Texas offense sputtering into Big 12 play

AMES, IA - SEPTEMBER 28: Quarterback Shane Buechele #7 of the Texas Longhorns is tackled while scrambling for yards by defensive end Eyioma Uwazurike #50, as linebacker Willie Harvey #2 of the Iowa State Cyclones watches on in the first half of play at Jack Trice Stadium on September 28, 2017 in Ames, Iowa. (Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images)

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Touchdowns are rare, the running game is going nowhere and a patchwork offensive line has the quarterback on the run when he’s not wearing a protective boot on his sprained ankle.

The Texas offense is in a serious funk. And in a touchdown-crazy league like the Big 12, that could lead to some serious trouble for the Longhorns.

“The way our defense has played the last few weeks, they have played at a level we can win with,” Longhorns coach Tom Herman said Monday.

On offense?

“It’s back to the drawing board,” Herman said.

In a league known for dizzying scoring, the Texas offense has just four touchdowns in the last two games — a loss at Southern California and a win at Iowa State — and averaged barely more than 300 yards.

Herman, who desperately wants the Longhorns to develop a punishing run game behind big tailbacks like 250-pound Chris Warren III, said his team is still searching for an identity on offense.

The running has averaged less than 3 yards per carry last week and Herman on Monday lamented that his backs aren’t breaking tackles. Warren averaged just 2.8 yards on 16 carries in last week’s 17-7 win at Iowa State.

“We are not making very many people miss. The great backs, if it’s blocked for four (yards) they give you eight,” Herman said.

Texas (2-2, 1-0 Big 12) is likely to find itself in another grind-it-out sort of game Saturday at home against Kansas State (3-1, 1-0) but the Longhorns will soon face the league’s best offenses, starting with consecutive games against Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

After sitting out two games with a sore throwing shoulder, quarterback Shane Buechele returned to start against Iowa State. He passed for 171 yards with one touchdown and one interception. But he also sprained an ankle against Iowa State, and Herman said Buechele would wear a protective boot in practice part of this week. Freshman Sam Ehlinger, who started against USC, did not play last week. Herman suggested the ankle problem wouldn’t keep Buechele off the field, even if he’s not 100 percent by game time.

Herman, who was the offensive coordinator at Ohio State in 2014 when the Buckeyes won the national championship, said he assists with drawing up offensive game plans but leaves the game-day play calling to coordinator Tim Beck. Herman said he doesn’t see field well enough from the sideline to feel comfortable calling plays.

“I envy those guys who are head coaches and call plays. I don’t know how they do it. They have a different skill set than I do. I was always most comfortable calling plays from the box,” Herman said.

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