First Look: UCLA vs Texas Longhorns

Tradition, tales of lore and national prominence don’t win football games, but they certainly help.

And you can’t get those things without having a healthy supply of talent.

Texas will offer all of the above when UCLA visits the Longhorns Saturday at 12:30 Pacific in a game that will be televised on ABC.

The Longhorns, ranked No. 7 in the nation, are one of the most storied college football teams of all time. Their history has grown richer in recent years, with two appearances in the BCS Championship game in the last five years, and a streak of 10 consecutive finishes among the nation’s top 15.

Their coach, Mack Brown, has 217 career victories to rank 13th on the all time list and third among active coaches. Add in a roster filled with former high-school All-Americans and UCLA has quite a challenge ahead.

“Texas has everything,” UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel said. “Their shelves are stocked. They don’t long for anything.”

This year’s version is riding a defense that ranks second in the nation in yards allowed with only 206 yards a game. Opponents have rushed for only 44 yards a game, which leads the nation, and Texas has allowed a paltry 12.67 points a game to rank ninth in the nation.

Linebacker Keenan Robinson has been the statistical leader of the stout defense with 22 tackles, but defensive end Sam Acho, who has five tackles for a loss, is among the top defensive players in the country. Fellow end Eddie Jones leads the team with four sacks while defensive backs Aaron Williams and Curtis Brown are stellar cover men who are physical and fast.

The Texas offense has yet to really find its groove in the post-Colt McCoy era. The Longhorns are averaging 359 yards and 30.7 points per game—down from 421 yards and 39 points a year ago.

Sophomore quarterback Garrett Gilbert, who replaced an injured McCoy in the national championship game loss to Alabama last season, has passed for 621 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions.

The Longhorns have used three primary running backs in Foswhitt Whittaker, Cody Johnson and Tre’ Newton, who have combined for 405 yards and seven touchdowns. They run behind a line of five 300-pounders anchored by 6-7, 325-pound tackle Kyle Hix, but still average only about four yards per carry.

The Longhorns have few weaknesses. There are 18 players with starting experience returning from last year’s national runner up team, and they are expected to yet again be in the mix for the national and Big 12 titles.

“There’s no question that we’re going up the ladder a little,” Neuheisel said. “It’s going to take everything we’ve got to play with these guys and see if we can get this game to the fourth quarter and hopefully have something exciting happen.”