"For four weeks, weve had the team that we like show up," Brown said. "We want it to happen a fifth week."
Indeed, Texas will need to call upon all that has made it a No. 5 BCS rated team when Texas Tech, boasting the nations best passing offense (508.7 ypg) and second-best scoring offense (44.9 ppg), bring their Air (Red) Raiders to Austin Saturday.
For now, what factors have contributed most to Texas 28-day turnaround?
The only significant lineup shift since The Debacle was when coaches named freshman QB Vince Young starter. Since then, Youngs rapid maturation has "shocked" Texas coaches, Brown said. With Youngs accelerated improvement, coaches shelved the I formation and allowed Young to operate out of the shotgun in a zone read offensive scheme. Texas has gone back to the I formation in the fourth quarter when it just wants to pound the ball and run some the clock.
"(Vince) wants to do well and hes very, very coachable," Brown said. (Offensive coordinator) Greg (Davis) had done a good job with him. They have a great relationship. Greg can get on him and he handles it. Hes not sensitive."
Not only is Young "not sensitive", he is also not intimidated. Initially, Brown couldnt believe how coolly efficient Young ran the offense in the game-winning TD drive against Kansas State.
"I dont think he worries about things much," Brown said. " Not much gets to him."
The same goes for Youngs recent outing at Oklahoma State.
"He was dancing in the pre-game and he was dancing on the sideline," Brown said. "Ive never seen anything like that before."
Fortunately for Orangebloods, Young has dazzled more with his feet between the sidelines than on them. He also responded with the kind of passing game against the Cowboys that coaches have been looking for since Young first took over the reigns against Iowa State.
"Weve seen him throw like that the last couple of weeks of practice (and) thats why we were surprised to see him struggling against Nebraska in throwing the ball," Brown said. "Hes just got to relax and did Saturday night. He had a lot of fun and you could see that in his play out there."
Young noted this week that his greatest area of improvement has been completing his reads before tucking and running. The freshman can toss it 70 yards on the run but the all-important timing between Young and his receivers has also been an area of considerable improvement. Case-in-point: a first-quarter completion to SE Roy Williams at OSU (the play where Williams couldnt quite stay in bounds en route to the end zone).
"I turned around and the ball was there," Williams said. "Before then, Id turn and look at him looking at me."
Ultimately, it all comes down to confidence, Brown believes, even with a specimen as innately talented as Young.
"I think he feels like he can play college football now," Brown said. "Its a question mark for any young quarterback coming in. He likes the response of the players to him right now. Hes much more comfortable in the huddle than even five or six weeks ago. Were just watching a steady growth in progress right in front of our eyes."
Coaches are barely scratching the surface of the kind of play package that they expect to work into the game plan now that Young is so far ahead of schedule. One thing well probably see against Texas Tech is an option pitch to Roy. Texas ran it against OSU but Young kept the ball for eight yards.
"The fun thing for us is that there are a lot of things that we can see that we can do that we havent even got to yet," Brown said.
"Hes starting to take over some in the huddle and theyre starting to believe in him. When he first went in there, it was tough. You look at Roy Williams and B.J. Johnson and all of them are saying throw it to me. Thats a tough transition. Theyre starting to believe hes pretty good, too. Theyre starting to listen. Thats been a lot of the progress weve made."
When Texas finished 2002 ranked just No. 74 in rushing offense (135 ypg), and with Roy returning for his senior year, could you ever imagine that the Horns would enter their last home game of this season ranked No. 6 in rushing (229.2 ypg)?
All of the off-season staff changes were directed at improving the running game, but the argument here has been that the phenomenal Young (and the scheme the coaches continue to build around his innate skills) has done more to unleash RB Cedric Benson than any other piece of the puzzle.
"Were a lot more fundamentally sound in a lot of places," Benson said, "especially in areas where we were young like the QB spot. Were just getting the ball rolling."
In the three games that he has played since Young took over the starting spot, Benson has rolled to 494 yards (164.6 since Oklahoma). He had only three 100-plus yard rushing games all last season.
"Ive just been running fearlessly," Benson said. "Im just getting the ball and doing what I do (I have) a clear head. The only thing I hear is the snap of the ball. The only thing I hear is the snap of the ball and the whistle at the end of the play."
Last month, another 1,000-yard season for Benson seemed like a pipedream. Now, he only needs 148 yards against the leagues worst defense Saturday (Tech surrenders an average 460 ypg) to become the first Longhorn to rush for 1,000 yards in each of his first three seasons.
"When you play with confidence, you get faster," Brown said.
Benson is averaging nearly 95 yards per game (NCAA No. 33) while Young is not far behind at 89.4 yards per game (NCAA No. 37)
There is no doubt the O-line is much improved from last years crew that tried to finesse its way past opponents but could not drive block a snowman. Still, a strong, elusive QB makes the offensive line look even better.
While I am convinced most of Texas rushing success is predicated upon Young, the O-line moved the piles against Nebraska and Oklahoma State.
"I was amazed at the surge we got Saturday night from our offensive line," Brown said.
At the very least, Youngs presence stems the tide of blitzing linebackers and momentarily slows the defense as Young picks his spots out of the zone read. In fact, there was a play against OSU when Young wrestled the ball out of Bensons grasp and held on to it for a keeper.
"There were two holes," Brown said. "Its (Youngs) responsibility and both of them were excited about what was happening. There were two holes on the play. His hands are so big and hes so much stronger than you think he is. Hes so tall, you dont think of his strength. Most quarterbacks, that ball would have been on the ground because Cedric clamped it. But (Vince) actually jerked it back away and then made 15 (yards)."
But the oft-maligned unit deserves credit where credit is due: the guards (Tillman Holloway, Will Allen) have been solid all year especially Allen who has sucked it up and played with a fracture in his right hand). The young tackles (Justin Blalock, Jonathan Scott) have stepped up their play the past couple of games after an inconsistent start (and looking utterly overwhelmed against OU). C Jason Glynn is no threat to win the Outland but hasn't been knocked two yards off the ball after nearly every snap like last season).
RUN DEFENSE AND QUATERBACK PRESSURE
Baylor and Iowa States were hardly a barometer, but the defenses finest hour of 2003 came when it held Nebraskas league-leading ground game to 51 yards on 40 attempts. The unit has been hobbled at DE (losing LDE Bryan Pickryl early) but freshman Tim Crowder has generally performed well beyond his years in six starts. RDE Kalen Thornton has shown flashes of his former (pre-knee surgery) self while backup Mike Williams has shown explosiveness off the corner.
Nonexistent against OU and Arkansas but rock solid against Nebraskas ground-bound option attack, Texas pass rush is "much better" Brown said, after his team recorded two sacks and 12 QB hurries against OSU. Defensive coordinator Carl Reese sprinkled in some safety blitzes against Nebraska but prefers his down lineman to harass the quarterback. The units biggest challenge comes against Texas Tech QB B. J. Symons (the nations leading passer averaging 486 yards through the air).
Brown said the biggest area of improvement this season has been the teams chemistry.
"The chemistry on this team has become so good," Brown said. "No ones talking about whos getting the ball. Everyones talking about winning. Were in a school where we get so much attention, and theres so many stars that come in here from high school, that for five years weve talked about individuals. Right now, were talking about team. Thats the most improvement Ive seen on this football team. Theyre working to win as a unit; theyre not talking about who plays the best."