When the Oklahoma Sooners were zooming into the end zone in a Red River rout of Texas, no group of Longhorns looked more befuddled than the youngsters in the secondary.
The Sooners rolled up 300 yards passing and a 34-10 lead by halftime against a group that struggled to cover or tackle.
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And guess who No. 22 Texas (4-1, 1-1 Big 12) faces on Saturday? Sixth-ranked Oklahoma State (5-0, 2-0) and a high-powered offense that averages 51 points behind quarterback Brandon Weeden and wide receiver Justin Blackmon.
First-year Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz says he hasn’t seen any weaknesses in Blackmon’s game.
”Dance? Cook? Knitting? I haven’t seen it, not on the film they sent us. He does everything pretty well from what I’ve seen,” Diaz said.
Last week, Texas sophomore quarterback Carrington Byndom was trying to keep up with Oklahoma’s Ryan Broyles and Kenny Stills. Now comes Blackmon, who over the last 17 games has caught 157 passes for 2,316 yards and 26 touchdowns.
`I mean, that’s my job,” Byndom said. ”I’m a corner, and so I have to face some of the greatest receivers in college football. You look forward to it.”
Probably so, but it hardly seems fair to have to do it in back-to-back weeks after the Sooners repeatedly attacked the Texas secondary for big plays:
– The first play of the game was a 40-yard catch and run by Broyles.
-Oklahoma converted a third-and-25 on its second touchdown drive with a 30-yard completion.
-After Texas cut the lead to 27-10 in the second quarter, Oklahoma used four completions to drive 83 yards for a TD.
The two-deep rotation at cornerback for Texas is all freshmen and sophomores. None has more than five career starts. At safety, the Longhorns have junior Kenny Vaccaro (11 starts) and senior Blake Gideon (44 starts).
Gideon said he’s not worried about the confidence of the younger players
”They knew from the start what they were signing up for at Texas,” Gideon said. ”You have to have a short memory.”
Gideon calls coverages from his position and has seen just about everything in four seasons as a starter, but he struggles in matchups with top athletes like Broyles and Blackmon. He suggested the Longhorns sometimes got confused against the quick-snap Sooners’ offense and knows they will likely see some of the same this week against the Cowboys.
”That’s the first thing, have the correct alignment. Have the correct call and have everybody on the same page,” Gideon said. ”Other than that, we need to tackle well. We felt like we let too many slip through our hands.”
Blackmon can be hard to bring down.
At 6-foot-1, 215 pounds, he’s two inches taller and 20 pounds heavier than Texas’ corners and is one of the best deep threats in the country. He had 145 yards and a 67-yard touchdown against the Longhorns in a 33-16 Oklahoma State victory last season. The touchdown came against cornerback Aaron Williams, a second-round draft pick by the Buffalo Bills.
”He’s as good as I’ve ever seen because he’s so physical,” Texas coach Mack Brown said of Blackmon. ”Last year, Aaron plays the fade as well as it can be played and he reaches above him and catches the ball with his big strong hands and just runs off and leaves him.”
Texas could help its young secondary by getting more pressure on the quarterback. The Longhorns have just six sacks this season and will be facing a mature quarterback — Weeden turns 28 this week — who owns six of Oklahoma State’s top 10 passing game records.
Diaz remains committed to his young players, and says the talent is there even if the experience isn’t yet.
”There’s nothing that we’ve seen on film right now of any of our players that says, `Oh no, that guy, he’s at sea and we’ve got to throw the life vest at him,”’ Diaz said.