Horns will hit it hard despite off week (updated)

(Story updated Tuesday noon) -- You probably didn't realize this, but the Horns finished their season Saturday with the 44-14 win over North Carolina. Well, sorta. Because of the week off between now and the Sept. 22 Houston game, the Texas coaches sold the players on the idea of a two game season. Thankfully, the Horns ran the table during that short schedule and head into their season No. 2 with a 2-0 record, the first undefeated two-game start in <B>Mack Brown's</B> four seasons in Austin.

"We're going to start over this week," Brown said Sunday. "We'll have a tough, physical week of practice. Now we can add some things offensively, and the break will probably be good for us because we've got some things to work on offensively and we can get ready to face these (next three) one-back offenses that throw."

Against the Heels, the Horns added a few offensive wrinkles -- a couple of reverses, some new plays out of the five-wide sets -- but the O "still didn't do a whole lot," according to the head coach. Brown said that because of North Carolina's offensive struggles, the Texas coaches decided to go in and not lose the game with turnovers or by throwing the ball every down early on. After seeing not only how the Heels planned to use Julius Peppers but what the visitors would do on offense (not much, as it turned out), Texas, relatively speaking, opened things up.

"We're still not clicking on all cylinders on offense," Brown said Sunday. "We are forcing the run in situations where we will not later in the year and we still had a few guys get whipped in protection, but the offensive gameplan was to help keep Peppers away from the quarterback and that worked really, really well." With the focus on Peppers, other parts of the OL got overloaded at times, leading to some protection breakdowns, the head coach said, but the breakdowns couldn't have been too severe given that the Heels only managed one sack on the day. "We're concerned about the one sack," Brown said, "but we're excited that their all-American defensive end didn't get one."

The coach said one area of concern even without the benefit of a full analysis of the film is explosive plays, both for and against. The Texas D surrendered eight explosive plays (runs of 20, 12, 12 and 22 yards and passes of 20, 27, 12, and 28 yards), too many for a championship defense, while the O managed just nine explosive plays (runs of 31, 25, 13 and 12 yards and passes of 19, 17, 17, 19 and 16 yards), far too few for a championship offense. Brown also wants to see more consistency in execution and far fewer penalties than the five (three illegal blocks and two holding calls) the Horns racked up against the Heels. Texas finished with a pedestrian 326 yards of total offense (159 rushing, 167 passing), but Chris Simms for the second consecutive game did not throw an interception and the Horns won the overall turnover battle 3-2 (all three UNC turnovers came on INTs). And Carolina barely scraped together 200 total yards of offense, finishing with 211 for the game (95 rushing, 116 passing). Despite the strong defensive effort, Brown said the defense "missed too many assignments and tackles" and he also mentioned he didn't think the defense responded well to the long Tar Heel scoring drive or to the Nathan Vasher muffed punt. He said a team's response in those situations in based on attitude, and he didn't like what he saw during that part of the game from his defenders. Overall, though, Texas outpaced UNC in all of the areas that Brown said he is concerned with, including offensive plays (72-68), time of possession (32:06 to 27:54) and, of course, scoreboard (44-14).

Brown said the closeness of the game at the half gave the coaches the opportunity to say in the locker room,"Been here before and didn't respond very well last year at this time in the (Stanford) ballgame, so if you want to be a real good football team you need to go dominate the second half and send a message to people that you're going to be a second half football team . . . we had to come out of there and get some toughness." In the second half, the Horns dominated in every phase of the game.

The Horns' scoreboard advantage largely came from the play of the special teams. Despite a couple of costly punt game mistakes, the Texas special teams unit, a group that merely seemed adequate going into the season, turned in perhaps its best overall game in Mack Brown's tenure. Dusty Mangum nailed all three of his field goal attempts, from 36, 49 and 51 yards, Nathan Vasher returned one punt for a TD and set up a TD with another shifty return, Victor Ike had a long kick return, and the punt and kick coverage teams did a fantastic job pinning down the Tar Heel offense.

"I'm stressing that we need to play more as team," Brown said, before adding that he doesn't care about the numbers. "All I want to do is win." Two in a row for the first time is a good way to start.

Football notes: Montrell Flowers, as he leaped to try to haul in a high pass from Simms early in the third quarter Saturday, took a big hit from UNC FS Dexter Reid and did not return. Flowers suffered a lacerated kidney on the play. "A CT scan determined that Montrell suffered a lacerated kidney," trainer Tom McVan said Monday. "He has been under evaluation for the past few days, and hopefully will be able to be released from the hospital later tonight." Flowers' progress will be evaluated over the next few days. . . . Brown praised the play of his play-making true freshman linebacker. "Derrick Johnson has the ability to play as good as anybody in the country," the head coach said. "He needs to learn the scheme to get more reps but he's tall, fast and can hit." . . . Brown gave the players and the coaches off Sunday because of the open week. The coaches had a staff meeting Monday morning to discuss the UNC film. Brown said he told the coaches this morning to treat the first two games like an NFL preseason and "review every play." The head coach said he wants to "start the season over" at Houston, which means the staff will be reassessing every position. A few examples: Derrick Dockery will not be playing tackle, so the coaches will look for a guy that can be the No. 3 tackle behind LT Robbie Doane and RT Mike Williams. The possibilities look to be Alfio Randall (the most-likely candidate, although both Brown and Davis said last week that he wasn't yet ready to contribute), Lionel Garr and true freshman Jonathan Scott. With Montrell possibly out and Kyle Shanahan back (he played sparingly Saturday vs. UNC), the wide receiver spot will be reevaluated, as will the DE spot because of the return to practice Tuesday of O.J. McClintock. Brown also said that he and secondary coach Duane Akina must make a decision on whether and when to play CB Cedric Griffin and S Rufus Harris. If they do play, they'll probably work their way onto the field in special teams and get some late-game back-ups snaps early on. . . . Looking a bit ahead, Brown in response to a question said the Houston game will give the Horns a chance to see and prepare for the Texas Tech and Oklahoma offenses, but the Raiders and the Sooners will also have the advantage of seeing how Texas plans to defend the spread offense. . . . Texas dropped from No. 4 to No. 5 in the AP poll released Sunday. Nebraska regained the spot after surrendering it for one week to the Horns. The Huskers beat Notre Dame in Lincoln Saturday. Miami, Florida and Oklahoma remain at Nos. 1-3.

Football recruiting notes: Shreveport Evangel DL Chase Pittman, along with his mother and father, attended Saturday's UNC game. The Pittmans, of course, took part in a pregame ceremony honoring the memory of Cole Pittman. Chase may make an official visit to the Forty Acres later this fall, and it would truly be a shock if he does not end up committing to the Horns soon (possibly even as early as this weekend). Chase is also considering LSU.

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