Will The Defense Rest In The Holiday Bowl?

While head coach <B>Mack Brown</B> insists his Longhorns are not defensive about playing in the second-tier Holiday Bowl on Dec. 30, he is concerned that his team gets defensive during the game itself. The San Diego venue has typically hosted high scoring shootouts where some traditionally strong defenses have wilted over the years.

"I don’t think any defense has ever played good out there," Brown said Monday. "I don’t know if it’s in the water or what it is. It’s probably playing WAC teams and PAC-10 teams because they throw it so well."

Case-in-point: Texas led the nation in total defense in 2001 but surrendered 43 points, 444 passing yards (27-of-54) and 151 yards on the ground (28 attempts) in the comeback Holiday Bowl win over Washington. The Horns dramatic rally came on the hot hand of QB Major Applewhite (37-of-55 for 473 passing yards) who, of course, started his first game of the season on the last game of his career.

For now, Brown is not looking for a record-setting performance from his QB as much as his defense to toe the line when Texas returns to the Holiday Bowl for the third time in four years.

"I think our defense is excited about it because we know we’ve had some challenges against teams that can throw the ball really well. They know the last two times in the Holiday Bowl we’ve given up 35 and 43 points (against Oregon and Washington, respectively) and people thought we played good out there because they thought that was a low scoring game."

Washington State runs the kind of high flying, spread offense that has given Texas fits during the past couple of seasons.

"They’re even similar to (Texas) Tech since they throw the ball all over the place," Brown said. "It will be a great chance for us to see if we can cover the pass any better than we did against Texas Tech."

Tech QB B.J. Symons riddled Longhorn D-backs and linebackers for 365 yards (32-of-58) in Texas’ 43-40 win last month.

"We’re playing much better defense now than we were at the first of the year," Brown added. "When we’ve forced turnovers and taken care of the ball, we’ve been a good team."

Brown points out that WSU led the nation in QB sacks, and Texas was second, during the past three seasons.

"That will be a good matchup to see who can get to each quarterback the most," Brown said.

The Horns will practice 3:30 p.m., Tuesday afternoon and at 9 a.m., Wednesday through Friday. Tuesday and Thursday practices will be in full pads. The team departs for San Diego on Dec. 23.

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