Brown praises offense, blasts defense

Three-and-oh. Sure, we all expected the Horns to run the non-conference table, but we all also expected them to do the same last season, and we all are painfully aware of how that turned out. Near the end of the first half at Robertson Stadium Saturday evening, Houston looked to be this year's Stanford. At the time, the Cougars owned the scoreboard and momentum edge over the Horns.

"We had a chance to slip up on the road," Mack Brown said Sunday afternoon, "and if we had played like we played at Stanford last year, we would have lost."

In Houston, unlike in Palo Alto, Texas dominated the game in the minute before the half and in the third quarter, turning a four-point deficit into a 27-point cushion by early in the fourth. Brown said he felt like the defense, after dominating the third quarter, turned complacent in the fourth, allowing a TD on a busted coverage and then letting the Cougs march down the field with ease for their final TD. And the Texas head coach, after watching the film Sunday morning, had some surprisingly (for Brown) harsh words for his defensive unit. "The defense didn't play well enough to beat anybody else we're going to play," Brown said. "They've got to play better for us to beat Tech this week. We won't stop Tech at all if we give up that many big plays. It scares me to death. I'm really disappointed in the defense."

The Red Raiders, coming off a 42-14 win over North Texas, will bring their spread offense to DKR this weekend. Tech's (and OU's) offense is far better than the Cougars' unit that blasted Texas for 432 total yards and nine explosive plays. "(Tech) will do about all the things Houston did and probably more," UT's head coach said. "They have more experience at quarterback and if we don't play better against (Raider QB Kliff) Kingsbury, he'll light us up. We can't give up nine big plays and win in (the Big 12)," Brown said.

The coach said his defenders, after being bragged upon for the first two weeks of the season and after shutting out the Cougars last fall and watching them struggle against Rice, didn't show Houston much respect, "and that's a disease we're trying to correct around here."

Also in need of quick correction is UT's tackling, which was nothing short of awful on several of U of H's big gainers on runs and screen passes. The Texas DBs, including Thorpe candidate Quentin Jammer, also played the part of toast all too well, surrendering three long balls to Houston wideouts. Part of the blame there has to go to the D-line, which provided precious little pressure on Houston QB Kelly Robertson before the break, allowing the junior to amass 197 first half yards and 364 yards through the air for the game. The line and linebackers also played marshmallow soft against the run during the first half, allowing Houston rushing success that translated into passing game success. "I don't think the defense played well as a whole," Brown said Sunday. "Some players played well but they didn't play well as a unit."

With the outcome still in doubt in the third, though, the D did step up and make several plays, stopping fourth down attempts on consecutive drives coming out of the break and then picking off a pass setting up the Longhorn O with a short field and a quick TD (its third since the half). "In the second half, we handled the run and we started dominating the pass," Brown said. "That's why there were so many holding calls (on Houston)."

The offense, although far from perfect, played its best game of the season, striking an effective run-pass balance. Texas rushed the ball 39 times for 193 yards and passed it 37 times for 341 yards (534 yards of total offense). Eight players caught passes while five players (aside from Chris Simms) ran the ball, leading Brown to compliment the offense for spreading the ball around. The coach also thought that the Horns worn down the Cougars. "We're trying to stay out there and win games in the third and fourth quarter," he said. "Unless you force turnovers and mistakes, games are going to be tight at the half. But with our big offensive line, if we can stay on field and rush for more than 100 yards and therefore control the time of possession, we're going to run the other team down. That's what we did with Ricky (Williams) and that's one thing we're excited about with Ivan (Williams). Guys get tired of tackling the big guy and I thought that's what happened last night." Williams rushed 19 times for 103 yards, 62 of those coming after the break. Cedric Benson also had most of his success after intermission, carrying 11 times for 67 yards in the second half (74 yards on 14 carries for the game).

Brown said Sunday that he didn't necessarily think the offense opened it up more against the Cougs but that the plays were simply more successful and the receivers more wide open on deep routes (although Simms connected on just one, the 92-yarder to B.J. Johnson) than in the first two games. "We need to complete the deep ball for our offense to work," the coach said "I'm pleased we used the pass more to start the run, whereas in the first two games we tried to use the run to start the pass. I liked the balance still, but we've got to be able to run the ball to be who we need to be offensively."

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