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Texas’ notable number: Big plays against the Longhorns — and the number seven

Posted October 13th, 2017

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Every week this fall, we’re looking at a specific number that’s tied to Texas football.

This week’s notable number is seven.

The No. 7 is worn at Texas by both sophomore quarterback Shane Buechele and senior defensive back Antwuan Davis. The Texas defense, meanwhile, remains perfect on fourth-down plays this year, having stopped all seven conversion attempts it has faced, and former Longhorn Michael Huff averaged a school-record 23.1 yards on the returns of his seven career interceptions.

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Seven also represents the total plays of at least 40 yards surrendered by Texas this season.

According to www.cfbstats.com, Texas ranks 80th among FBS-level schools in 40-yard plays allowed. (UT is tied with eight other teams.) Northern Illinois and Washington have yet to give up such a gain. Tulsa has relinquished 18.

“I think so far we’ve done a really good job,” sophomore safety Brandon Jones said. “There’s always room for improvement. I think from here on out, we’re just going to go up from that and try to minimize as much big plays as we can.”

Maryland wide receiver Taivon Jacobs (12) prepares to haul in a pass as Texas defensive back P.J. Locke III (11) gives chase during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Austin, Texas, on Saturday, September 2, 2017. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Maryland wide receiver Taivon Jacobs (12) prepares to haul in a pass as Texas defensive back P.J. Locke III (11) gives chase on Sept. 2, 2017. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Here are the gains of at least 40 yards against Texas’ defense. The Longhorns surrendered touchdowns on four of these plays:

  • Maryland’s Ty Johnson: 50-yard run on Sept. 2.
  • Maryland’s Taivon Jacobs: 46-yard catch on Sept. 2.
  • Maryland’s Ty Johnson: 40-yard run on Sept. 2.
  • Maryland’s DJ Moore: 46-yard catch on Sept. 2.
  • Maryland’s DJ Moore: 40-yard catch on Sept. 2.
  • USC’s Ronald Jones: 56-yard catch on Sept. 16.
  • Kansas State’s Dalton Schoen: 82-yard catch on Oct. 7.

Throughout the season, members of the UT defense have conceded that big plays will happen. The Longhorns, though, have focused on not letting those slip-ups snowball into an avalanche of points. Texas is allowing 23.8 points per game, which ranks 50th nationally.

“They’re going to make plays,” said junior safety DeShon Elliott, who has five interceptions. “Let it go, get it out of your head and keep moving. Don’t let it happen again and try to make plays yourself.”

Texas had mixed results when it came to limiting big plays during Charlie Strong’s three-year coaching tenure. UT surrendered 14 gains of at least 40 yards last season. In 2014, however, Texas yielded a NCAA-low three such plays.

Texas flashed back to 2016 when it surrendered five long gains in its season-opening loss to Maryland. The Longhorns have allowed only two similar plays in their past four games. One of those defensive breakdowns, though, allowed USC to score at the end of the first half of its double-overtime win over UT.

This weekend, UT will attempt to stall an Oklahoma offense that has produced 12 40-yard plays this season. Cfbstats.com has only Stanford (16), North Texas (15), Auburn (14), Baylor and Notre Dame (13) with more ginormous gains. The Longhorns, though, don’t need to be told about the home-run threats at Oklahoma.

In last year’s 45-40 loss to the Sooners, Texas gave up 42-, 47-, 51- and 71- yard gains. Taking advantage of quarterback Baker Mayfield’s ability to scramble and extend plays with his feet, receiver Dede Westbrook had three lengthy touchdown catches. Westbrook was drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars this past spring.

Mayfield, though, is back, and he leads the nation in completion percentage (74.6) and passing efficiency (214.1). A stat line with 15 touchdown passes has yet to be blemished by any interceptions. One of Mayfield’s touchdown tosses was an 82-yarder against Tulane.

“Baker puts a lot of pressure on us; he is a great quarterback and a Heisman candidate,” Jones said. “Baker has incredible footwork and can make really hard throws; we must stay in coverage and not scramble around.”

PAST NOTABLE NUMBERS

Sept. 1: 1, and mobile quarterbacks

Sept. 8: 56, and Tom Herman’s fourth-down history

Sept. 15: 78, and NFL-ready quarterbacks

Sept. 28: 13, and a deep receiving corps

Oct. 6: 11, and time of possession

The post Texas’ notable number: Big plays against the Longhorns — and the number seven appeared first on Hook ‘Em.

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