Friday, September 11, 2009

UT creates excitement in Wyoming


Matchup considered biggest game in state's history

By MIKE FINGER Austin Bureau

LARAMIE, Wyo. — They've played in Bowl Championship Series games and Red River Shootouts. Last week they raced out of a smoke-filled tunnel in front of more than 100,000 fans, the largest crowd to watch a football game in the state of Texas.

So how do the second-ranked Texas Longhorns get excited about facing an unheralded, unranked opponent in a stadium not much larger than the ones in which they played in high school?

They start by refusing to buy into boredom.

“There's no lack of buzz,” UT linebacker Roddrick Muckelroy said of today's game at Wyoming. “This is just like our opener again.”

Prestigious visitors

In Wyoming, which hasn't been shaken like this since the Grand Tetons were formed, no one has to be convinced about buzz. The Longhorns are the highest-ranked team to play in Laramie, and 30,514-seat War Memorial Stadium is sold out.

UT, which agreed last year to make this trip after Arkansas pulled out of a deal to host the Longhorns this weekend, might not realize the magnitude of the event among the locals. But it should become apparent soon enough.

“It's probably the biggest game, I would venture to guess, that has ever been played in the state of Wyoming,” Cowboys coach Dave Christensen said this week.

Christensen, the former offensive coordinator at Missouri, will try to pull off the upset with a nearly identical scheme to the one he used with the Tigers. Wyoming (1-0) will run a spread offense heavy on the pass, which should test a UT secondary that could once again be without safety Christian Scott and cornerback Deon Beasley.

Those two and wide receiver Brandon Collins were held out of the opener due to unresolved NCAA academic eligibility issues. UT didn't comment on their status this week, and coach Mack Brown said he won't until the situation is resolved.

Good hands

Defensively, the Cowboys intercepted five passes in their season-opening victory over Weber State. But that won't stop the Longhorns (1-0) from remaining aggressive with their up-tempo attack, which showed off a new dimension last week with the unveiling of redshirt freshman tailback D.J. Monroe.

Monroe, who returned a kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown on his first college play, is listed third on the depth chart behind Vondrell McGee and Cody Johnson.

Offensive coordinator Greg Davis said Monroe is limited in terms of the number of plays he can run, but he could eventually earn 15 to 20 snaps per game as a player who can provide speed out of the backfield.

“He has that kind of acceleration,” Davis said. “And he's a very physical player for his size (5-9, 170 pounds).”

Up-tempo plans

Regardless of which tailback is in the game, the Longhorns will continue to push the pace. With their no-huddle system working as quickly as ever in the opener against Louisiana-Monroe, UT managed 84 offensive plays, and the Longhorns aren't planning to slow it in the Wyoming altitude.

“That's our objective,” Brown said. “We want to wear the other team out.”


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