Mack Brown’s team is in trouble.
Through three games this season, Brown’s Texas Longhorns have allowed more than 300 rushing yards per game, ranking 121st out of 123 teams nationally.
And what a coincidence, the Longhorns (1-2) have to face Kansas State on Saturday — a team that’s largely been a rushing team the last decade under head coach Bill Snyder.
During Monday’s Big 12 coaches teleconference, Brown admitted he expected to see all forms of the run this Saturday in Austin, Texas, including the option, which has been his team’s biggest enemy thus far.
“I think anyone right now will try to run the ball against us,” he said. “We feel like we’ll see a very similar gameplan to what we’ve seen the last two weeks. We haven’t stopped it.”
The Longhorns are allowing 491.3 yards of total offense per game, ranking 114th nationally.
K-State, meanwhile, enters the game at 173 rushing yards per game — although those numbers are a bit skewed after the 329 yards the Wildcats put up against UMass. But using a two-quarterback system, the Wildcats look as balanced as ever right now.
But if anyone thinks Snyder doesn’t know how to go ultra-run against the Longhorns and exploit their run defense, they have a short memory.
It was in 2010 that Snyder threw a curveball at the Longhorns, giving Collin Klein his first-career start. K-State rushed 50 times for 261 yards and scored five rushing touchdowns. Just how committed were the Wildcats to the run? Klein attempted only four passes the entire game.
Klein ran 25 times for 127 yards and two touchdowns, while Daniel Thomas added 18 rushes for 106 yards and two scores in a 39-14 victory.
The Wildcats have won their last five games against the Longhorns, including three straight under Snyder.
Snyder’s victories over the Longhorns in 2011 and 2012 have looked different on the field, but not on the scoreboard. In 2011, the Wildcats squeaked out a 17-13 win in Austin, gaining just 38 yards on 39 rushing attempts with one touchdown.
Last season, the Wildcats locked up the Big 12 title with a 42-24 win over the Longhorns that most probably remember well. It was a balanced effort for K-State, as the Wildcats rushed for 178 yards and five touchdowns to begin the trifecta of Big 12 Championships for the 2012-13 year.
In those last three games, Snyder’s team is averaging 159 yards on the ground and at least three rushing touchdowns.
Despite the clear success and the so called “ownage” of the Longhorns, Snyder is still aware of how far a talented Texas roster can come very quickly.
“I see a team that is playing hard, has talented young people, schemes that are as good as anybody’s,” he said Monday. “I think there is a lot of talk about missed tackles, execution, which is true for a lot of teams, our team as well. I see them getting closer. They can play with anybody.”
After all, it wasn’t that long ago when Snyder’s own team was getting gashed on the ground.
FCS opponent North Dakota State rushed for 215 yards against the Wildcats in Week 1, handing K-State a 24-21 loss at home.
Snyder says his defense is slowly making progress this season, but it’s been slow.
“I don’t think we’ve made a dramatic turnaround, its been a gradual process,” he said. “We’ve still made a plethora of mistakes. Consistency has been the biggest issue. We’ve become a little more consistent, so we’re moving in the right direction. Now my concern is how fast we continue that progression.”
Brown’s issues go further. Already off to a 1-2 start after losses to BYU and Ole Miss, the Longhorns have regularly finished below expectations the past three seasons — including 5-7 record in 2010. The whispers about his exit have been slowly building beyond a dull roar.
After Texas’ loss to BYU, Brown fired defensive coordinator Manny Diaz. He had to do something right? After all, BYU did rush for 550 yards against the Longhorns.
But the real question is, if the Longhorns lose this weekend, how much longer does Brown have himself? Maybe Diaz was the problem in Week 2, but if Brown is part of the larger problem, it won’t get any better anytime soon.