5 Questions: Texas

TCU and Texas renew an old SWC rivalry on Thanksgiving and to get the latest on the Longhorns we visited with LonghornDigest.com publisher Kevin Flaherty.

1. Texas has played better defense the last few weeks, what can that be attributed to?

Players deny that anything fundamentally has changed about the defense, but in watching the tape, it appears that Texas has gone much more base defense on running downs, essentially letting their superior athletes stop thinking and make plays. Almost all of the big play gashes they were giving up earlier were the result of guys missing assignments, getting out of their gaps and things like that. There are also probably three other factors. First, Texas has been much more physical in practice. Second, Texas was really inexperienced up the middle, and a lot of those guys have just seen more reps now. And third, and potentially most importantly, Texas finished up a nasty run of offenses that saw the Longhorns play Ole Miss, Oklahoma State, West Virginia, Oklahoma and Baylor in consecutive games. It's one thing to face those teams, and another to play the likes of Kansas and Iowa State, though the Longhorns did do a nice job against Texas Tech a few weeks back.

2. Are all the runningbacks healthy now and is Gray the starter. Will Daje Johnson see more touches.

Gray has carried the rushing game in the last few games
One of the good things about the bye week is that Malcolm Brown should finally be back to full speed, or at least within breathing room of full speed. Still, with the way Gray is playing, he'll be the starter. And Joe Bergeron had maybe his best game of the season against Iowa State last game. So Brown, at least at this point, is probably the No. 3 guy while he tries to work back in and shake off the rust. Jeremy Hills will see time as the third down back because he's good in pass protection and can catch the ball. Daje Johnson is sort of becoming the D.J. Monroe of the younger players. He does some really exciting things with the ball, but everybody keeps wondering when his reps are going to go up. He's usually somewhere between 5-10 touches in a game.

3. Like the defense, the offense has put some points on the board the last few games against good teams. What's been the biggest turnaround there?

I think it's been a combination of David Ash playing really well and Mike Davis emerging as the wide receiver a lot of people thought he could be. He's had at least one catch of 30 or more yards in seven of the last eight games, and he's averaging 121.3 yards per contest over the last four. Johnathan Gray emerging has also really helped. There was a couple game stretch after Malcolm Brown was first injured where Joe Bergeron was struggling and the staff didn't want to overload Gray with carries. Now that they're past that barrier, Texas is starting to run the ball like they want to again.

4. Seems like 4-5 weeks ago many of the Longhorn faithful were hoping Mack Brown would resign at the end of the year. Now that Texas sits at 8-2, is the mood still the same?

Brown has led Texas to 4 straight wins
I don't think so. There's a popular sports quote that "Winning cures everything," and Texas has been winning. It's amazing how close Mack Brown might have been to that razor's edge though. When this team was 5-2, and down 17-14 with 20 seconds left at Kansas, the frustration was pretty tangible. Even after the win, a lot of people were awfully upset. But Texas has kept winning from that point, and the Longhorns all of a sudden have a shot at a share of the Big 12 title. Add in that most people felt like this year's team was setting up for a potential top-five run in 2013, and a lot of those ill feelings have, if not vanished, then subsided.

5. What are the keys to victory for the Longhorns?

TCU is a really tough opponent, and one that the players and coaches really respect. And with good reason. The Horned Frogs have the best defensive line Texas has faced since Oklahoma and really have the defensive personnel to make things difficult. Texas also hasn't done well at stopping the run against teams that spread them out this season, and though they've improved there, that has to be one of the keys. The Longhorns will need to stop TCU's running game, get off the field on third downs and be opportunistic on offense. This should be a really close game, and one that will make for a great Thanksgiving contest!

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