Every week this fall, we’re looking at a specific number that’s tied to Texas football.
Today’s notable number is 56.
Fifty-six is the number worn by sophomore center Zach Shackelford. The next 300-yard passing performance by a UT quarterback will be the 56th in school history. Over his first two years at Texas, junior Michael Dickson had fair catches called on 56 of his 142 punts.
Fifty-six also accounts for the number of fourth-down conversions attempted over Tom Herman’s two seasons at Houston.
Texas went for it on fourth down four times in last week’s 51-41 loss to Maryland. The Longhorns didn’t have much of a choice on an attempt that occurred in the game’s waning minutes. The team, though, certainly could have sent out its punter or kicker on fourth-down snaps from the Maryland 5, 36 and 44.
That, though, isn’t Herman’s style.
Texas failed to convert on all four of its attempts, but those calls weren’t second-guessed this week. Herman told reporters he has invested in a system that gives analytical breakdowns for various fourth-down situations. Herman said the analysis —which is kept in a color-coded binder — backed his decisions to go for it.
“Now we’ve got to do them better, obviously, or else the binder is going to start saying not to do them,” Herman said.
Over the 2015 and 2016 seasons, Houston was 32 for 56 on fourth-down attempts. Eighteen of those came in the red zone. Scoffed Herman on Monday: “I can’t stand 20-yard field goals.”
Here are some other tidbits about Houston’s fourth-down attempts during the Herman years:
- Houston needed an average of 3.3 yards on those fourth-down tries.
- Twenty-two of the successful attempts came in situations in which UH needed 2 or fewer yards.
- Houston was 13 for 21 when it passed on fourth down. The Cougars were 19 for 35 when they ran.
- Houston was trailing in the fourth quarter on 13 of those 56 attempts. Twenty-two were made before halftime.
San Jose State, meanwhile, has struggled to get stops on fourth down. Over the past two weeks, South Florida (three) and Cal Poly (one) were perfect on their fourth-down tries against the Spartans. Last year, San Jose State stopped only two of the 14 attempts it faced.
Despite Herman’s tendencies and his defense’s track record, San Jose State coach Brent Brennan seems more concerned with UT’s personnel.
“What makes it tough to prepare is that they have so many good players at so many positions,” Brennan said this week. “In terms of whether or not they go for it on fourth down, you don’t prepare for it. You’re just ready for it if they do.”
On back-to-back drives against Maryland, quarterback Shane Buechele was unable to connect on fourth-down passes to Garrett Gray and Chris Warren III. He also took a fourth-down sack near midfield in the fourth quarter, a play that set up Maryland’s game-sealing drive.
Offensive players have taken note of their new coach’s fourth-down inclinations. They also must know an 0-for-4 performance isn’t going to cut it. Wide receiver Collin Johnson said this week that practice makes perfect “so when a game comes around, it’s just second nature.” Texas was 11 of 22 on fourth downs last year.
“He’s not scared to do that, we’ve just got to capitalize,” Johnson said. “That goes to show the faith he has in us; he just kept going for it. We’ve just got to capitalize on those when we get the opportunity in the future.”
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The post Texas’ notable number: Fourth-down attempts — and the number 56 appeared first on HookEm.
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