Holiday Bowl: Inside The Team Perspective

Inside Texas recently spoke with a member of the Texas football team to discuss the team's behind-the-scenes thinking heading into the Holiday Bowl.

[Editor's note: To get these candid comments, we agreed to withhold the player's name.]

"The focus is that it's just another game we have to prepare for and win. Our attitude is we want to put a hurtin' on them."

While much has been made about UT missing out on another BCS opportunity and being relegated to a third Holiday Bowl appearance in four years, the team, according to our source, is excited about meeting Washington State.

"We're more than happy to go to San Diego. We'll play any one, anywhere, any time. And when we get there, only one thing will be on our minds and that is, 'Time to get the job done.'"

While Mack Brown and Co.'s coaching prowess is often questioned, the Texas staff has an opportunity to finish with back-to-back-to-back 11-win seasons, an accomplishment certainly worth bragging about. And not only is this something the staff wants, but this is something the players want just as much.

"To end up with 11 wins for the third straight year, that would mean a lot to us. We'd much rather be 12-0 right now instead of 10-2, but winning our bowl game and being 11-2 would mean a lot. Anytime you can achieve something like that (three straight 11-2 records) in NCAA D-I ball, that's an accomplishment."

Of course it won't be easy to collect that 11th-win -- the Cougars can score some points...

"It'll be like playing Texas Tech again except Washington State may do a better job of running the ball. They also spread the ball around just like Texas Tech. The difference is, Washington State runs the ball a little more. They ran the ball really well against UCLA, so they'll be tough to defend."

It's that kind of balance that could make for a shootout if the Longhorn D has some of the same problems stopping that kind of an attack as its had in the past. And while many blame the front four or a young and inexperienced secondary, what about the linebackers?

"Our linebackers have been kind of a weak spot for us over the years if you listen to what the media has said and there's probably some truth to that. No one is better than D.J., but we need to get better across the board. However, the D-line was raving about the linebacking play the other day in practice, so I think the unit is improving.

"This year, we had some injury problems at linebacker. Garnet Smith got hurt. Then Brian Robison got injured. And Reed Boyd got a little banged up too. But we have to get better there. And we should because there's a lot of talent here. Robert Killebrew is learning the position the more practice he gets and he's already faster than D.J., but is working behind him with Marcus Myers at the back-up WILL. Either one of those two guys could step in and play that position in the future, but right now, everybody knows D.J. is the best we have. Aaron Harris came on when Garnet and Brian got hurt, so he's going to be in the mix with those two guys. And then Eric Foreman has also done some good things. When you add those guys with the likes of an Aurmon Satchell and Scott Derry, you can see that there's a logjam of talent, so there's a chance the LB unit can get a lot better and that's exciting to think about."

Meanwhile, there's been some speculation that Defensive Coordinator Carl Reese could retire at the end of this season. What does the team think about that?

"Coach Reese is a different character. But he's really smart. If he wants to retire, that's up to him. But if people think he should be fired, then tell me who should we hire. Didn't Texas have a defense ranked 100-something before he came in? Didn't our defense a couple of years ago rank No. 1? Coach Reese is such a smart defensive coach. He's a great coach. Before he came, our defense struggled. I'm not going to talk bad about our coaches. We would have never came here if it wasn't for them."

But that Oklahoma game this year really soured quite a few people. With Texas matching the intensity Kansas State brought to Austin and then watching those same Wildcats dominate Oklahoma, some cannot understand how Texas could look so awful in the 65-13 RRS defeat. What the hell happened?

"It's kind of sickening to think we matched K-State's intensity and then we can't match Oklahoma with the same intensity. Doesn't make sense. And we know whoever makes the least amount of mistakes will win the game. Everybody on our D has a couple of responsibilities, that's it. So, there's not a lot of confusion. You just have to play your game and avoid making mistakes."

IT: While it's purely philosophical, not to mention speculative, some believe Texas plays not to lose and worries about making mistakes. And some attribute that to the Longhorn coaches. You even mentioned the need to avoid mistakes a couple of different times. Are the Texas coaches preaching the importance of not making mistakes as opposed to just playing your hearts out?

"I see where you're going with this. And you want to blame the coaches. But it's on us. And they're not telling us over and over about not making mistakes. Their message is pure and simple: Just do your job. And that if you do your job, then we'll be okay. That's how I would describe the philosophy our coaches have."

IT: So why were the players unable to do their job vs. OU?

[Our Inside The Team answer to that question, from a current player's perspective, is available only to Inside Texas subscribers by clicking here.]

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