The Horns, of course, altered their base D against the Raiders, switching from their standard 4-3/man coverage scheme to a 3-4 base backed up by zone coverage. Brown said the coaches started working on the 3-4 some in spring, but we saw a lot of spring work on a 3-3-5 rather than a 3-4 (although the UT D has worked on zone coverage a lot since the March arrival of Duane Akina). The bulk of the work on the 3-4 scheme, then, had to have come over the last few weeks of (closed) practices.
"We felt like going into the type of offenses we're playing these three weeks (starting last weekend with Houston and continuing through Saturday's OU game) that we needed to change up a bit and not be in man coverage all of the time," the head coach said. "We also wanted to simply get Derrick Johnson out there."
"The (3-4/zone) defense is primarily to match-up speed (on opposing offenses) with more defensive backs and linebackers by taking out some of big guys," Brown said.
The coach said the Horns could have run the 3-4/zone coverage package last week against the Cougars, but the coaches "didn't feel like we needed it in that ballgame." After blitzing on a good portion of its defensive snaps last week vs. Houston, the Texas D didn't blitz at all vs. Tech, according to Brown. He said the coaches wanted to see the players tackle and move in space in the 3-4, but, he added, the Horns now have the ability to change up by dropping back or blitzing, a combination they have yet to show. "We've beaten our opponents so badly that we've been able to work on things," Brown said. "We haven't shown everything. . . ."
The coach also said the 3-4/zone package is partially a result of the defense's failings over the last few years in man coverage. "We felt like in the three games we've been losing every year, we give up too many deep balls by allowing teams to catch us in man coverage," Brown said. "We're trying to mix in zone so there will be indecision on the part of the quarterback." The 3-4/zone package also allows defenders to keep the ball in front of them, limiting those explosive plays that the Brown talked about above.
Asked about the play of the linebacking corps Saturday, Brown said, "Our linebackers are playing better than they've played since we've been here. Derrick Johnson is so talented. He makes plays and he's learning as he goes. And D.D. (Lewis) is playing his best football. He missed some tackles on screens against Houston, but he did an outstanding job running and hitting against Tech." The Horns' four starting backers combined for 29 tackles against the Red Raiders and a similar performance may be needed next week against the Sooners. The head coach emphasized the importance of great linebacker play this weekend against Oklahoma's "off-schedule" plays.
Despite the overwhelming victory against the Red Raiders, Brown pointed to several areas where the team must improve. "We felt like we dropped a few balls and on defense we missed some tackles," he said, the biggest miss coming on Williams' TD scamper (DT Maurice Gordon missed a tackle and Lewis broke the wrong way, taking himself completely out of the play). "We also need to get more pass rush and we didn't force enough turnovers, so we felt like there were lot of things we could have done better."
"We feel good about where we are, though, based on games we've had so far and the level of competition we've faced," Brown added, "but we'll know more after Saturday because this will be best team by far we've played."
Indeed. And starting tomorrow, we may actually hear the Horns comment on the Sooners. Maybe.
Football notes: Texas and Oklahoma, at No. 5 and No. 3, respectively, stayed put in both major polls released Sunday. Miami and Florida occupy the top two spots in each poll while Nebraska is ranked fourth. . . . Brown credits experience for the team's much improved first quarter performances this fall as compared to last fall. "Chris (Simms) is a lot more experienced, we're blocking people better, we're running the ball better, we're giving (Chris) more time and the receivers are more experienced," the coach said Sunday. "Plus, Bo Scaife is back and well and Ivan Williams and our overall running game is the best since Ricky Williams was here. We've been more conservative than in the past because we've been forcing the run, but we always felt like Chris Simms was an exceptional player and now others seeing what we see in practice." . . . Brown said Dusty Mangum, who has now missed his last two field goal attempts after starting the season a perfect seven-for-seven, is not fully following through his kicks. He said it's probably good that he missed the attempt against Tech because it will help the coaches reinforce the fact that he needs to follow through to be successful. . . . With the D's more physical play, largely from LB Johnson but also from safeties and "hard, impact hitters" Nathan Vasher and Ahmad Brooks, Brown called the unit the "most physical defense we've had."