Defense, special teams pace Horns in 44-14 win

During a break in the action midway through the second quarter Saturday, the JumboTron at DKR flashed highlights of the Longhorns' 1990 season-opening win over Penn State. That victory sparked UT's Shock the Nation tour that resulted in a 10-1 regular season and a top five national ranking heading into that year's Cotton Bowl. At the time of the flashback, this year's team seemed destined to shock the nation as well, but for a very different reason.

The Texas defense, after staking the Horns to an early 7-0 lead with Cory Redding's INT return for a (leaping) TD, had surrendered consecutive TDs to the Tar Heels. The Longhorn offense had an anemic 56 total yards on its 15 plays. And the top-five Horns had the same scoreboard total as the 0-2 visitors from North Carolina.

Shock the nation indeed.

Texas, though, as it did last week in the opener vs. New Mexico State, turned it on both offensively and defensively near intermission, and then punished North Carolina after the break, coasting to a 44-14 win. And for the first time in Mack Brown's UT tenure, the Horns have opened a season 2-0.

Following the two UNC TD drives in the first half, the Texas D stiffened and didn't let the Heels anywhere near the end zone for the rest of the game. The D, with two straight three-and-outs, set up the O for a couple of short, late second quarter field goal drives which gave the Horns a bit of a halftime cushion at 20-14.

The second half was all Texas. And the Horns scored in just about every imaginable way: a Cedric Benson seven-yard run; a 51-yard Dusty Mangum field goal; a Maurice Gordon safety; a Nathan Vasher 44-yard punt return; and a Brett Robin 12-yard run.

The play that the guys in the Orange and White may most remember is the score that wasn't made. After Robin's TD, UT's scoreboard total matched Cole Pittman's jersey number. Rather than kick the extra point, the Horns, after a timeout, elected to take a knee.

"I didn't want to embarrass the other team," Brown said, "but I thought it was appropriate." The Texas head coach said third-team QB Chance Mock, Pittman's best friend on the team, on behalf of the players, made the suggestion.

That would not be the final tribute to Pittman and his family. In an emotional locker room post-game, the Texas players presented the Pittman family with the game ball.

"I've never been around one that was that emotional," Brown said.

"Personally, I did not want to go back into the locker room with a loss," Mike Williams said.

That the Horns did not is partially attributable to the fact that Texas held in check North Carolina's game-changing DE Julius Peppers. Amazingly, Peppers did not register a single tackle, and scratched the stat sheet only because of a pass deflection.

Texas used a variety of methods to limit Peppers, often putting a tight end outside of LT Robbie Doane, using the fullbacks as a second line of defense, forcing Peppers to the inside where the left guards helped out, or running the draw at his side to slow his pass rush.

Brown said the threat of Peppers also had an effect on the offensive gameplan in the first half. "We were not gonna let him come into the ballgame and dominate and we felt he could," the coach said. "We were patient and figured out what they were going to do with him. . . . That makes you look conservative." Offensive coordinator Greg Davis said he probably stuck with the conservative approach "too long."

After the conservative and unproductive start, Texas managed to put up decent but unspectacular offensive numbers: 326 total yards (159 rushing, 167 passing). The Tar Heels finished with just 211 total yards, and 82 of those came on their first scoring drive. In the second half, the UNC O managed just 52 yards.

Texas corners Rod Babers and Quentin Jammer played a large role in the defensive turnaround, shutting down the Heels' passing game after some first half lapses. Jammer, who in man coverage gave up a couple of early pass plays on the Heels' first scoring drive, said, "You can test me early but you're not gonna win. You might win one time but I'm going to win the majority of the time."

Babers said he told Jammer that the Heels were trying to test him and he needed to go out there and "show them why you're the best cornerback in the country. He showed heart, and that's why he's going to lead this team. Quentin picked up his play, and the team picked up its play."

Better late than never.

[Editor's note: More game notes, analysis and commentary, including a breakdown of the offensive, defensive and special teams performances, will be available throughout the day on Sunday.]

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