Another Step Back

With a Holiday Bowl win and another top five finish, <B>Mack Brown</B> could have (rightly) argued that his Texas program, despite an early loss to Arkansas and another embarrassment at the hands of Oklahoma, remained among the nation's elite teams for the third straight season. Instead, following a 28-20 loss to Washington State in San Diego, the Horns clearly took a step backwards in 2003.

The PAC-10 runner-up Cougars outplayed Texas and the WSU staff, although led by first-year head coach Bill Doba, also clearly out-coached a UT staff with years of experience but seemingly no ability, particularly at the top three spots, to innovate, motivate and create a championship-caliber team.

"I personally want to think Mack Brown for all that he did for me this week," Doba said. "Telling me what to say and showing me where to go."

In perhaps the most telling comment of the post-game, Doba added, "I told Mack that he won the press conference but I was going to win the football game."

In a common story line in recent losses, Texas utterly failed to utilize its offensive talent. The Horns gained a meager 327 yards. And while Roy Williams ended up with nine catches for 97 yards, he was a non-factor through three quarters. His NFL-bound WR teammate B.J. Johnson grabbed just three balls and probable future pro Sloan Thomas was shut out.

Perhaps the biggest play of the game came in the second quarter when Vince Young missed a wide open Williams for what would have been a 76-yard TD catch-and-run on one of the few downfield attempts to Williams till late in the game. Instead of a commanding 14-0 lead, Texas was forced to punt three plays later, and the Cougars drove 66 yards in eight plays to tie the game at seven with a minute to play before the half.

The Horns answered with a field goal drive, powered largely by a 48-yard draw play to Selvin Young, to go up 10-7 at the break, but the third quarter would be all Washington State.

The Cougars scored three third quarter TDs -- on a 54-yard pass to Sammy Moore against Cedric Griffin (where Moore looked to have stepped out of bounds at least twice while tip-toeing the sideline), a 26-yard drive following a 51-yard Moore punt return, and an 18-yard return by Jason David of a (questionable) David Thomas fumble -- sprinting to a 26-10 lead going into the fourth quarter.

As usual in UT's Holiday Bowl appearances, Carl Reese's defense looked clueless at times, and certainly never put any pressure on WSU QB Matt Kegel.

"They never sacked me," Kegel said. "I don't even think I was pressured except for maybe once or twice."

Kegel finished 18 of 32 for 203 yards with two TDs and two INTs.

The Texas signalcallers didn't have the luxury of time like Kegel did. Washington State sacked Vince Young and Chance Mock a total of seven times and consistently applied pressure through blitzing, and offensive coordinator Greg Davis, as usual, showed little ability to adjust his play calling and take advantage of the opportunities presented by the Cougars' gambling style.

"We had guys open, we just didn't execute," Mock said.

The Horns almost completely abandoned the run after the first two Vince Young-led series after the break. Mock took over and played for the remainder of the game, throwing the ball 30 times in the second half and finishing 14 of 35 for 181 yards and a TD. Mock played seven second half series, and on only one of those series did the Horns attempt a run. Cedric Benson gained 20 yards on seven second half carries after totaling 67 yards on 15 first half totes.

Young rushed eight times for 62 yards (he was also sacked once for a 12-yard loss) and completed just six of 14 pass attempts for 15 yards.

Despite the overall pathetic performance, Texas actually had a shot at tying the game late. After a holding call in the endzone gave Washington State a safety and a 28-13 lead with 8:41 to play, Tim Crowder picked off a Kegel pass deflected by Kalen Thornton near midfield around the six-minute mark. Mock led a quick scoring drive capped off with a 30-yard TD toss to Roy Williams to pull the Horns within eight, 28-20, with 4:29 on the game clock.

The Texas D forced a rare three-and-out and Selvin Young set the offense up at the 44 with a 20-yard punt return. Mock again hit Williams deep (where were these throws in the first three quarters?), this time for 46 yards to the WSU 10 with just over two minutes to play. After an incomplete attempt for Sloan Thomas on first down, Mock, under heavy pressure on second down, tried to throw the ball but it slipped out of his hand before his follow through and the Cougars recovered, ending the Horns' final realistic threat.

"I hope younger guys will learn from this and mature from this and go on towards the national championship," senior Nathan Vasher said.

Brown invoked national championship talk as well, reminding media members that last year Texas beat LSU and LSU is now playing for a national title.

But talking about national championships given the current make-up of the coaching staff is nothing short of ludicrous. In all their years of coaching, Brown, Reese and Davis have never won even a conference title, much less a national one.

Will the Texas head coach make the changes on his coaching staff that are desperately needed to make UT a legitimate title contender? Actually, the more relevant question is, does he even recognize that changes need to be made?

His comments suggest that the answer to both questions is 'no'.

[Editor's note: For more background on potential off-season coaching changes, see our weekly Inside Scoop feature, particularly the Dec. 12 edition.]

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