Cal vs. Texas Holiday Bowl Preview: The Longhorns Rushing Attack

Texas likes to run the ball the way Dr. Seuss liked green eggs n' ham.

They will run it on any down or distance, out of any formation, and with nary a nod towards the score or game clock. Case in point, down by 17 against Baylor in the 4th quarter, the Longhorns still had a two to one rush/pass ratio on their play-calling.

Former Boise State offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin has adapted to his personnel with a ball-control game leaning heavily on power-running and short passing. They'll also use fly sweeps, reverses, and pitch plays to take advantage of over-pursuit or to attack the edges. Once they establish the run, they'll use the same formations to set up play-action for shots down the field.

Let's take a closer look at their favorite formations:

12 Personnel, Two Tight Ends, One Back: "The Stampede"


They like lining their tight ends up in one position, then using pre-snap motion to shift the strength of the formation either on the line or with an H-back. They'll also throw play-action passes to their tight ends out of this look. (Dooooom!)

This formation is all about power. Besides two talented TEs, they have fullback Cody Johnson lined up deep in the backfield as their tailback.


Sometimes they'll line their TEs in the slot as receivers and then shift them back onto the line.


Or, they'll line up as receivers and go into motion like an H-back.


But, it's all for show. They really just want to pound it straight ahead.


And use their Oline to push forward in a cloud of dust for 4-5 yards on first down.


21 Personnel, One Tight End, Two Backs: "The Cattle Drive"


Besides inside/outside zone running, they'll use pitch plays outside or run a reverse to their wideouts. Off their fly sweep motion, they'll either fake and give to back, give on the fly sweep, or fake the sweep and flip it back outside.


They'll put one of their wide receivers into motion right before the snap.


And now they have three options. They can give it to the receiver outside, hand-off to the deep back inside, or fake the inside hand-off and flip it back outside to the other back.


In this case, it's the Dreaded Fly Sweep. Nothing to worry about here, right Cal fans? (sigh)


11 Personnel, One Tight End, One Back: "El Pistolero"


They give the ball to the back...or the quarterback keeps it. MADNESS!!!

For this formation, they've brought David Ash in at QB instead of Chance McCoy. Sometimes he'll just run a designed QB keeper in their version of the Wild Cat, aka The Mad Cow.


In this case, their QB fakes the inside hand-off and reads the unblocked end. The LT moves to pick off the MLB and the TE runs ahead to take out the OLB.


And there goes the QB running through the entire defense after the DE threw himself at the tailback.


The safeties finally make the tackle, but not after a long gain. Good thing this never happens to the Bears!


Projected Starters:

28 Malcolm Brown(Fr) - TB, 6'0, 215 lbs
11 Cody Johnson(Sr) - FB, 5'11, 250 lbs

Offensive Line

68 Josh Cochran(Fr) - LT, 6'6, 275 lbs
78 David Snow(Sr) - LG, 6'4, 295 lbs
55 Dominic Espinosa(Fr*) - C, 6'4, 295 lbs
72 Mason Walters(So) - RG, 6'6, 305 lbs
75 Trey Hopkins(So) - RT, 6'4, 290 lbs

18 D.J. Grant(Jr) - TE, 6'3, 238 lbs
19 Blaine Irby(Sr), TE, 6'3, 237 lbs


With senior workhorse Fozzy Whittaker lost for the year with an injury, the Longhorns have gone with tailback by committee all year. 5-Star uber-frosh Malcolm is their most dangerous runner, but was slowed by injuries later in the year. He's the shiftiest of the Texas backs with the speed to run by you and the power to run over you. Fellow frosh Joe Bergeron is rumored to still be out with a lingering hamstring injury. Fullback Cody Johnson is their short yardage specialist and has also been used at tailback in their power run game. Jeremy Hills is serviceable and may get a few snaps to spell the others.

This sets up the perfect scenario for Cal football: we'll either get a player reportedly slowed by injury recovering just in time to break our hearts, or we'll give a previously unheralded reserve the chance to have a career day.


Rushing Offense = #19 nationally, #3 in the Big-12, 210.4 yards per game. 23 TDs.

TB Malcom Brown(Fr) = 78.56 yards/game, 15.9 carries/game, 4.4 ypc, 5 TD
TB Joe Bergeron(Fr) = 45.40 yards/game, 9.8 carries/game, 6.6 ypc, 5 TD
TB Jeremy Hills(Sr) = 27 yards/game, 5.8 carries/game, 4.6 ypc
TB Cody Johnson(Sr) = 19.9 yards/game, 4.8 carries/game, 4.2 ypc, 5 TD

WR D.J. Monroe(Jr) = 27.17 yards/game, 3.9 carries/game, 6.9 ypc, 1 TD
WR Marquise Goodwin(Jr) = 26.7 yards/game, 2.9 carries/game 9.4 ypc

QB David Ash = 24.6 yards/game, 5.9 carries/game, 4.2 ypc, 1 TD

Wins: (7)
Rice (34-9) 48 248
BYU (17-16) 43 176
UCLA (49-20) 50 187

Iowa State (37-14) 40 187

Kansas (43-0) 72 457
Texas Tech (52-20) 54 451
Texas A&M (27-25) 37 102

344 rushes for 1808 yards, 5.2 ypc, 258.3 yards/game, 49.1 attempts/game

Losses: (5)
Oklahoma (17-55) 45 153
Oklahoma St. (26-38) 49 286
Missouri (5-17) 29 101
Kansas St. (13-17) 42 212
Baylor (24-48) 45 220

210 rushes for 972 yards, 4.6 ypc, 194.4 yards/game, 42 attempts/game


The attempts per game doesn't vary significantly between wins or losses; these boys want to run and are stubborn with it. The yards per carry and total yardage are quite different and will go a long way to determining the outcome of this game.

The fact that both wide receivers average a few rushes per game suggests that we'll need to be wary of fly sweeps and reverses.

Although Chance/Chase/Case McCoy will probably start, they might occasionally bring in David Ash/Soot/Ember as a change-up to run a Wildcat-like offense, or to execute the zone-read. (DOH!!!)

Keys to Stopping the Texas Run Game:

1) It's cliched, but dominating the line of scrimmage and winning the early downs to force 3rd and long are the keys to stopping any run-based attack.

2) Stay disciplined and know your assignments

The Longhorns have plenty of film on games where our overly aggressive defense was exploited on the edges or with mis-direction. This was clearly intentional so that Texas will be caught off guard when our defenders stay home. Strategery!

3) Fight off perimeter blocks

We already know that it's going to be a knife-fight in the trenches. But it'll be up to our secondary and linebackers to evade or fight off blocks on the edges, especially when they line their TEs up as receivers.

4) Punch them in the mouth

Big, bad Texas would like nothing better than to saunter in and steam-roll the soft, little hippies. If we stand up to the bully early and often, it'll go a long way towards setting the tone for this game.

It's been a long time coming, folks. Let's mess with Texas.

Go Bears!

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