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BYU football: Coaches, players on alert for Texas' trickery

Published: Thursday, Sept. 8 2011 12:16 p.m. MDT

Texas' new co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin gives an interview during the Texas Orange and White spring football scrimmage on Sunday, April 3, 2011, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas) Texas' new co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin gives an interview during the Texas Orange and White spring football scrimmage on Sunday, April 3, 2011, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas)

PROVO, Utah — BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall doesn't need to play in the Big 12 to know all about the grand tradition that is Texas football.

What concerns him more is the Texas trickery new offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin brought with him from Boise State and the Mountain West Conference.

Right now, Mendenhall can only guess what's coming Saturday against the 24th-ranked Longhorns, especially after hearing the head-scratching TCU coach Gary Patterson endured while gearing up for consecutive bowl games against Harsin and the Broncos.

"They had prepared for trick plays in each game and the ones they saw in the game were not the ones they had prepared for," Mendenhall said this week. "At one point they had a file of 50 trick plays — none of which were the same ones.

"You do your best to play sound defense. But to predict which (plays) we're going to see and when is hard to say."

Texas fans have groaned for years about the "predictability" of former Longhorns coordinator Greg Davis and his playlist of sideline passes and delayed handoffs.

Harsin definitely shook things up in the first game.

The Longhorns scored on a reverse pass in which three freshmen handled the ball: backup quarterback David Ash and wide receivers John Harris and Jaxon Shipley.

Ash handed off to Fozzy Whittaker, who tossed the ball to Harris. The former prep QB then found Shipley in the end zone.

"It's smart football players," Harsin said. "I think it's the talent you have, and then when you've got that, I think there are some things in there you can do with those guys creatively and have a little bit of fun."

Maybe that's why Harsin, who used a fake punt to beat TCU in the 2010 Fiesta Bowl, prefers to call them "funk" plays.

Whatever they're called, Texas coach Mack Brown acknowledged he rarely used many when he was offensive coordinator.

"We usually carried one, and it was one that we worked on all week and we'd had it for the year," Brown said. "But we didn't take four into the game, and Bryan always has four in his pocket. Like I said, they're more fun when they work."

The Longhorns also ran a double-reverse and unveiled a new wildcat formation that kept Rice off guard in Saturday's 34-9 season-opening win.

"When you see them put up all those points and all those trick plays, you know they've got them up their sleeve," BYU linebacker Jordan Pendleton said. "We gotta prepare for it ... but not be tricked by all the motion they do."

That certainly is part of Texas' strategy, to keep defenses guessing even if all the shuffling of players is just a decoy for another off-tackle run.

Regardless, BYU expects Texas will be a step up from Ole Miss, which the Cougars held to 64 yards rushing and 208 total yards.

BYU's D gave up two field goals in the 14-13 comeback win. It was the largest comeback in Mendenhall's career, and came in the Cougars' first game as an independent. Ole Miss' lone touchdown came on a 96-yard interception return midway through the third quarter.

"Texas is deeper in talent and more athletic than Ole Miss," Mendenhall said. "And they run more diverse schemes. ... It will be a more difficult test than the first one."

That's what BYU asked for when it dumped the Mountain West: a tough schedule to prove itself as an independent.

After opening against an SEC opponent, the Cougars are tackling the Big 12 this weekend before returning home to face in-state rival Utah, now a member of the Pac-12 Conference.

"You can't ask for a better opportunity as a player," said BYU receiver McKay Jacobson. "As a fan, you've got to love to travel to different places to see how we match up against different teams."

AP Sports Writer Jim Vertuno in Austin, Texas, contributed to this report.

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