Posted: 9:00 a.m. Friday, Oct. 11, 2013
By Wescott Eberts
When Texas Longhorns sophomore running back Johnathan Gray took center stage with a career high 141 yards and two touchdowns against Kansas State two weeks ago, junior running back Joe Bergeron looked like the odd man out in the running back rotation.
But after taking four carries for 36 yards against Iowa State, Bergeron's best performance since New Mexico State after averaging 2.45 yards per carry between the opener and the contest against the Cyclones, the Red River Rivalry looks like the perfect opportunity for the 230-pound running back to see more carries.
And that's not a knock on Gray, who is playing at the highest level of his career, as much as it is an acknowledgement that Oklahoma's starting linebackers all weigh less than Bergeron, who therefore has a physical advantage against the second level of the Sooner defense.
For a team that has been physical intimidated and dominated by Oklahoma over the last two seasons and at numerous other times during the Mack Brown era, a running back with a good stiff arm and the capability of moving the pile and plying through defenders may be just what Texas needs to start feeling like they can compete physically with the neighborhood bully.
The benching of Bergeron after his critical fourth quarter fumble last week was understandable, even as it ended up being a dangerous decision after Gray nearly cost the Longhorns the game with fumbles of his own in the deciding moments as Texas tried to push the ball across the goal line. Call that exchange a wash for two running backs, not to mention an escape for Texas.
Playing Bergeron carries the further risk that he'll continue trying to bounce everything outside and possibly even . If he can run with some more discipline between the tackles in a heavier Longhorn attack that could attempt to utilize both Geoff Swaim and Greg Daniels, he may be the best chance for Texas to survive occasional blocking breakdowns at the point of attack and to break some tackles at the second level, something Bergeron does well with his slide cuts that present a slippery tackling surface for defenders aiming at his torso.
The other alternative is hoping that the offensive line can consistently win battles against what is likely to be an eight-man Oklahoma front regardless of whether the Longhorns have three wide receivers on the field or opt to roll with Daniels and Swaim.
Gray has earned starter's carries with his efforts in the last two games and commitment to doing the little things right, but here's hoping that Bergeron has an opportunity to redeem himself for the late fumble because his ability to break tackles makes him a better choice against the Sooners than Gray, who picks up so few yards after contact.