Scouting Report: Texas Longhorns

Mack Brown notched his 100th win as the Texas head coach last Saturday in the 28-25 come-from-behind win over Nebraska. Brown is a master at directing team attitude, recruiting, and media relations. He is able to access a situation and come up with just the right thing to say. Evidence is in all those seasons in which he engineered late season runs following tough losses to rival Oklahoma.

In a season that has been topsy turvy throughout all of college football, Brown has his opinion on that and more importantly how the season has gone and needs to continue for his Texas squad. He even can take the time and effort to comfort a fallen power that his team just beat, Nebraska.

"This has been a resilient team," said Brown of his team. "This hasn't been an easier year, and things just haven't happened like they have some in our past, but they're hanging in there and they're getting better. They believe they can win, and I'm really proud of them.

"That was a very, very difficult game to win on Saturday. We didn't start well. The last five minutes of the half we missed a field goal and (Nebraska) scored on a long pass with 43 seconds left, and everybody says you've got to start the third quarter right and we didn't do that either. Everything was against us having a chance to come back and win, and the guys still did it.

"And may I say too, some of the Nebraska players told me after the game that our fans cheered them leaving the field like they've done for us at Nebraska, so I thought that was a really classy move for whoever those fans were and I know the Nebraska coaches and players appreciated it," added Brown.

Brown even found a silver lining in playing close against a Nebraska team that had been throttled as of late.

"Anytime you win a hard game it's better to me than a blowout," said Brown as his news conference on Monday in Austin. "Everyone will be critical of how we played for three quarters this week and that helps our team. Media- and fan-driven negativity really motivates our team better than praise. It's amazing to watch that for 10 years, but that's really the truth.

"Everybody will be talking about how great Oklahoma State is this week and how we're going to get beat and that's a plus for us. Very few teams that are behind at halftime end up winning and very few teams that are behind at the third quarter ever win, and that's what was so pleasing to me about this staff and about this team. We hung in there pretty well, and that's a good thing because it helps your team, it helps your staff and it builds confidence.

"Come-from-behind wins are the best thing for a coach because you know your team believes that your staff can make adjustments and you know that your team is tough. It makes you feel so much better about a bunch when you know they can fight through and that helps you in life. It's what this whole premise is – it's not just about sports – it's about overcoming adversity in life, kicking back and fighting through like we all do every day.

"It's a great message to people across this state that when you get in trouble, you can fight out, and I thought that was the resilience that this team showed. We wouldn't have done that during the beginning of the season, so this team has really grown up and we're getting back a lot of things that we had three years ago that we lost after the national championship for whatever reason."

Offensively, Texas is fairly balanced averaging 186.7 yards rushing per game and 263 yards a game through the air. The Kansas State pressure gave them loads of problems for the second year in a row and Nebraska tried to duplicate that last week with an aggressive, blitzing defensive attack.

Texas countered with the running of Jamaal Charles, who finished with 290 yards and broke long run after long run through the loaded Husker front. Charles is a Big 12 track sprint champ and has been hot and cold during his career. Coming into Stillwater he is hot.

"I'm proud of our rushing attacks," said Brown. "We rushed for 364 yards. As much as that's been discussed around here for the last couple of years, but it probably won't be discussed a lot this week, we'll probably go to something else. We had 545 yards of total offense, which was really good with the slow start we had.

"I'm proud of Jamaal (Charles)," continued the Texas head coach. "He has hung in there. He had a couple of very publicized tough plays at OU and he didn't have as good of a second half at Baylor as he wanted, but other than that, he's had a great year. He's already gained more than 1,000 yards. In fact, I looked it up this morning, he's passed Hodges Mitchell and Eric Metcalf in number of total career yards already in only his junior year at Texas, so he's more than put his place in Texas history.

"I don't think I've ever seen a guy have a better performance in a quarter, much less a game. I'm really proud of him and hope that he'll continue with that same confidence for the rest of the year. He's got 2,700 yards in his career here and that's a good start with a year and a half left."

The guy that makes Texas go is sophomore quarterback Colt McCoy. McCoy is a tough guy that has handled being hit even more than last season that saw him knocked out of two games. He is completing 65 percent of his passes and has thrown for 15 touchdowns, but that pressure has worked some as he has also tossed 13 interceptions.

"The thing that's happening with Colt is that he's running so much better," said Brown. "He's scrambling and he's making plays with his feet better. He handled the pressure of Nebraska better than he handled the pressure of Kansas State. He didn't let it beat him down and get to him. He kept fighting back and ended up stronger in the fourth quarter than he was in the first. And we didn't have any clue that (Nebraska) would (consistently blitz). They've never ever blitzed as much as they did. And Colt really hung in there with patience because it wasn't an easy day for him, and he did a lot of it with his feet and that really helped us. And he showed that we can run zone-read with him and not just John Chiles and that really helps our offense, so we'll continue to do it."

The offensive line is younger and not as good as either of the past two seasons. The wide receivers are talented, but missing is All-Big 12 receiver Limas Sweed, out of the season following knee surgery.

This is a good Texas offense, but not the kind that has roared back in comebacks or roared out to a big lead last year in previous games with the Cowboys.

This is where something will have to give as Texas is third in the conference in rushing defense (94 yards a game) and in total defense (321.7 yards per game). You have to remember that the Longhorns have played two paltry offensive teams in Iowa State and Baylor during their Big 12 schedule, but they have one kind of player few teams have, a standout defensive tackle in senior Franklin Okam.

"It was huge when Frank Okam knocked the ball out of Sam Keller's hands and picked it up and started running with it, which shows you his athletic ability," said Brown of the only turnover Texas forced in the win over Nebraska last Saturday. "I think he's jealous of the fact that (defensive tackle) Derek Lokey is playing fullback and he's trying to get some offensive yards."

Okam is the top defensive tackle in the Big 12 in sacks with 4.5 on the season. The linebackers are solid and plentiful as they rotate in two groups, one headed by playmaker Rashad Bobino and the other by standout sophomore Sergio Kindle.

The secondary is much younger and may be the weak link in the defense giving up nearly 230 passing yards a contest.

"We played well on defense Saturday," said Brown further reviewing the defense. "Especially in the third quarter when we were in some trouble there were about six three-and-outs in a row. When the ball was tipped by Nebraska's defense and intercepted, (our defense) took it right back and gave it to our offense and they went 98 yards and scored in three plays. We only forced one turnover and we need to do a better job in that area. We felt like we've got to manage the end of the half and the start of the third quarter better than we have and really also the end of the game. The last drive we let them have some short passes and then (Nebraska) took it down and scored, so we may need to put more pressure in those situations.

"Sergio Kindle had his best game, Derek Lokey and Frank Okam dominated the line of scrimmage and Brian Orakpo seems to be getting better every play," concluded Brown on his defense.

Special Teams
Take your pick. In some areas they are very, very good such as field goal kicker Ryan Bailey, who hit a 52-yarder earlier this season and has connected on 14-of-18 field goal tries. They have switched out punters where Justin Moore is performing best with a 39.9 yards per punt average. The returns are also a mixed bag, decent on punt returns, average on kickoff returns. You also have to remember that Kansas State destroyed them on special teams, so it can be done.

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