looked very good in the secondary so far, with a big interception to seal the game against UCLA. He hasn't faced a quarterback who can test defenses deep this season, but there's no evidence that UCLA has one of those guys either, which means he's in good position to be a difference-maker once again.

RB D.J. Monroe-Monroe has just 10 touches through two games, but has averaged 10.9 yards on his eight carries and two receptions. His speed gives him the ability to make things happen on offense, and he'll likely get more chances to shine against UCLA.

-- Sports Xchange

THREE BRUINS TO WATCH

RB Johnathan Franklin - Rushing: 32 carries for 209 yards and 2 TDs; Receiving: 4 catches for 19 yards - It was actually RB Derrick Coleman who lit up San Jose State last week, but Coleman torhced Texas in Austin last year to the tune of 118 yards rushing and 1 TD. Franklin has great speed and can pop a big play if Texas doesn't corral him early.

TE Joseph Fauria - In two games this year, Fauria has caught 7 passes for an impressive 124 yards (17.7 ypc) and 2 TDs. The BYU tight ends were able to hurt Texas early before UT switched to more man-to-man coverage. Manny Diaz will need to find a way to keep Fauria in check to help neutralize UCLA's passing game.

S Tony Dye - A fixture in UCLA's defense the past few years, Dye is off to a solid start in 2011. He has 13 tackles after leading the team in tackles last year. Dye is on several post-season award watch lists.

KEYS TO THE GAME

1. Shut down the run early - Texas did a great job of keeping BYU's ground game in check, but the task will be tougher this week against the same group of UCLA backs that ran all over UT last year. Texas cannot afford to let UCLA establish early momentum on the ground and gain confidence. If the Longhorns can take Coleman and Franklin out of the game early, the UCLA QBs could really struggle.

2. Withstand the pressure - Both Case McCoy and David Ash will be under intense scrutiny this week, and the young QBs will face a real test to play at a high level on the road. Neither QB has faced this kind of pressure in his young college career. Texas needs them to hold up and make smart choices.

3. Win the special teams - UCLA has a terrific punter who can flip the field, but other than that, Texas holds the special teams edge. The Bruins' kicker has been inconsistent and he may not even be available this week. The team actually tried out a student manager from the soccer team this week in case they need another leg.


UCLA VS. TEXAS MATCHUP BREAKDOWN
UCLA PASS OFFENSE VS. TEXAS PASS DEFENSE
EDGE:

Texas

Texas ranks 19th nationally in yards given up through the air and 17th nationally in pass efficiency defense. UCLA checks in at No. 53 in passing offense, 36th in pass efficiency.

After the way the Bruins ran all over Texas last year, UCLA is regarded by most in Austin as a run-based team. But, the Bruins' passing game is improved from a year ago. After being non-existent a year ago, the team has actually used the passing game as a weapon at times in 2011. Both quarterbacks (Richard Brehaut and Kevin Prince) are expected to be available this week.

The Texas secondary has been stellar through two games. The veteran safeties have played well and the team's young cornerbacks have exceeded expectations.

UCLA RUN OFFENSE VS. TEXAS RUN DEFENSE
EDGE:

UCLA

Just like last year, the UCLA ground game is outstanding. Two weeks in a row, the Bruins have had a back go over 100 yards. Derrick Coleman, the team's power back, went for 135 yards and a score last week. Johnathan Franklin is the home-run hitter out of the backfield.

Texas struggled to contain the run against Rice, but the run defense really stepped up to the plate last week against a good BYU ground game. The task gets tougher this week. Ashton Dorsey's presence in the middle and improved play from the linebackers will help UT's chances.

UCLA OFFENSIVE LINE VS. TEXAS DEFENSIVE LINE
EDGE:

Texas

The UCLA offensive line has not given up a sack yet this year and has done a very good job in the run game. In each of the first two games, UCLA has had one back rush for well over 100 yards and another rush for over 80 yards. UCLA insiders this week described this group as "an adequate unit that should get better."

Texas still needs more pressure from its defensive line in the passing game (only one sack on the year) but the defensive front did play pretty well last week. Dorsey was clearly the best of the bunch against BYU and a much-needed shot in the arm. Will this be the week when the defensive ends step up and turn in some big plays?
UCLA RUN DEFENSE VS. TEXAS RUN OFFENSE
EDGE:

Texas

Coming into the season, it was believed that UCLA would have a very strong group of linebackers by those close to the team, but this unit has started slowly. The athleticism of the unit has come into question. Patrick Larimore is a solid player in the middle. Weakside linebacker Sean Westgate is a bit undersized but he's an effort guy.

The story of the UT ground game has been the quick emergence of Malcolm Brown, who could be the first back on the field this week. The true freshman has been, by far, the team's most effective runner of all the pure tailbacks. D.J. Monroe continues to make plays every time he's given a chance. Fozzy Whittaker has done well as a receiver and Cody Johnson has had success in short-yardage situations.

UCLA PASS DEFENSE VS. TEXAS PASS OFFENSE
EDGE:

UCLA

Through two games, the UCLA cornerbacks have been outstanding. Starters Sheldon Price and Aaron Hester have great size at 6-2 and 6-1, respectively, and they're both track guys. Teams have had success throwing into the flats and hitting passes in front of the safeties.

It's pretty much impossible to predict what to expect from the UT passing game this week with two new starters at quarterback. Case McCoy was very efficient last week but UCLA will try to take away the short throws and force him to complete throws 10+ yards downfield. Jaxon Shipley continues to star and Marquise Goodwin made a quick return. Mike Davis needs to become more consistent and UT really needs some of its young guys to step up.
UCLA DEFENSIVE LINE VS. TEXAS OFFENSIVE LINE
EDGE:

Texas

This is a familiar story for UCLA (and for Texas, for that matter), but the Bruins' defensive line had the look of a stout unit in pre-season camp. But the group has not lived up to expectations in the first two weeks. Datone Jones looks like an NFL player and was terrific in camp, but he hasn't done much yet in 2011.

The Texas offensive line is playing well and it made some good strides last week against a very sound BYU defense. Surprisingly, the strength has been on the interior, where Dominic Espinosa and Mason Walters have played well. The o-line has been able to open up some running lanes and the pass protection has been solid.

UCLA SPECIAL TEAMS VS. TEXAS SPECIAL TEAMS
EDGE:

Texas

UCLA's special teams have been exciting, but not in a good way. Kicker Kip Smith missed a PAT and short FG against Houston. He's dealing with a hip flexor and may not be available this week. Jeff Locke is one of country's best punters, but he did have an off game last week.

Justin Tucker is extremely reliable as a place kicker and he's a solid punter, but Texas does need more production from its return units. Shipley had a nice punt return last week, but UT's speed on kick returns has been negated through the first two games, much like it was last year.


-- Suchomel


UCLA VS. TEXAS PREDICTIONS
Ketchum Brown Suchomel Howell Adams McComas Gaspar Quarter

Texas
2-0

Texas
2-0
Texas
2-0
Texas
2-0
Texas
2-0
Texas
2-0
Texas
2-0
Texas
1-1




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