AUSTIN, Texas -- Bryan Harsin isn’t looking for anything spectacular.
Eleven weeks in and the Texas co-offensive coordinator knows better than to expect something like that from his offense and his quarterback. What Harsin wants, and Texas needs, is consistency.
“That would be the biggest thing that we talk about offensively is we're doing the same thing and we've done it before,” Harsin said.
Where they are doing it is in practice. But the offense is not bringing that same consistency onto the field. Invariably one player, either it is a wide receiver or a lineman or the quarterback, is making some mistake. That, in turn, puts the offense into unmanageable third-and-long situations.
For example, at Texas A&M, the Longhorns had 17 third downs. Thirteen of those third downs were six yards or more. Texas converted one. Additionally, Texas made mental mistakes when it could ill afford to do so. The game-winning drive started with an illegal formation but was bailed out by a helmet-to-helmet personal foul call on the Aggies’ Trent Hunter.
The coaching staff is hoping that by settling on Case McCoy at quarterback, the offense might settle down and have some long drives against Baylor.
“Here's my thought on the quarterback position, and it was no different with [Boise State QB] Kellen [Moore], and Kellen was a great football player and has done a lot of great things,” Harsin said. “But it was no different for him starting out, just go out there and manage the game, and here's the things you need to do. Don't turn the ball over. Make sure we get the ball to the playmakers. Go through your progression. If the first read is there, take it.
“Don't try to do any more than you're asked to do, and if you'll do those things, then eventually you're going to be asked to make bigger and more and better plays.”
That scenario played out with McCoy against Texas A&M. While the offense didn’t exactly light it up, it wasn’t the liability it had been in the Oklahoma, Missouri and Kansas State games. McCoy didn’t turn the ball over. And the two Texas turnovers occurred on the Aggies half of the field, giving the Longhorns defense plenty of turf to defend.
“He managed well out there, and then all of a sudden that opportunity for him to run presented itself,” Harsin said of the 25-yard scramble to set up Justin Tucker’s field goal. “And I think those are the type of plays by just managing the game you're going to get, and you're going to be asked to now go out there and try to win the game for us. Just like anybody else on offense, they just need to do their job.
“And by doing that you're helping yourself out ultimately because defenses are going to say this guy is smart, he's not going to hurt himself.”
That forces the defense to take a few more risks in an attempt to rattle the quarterback and force the turnovers, which is how it played out on the last drive against the Aggies. McCoy finally moved the ball, Texas A&M, trying to throw his rhythm, brought a blitz, McCoy slipped through for 25 yards.
“[The defense is] going to be a little bit more risky and then the opportunity presents itself and you get a big play out of it,” Harsin said.
But in order to get to that point, the offense and the quarterback have to be consistent, not spectacular, but steady in their execution.