Texas vs Wyoming
Longhorns tangle with Cowboys: Longhorn Game Day is upon us
"Many are picking them to win their league. They also have gone to two bowl [games] in the last three years for the first time since 1988 and 1990. The Cowboys were ranked 10th nationally, forcing 31 turnovers, and they were ninth in turnover margin.
"That's an area we have really been talking about for the last couple years that we need to continue to improve. So it should be a great test with them coming in, forcing so many turnovers and taking care of the football," said Texas Head Coach Mack Brown
Texas vs. Wyoming just sounds cool. Longhorns vs. Cowboys? The battle of the old west.
Yeah, Wyoming was bad for a long time, but these last few years have been good to the Cowboys. Now entering his fourth year as head coach, Dave Christianson is close to delivering Wyoming fans a Mountain West Conference Championship. It would be their first championship since 1993. It doesn't hurt that TCU is no longer in that conference, but nevertheless the Cowboys can turn the tide. They've won two bowl games in the last three years and finished 8-5 last year; they hadn't won eight games in a season since 1998.
Royal-Memorial Stadium seats nearly as many fans during one game (100,000+) as Wyoming seats in a whole season (130,000 last season).
Texas, well, that's another story. Had Texas gone 8-5 last season fans would be... oh wait... had they not won the Holiday Bowl they would have — yikes. But that's flawed thinking; this game will be fun to watch and perhaps competitive for awhile and Wyoming will lose tomorrow.
The truth is, the Cowboys just can't compete with the speed, strength and size of the Longhorns. Texas not only enjoys an edge in size and speed, they also enjoy a huge home field advantage. One of the most fun things to see during home games at Royal-Memorial Stadium is the opposing team trotting out of the locker room on the north side of the field while 100,000 Longhorn faithful sing "Texas Fight."
On Saturday, watch the boys in brown as they trot out. Royal-Memorial Stadium seats nearly as many fans during one game (100,000+) as Wyoming seats in a whole season (130,000 last season). In fact many of Texas high school stadiums are as large as Wyoming's 30,000 seat War Memorial Stadium. Talk about intimidating.
"Their head coach [Dave Christianson] knows us very well from his Missouri days. So he'll have an idea of how to handle this environment when they come in. They have got an older football team, so that's a factor too," said Brown. They will start seven seniors on defense and three on the offensive line.
Wyoming matches up well for Texas.
Their star player is sophomore quarterback Brett Smith. Smith won the 2011 Mountain West Freshman Player of the Year last season scoring over 30 touchdowns and throwing for 2,600 yards. He's really good. He can run outside of the pocket, has a strong arm and captains a complicated offense. Here's what defensive coordinator Manny Diaz had to say about the Cowboy offense:
We are going against an offense that's a rule of exception. They are going to line up in empty formations. They are going to line up in unbalanced formations. They are going to line up in tackle-over formations.
Everything to make you, when you say, “Hey, let's go, you know, fire up, knock 'em back,” and all then of a sudden, you have to get your protractor out there and start doing calculations on where they are all at. That's by design. That's what they do. They have very creative offensive coaches.
The problem? Who Smith is throwing to, and who is running alongside him. (Smith led the team in rushing last season, too.)
One Cowboy strength is turnover ratio. Wyoming does not give up the ball easily and they had 31 takeaways last year, good for 10th in the country.
On the defensive side there are issues for sure. The Cowboy defense got killed on the ground, giving up huge chunks of yards to average teams. That stat gets mouths watering for the Texas offense. This will be Longhorn Nation's first look at Johnathan Gray, the all-everything running back and national high school player of the year.
Texas may have the best stable of running backs in the country. Either Joe Bergeron or last year's leading rusher Malcolm Brown will start, but Gray will get time. Look for Gray to get a lot of touches in the fourth quarter and look for Texas to run the ball 50 times Saturday.
Brown and co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin made no secret of how close the race for starting quarterback was and they will be grading.
This game is perfect for the Horns. Wyoming will be competitive — the team can play. Texas needs an opportunity to line up against more than a team they can beat. They need a team like Wyoming that can give the coaches a good look at their quarterbacks and offensive line.
David Ash will start, but my bet is Case McCoy will see significant time. This is in all respects an additional week of try-outs for those two. Brown and co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin made no secret of how close the race for starting quarterback was and they will be grading. Further, the offensive line remains a question. That squad needs to push Wyoming around, and frankly, anything less than 250 yards rushing or any sack of the quarterback will have fans and coaches fuming.
For the Texas defense, can you say shutout? You know that's what Diaz and Brown have in mind. Unless Wyoming scores against the second and third-teamers, a shutout is a good possibility. "We want to dominate," challenged Brown. "[Wyoming] is a good offensive football team. They have a good quarterback, and he's experienced. It will be fun to see how our defense can handle it."
What to Watch
Texas will win, stop worrying about that. If you gamble, worry about the line; it's at 28.5.
Leadership. Game day is the one time fans get to see how the players react to each other. Mack Brown has stressed the need for strong player leadership on this team. How will the veterans react when assignments are missed and plays are blown?
Run the ball often and get those great running backs some reps. The running game needs to anchor this offense. Can Malcolm Brown start with a 100 yard game?
Who throws the ball with more authority, Ash or McCoy? And who makes better decisions in the pocket?
How dominant will the defense be? Will we start the season with a shut out?
The Longhorns are initiating new tradition this year, the "Stadium Stampede." Let Mack Brown describe it.
Smokey the Cannon will be shot at 4:30 p.m. Our team will be pulling up around 5 p.m. up at the corner of 23rd and Robert Dedman Drive — that's just west of the LBJ fountain. So we want all the fans together at that point. The Texas Cheerleaders will be there. The Longhorn Band will be there.
Our players will pull up and they will get out of the bus. Instead of walking straight into the stadium they will walk down the hill, hopefully to a lot of fans, and they will walk through the Tom and Cinda Hicks [North Gate] at the north end of the stadium and go across the field to get ready to go. Players actually rehearsed that on Thursday night at our game scrimmage. They were very, very excited about the change, but we would like to have a great crowd there.
And of course, there's a new Jumbotron video leading the players onto the field, called "It's a New day." About 99,000 fans in the stadium Saturday night certainly hope so.
Texas Longhorns vs. Wyoming Cowboys
Time: 7 p.m. - Darrell K. Royal — Texas Memorial Stadium
Television: The Longhorn Network
Radio: KVET-FM 98.1 / KVET-AM 1300
Honored: Legendary Head Coach Darrell K. Royal and wife Edith will be honored before the game, walking out on the field for the coin toss. That is a not-to-be-missed moment for any Longhorn fan.
Grande Communications and The Longhorn Network will also showcase a public viewing of the game at Republic Square Park (400 Guadalupe Street) that starts at 6 p.m.