"We won 66-0 (actually, 66-7) last year and got beat in our second game," Mack Brown said. "We've got to be realistic about who we are and what we want to be. We've got to beat better teams down the stretch to be a great team."
But let's also be realistic about Saturday's game by giving praise where praise is due. The stats are truly gaudy, and we'll get to those shortly. What coaches were looking for was improvement in the run defense (it was there), if the D could force turnovers (All-American WLB Derrick Johnson was a guided missile Saturday, forcing three), if the receivers could hold their own (well, their downfield blocking looked solid), improved accuracy from QB Vince Young (the touch VY put on the ball was a marked improvement, going 14-of-21 for 153 yards and 1 TD) and if the running game could pick up where it left off at the end of the regular season (Oh, boy! Did it!).
But I think what Orangebloods most wanted to see was... attitude. Especially from the defense. We're taking about the kind of sustained, aggressive, across-the-board, take-no-prisoner, throat-stomping, we're-Texas-and-you're-not, attitude regardless of the opponent, regardless of the score, regardless of the quarter.
Friends, that's what I saw from this defense -- even from the second and third team guys. And I saw three whirling dervish defensive coaches on the sideline that looked like they had just been unleashed, and it's carrying over to the players. Co-Defensive Coordinator Greg Robinson has been preaching a game of "controlled violence" from the opening bell. On the first couple of series, DEs Tim Crowder and Brian Robison were in the UNT backfield so often that they could have had their mail delivered there. The rest of the defense was swarming to the ball, including freshman Frank Okam, who will remember his collegiate debut for recovering a Johnson fumble and advancing it six yards.
You can say that it was just North Texas, but I haven't always seen this kind of four quarters of hustle on the second Saturday in October.
"We accomplished what we were looking to accomplish," Robinson said. "You could feel the intensity from our guys. I like the hitting. I think it was a good start but we all know we've got a long road ahead of us."
All week, coaches pointed to RB Patrick Cobbs (whose 152.7 ypg led the nation last season) as a worthy barometer for defensive improvement. Here's the book on Cobbs: eight carries for minus-one yard. UNT coaches pulled Cobbs at the end of one quarter, since Texas was up 24-0 and since the cutback runner was still mending from last month's minor surgery (thumb).
"We've been working on the cutback all week in practice because we know he likes to cut back," SS Michael Huff said. "We just tried to take that away."
All told, the D held UNT to 130 total yards (38 rushing, 92 passing) on just 49 plays. The Mean Green (more 'green' than 'mean' on this occasion) managed just four first downs (compared to Texas' 29) and was just 1-of-14 on third down conversions. Texas dominated the time of possession, 36:13 to 23:47. By halftime, Johnson forced three fumbles while the revamped Longhorn D produced six three-and-outs. Texas had 409 yards of total offense while holding UNT to just two first downs at the break.
"The defense did a real good job," Johnson said. "I'm really proud, and I'm real excited about the future of this defense. We're trying to be the number one defense."
The much-needed defensive dominance almost overshadowed the fact that Texas had two (and nearly three) RBs rush for more than 100 yards. RB Cedric Benson played little more than two quarters, rumbling for 181 yards on 15 carries while backup RB Selvin Young added 102 yards on 12 attempts, including a 48-yard TD run to make it 41-0 late in the second quarter. True freshman RB Ramonce Taylor provided the longest run of the night, a 74-yarder that fell just three feet shy of the goal line, and finished with 96 yards on four carries. (For a week, R.T. gets to brag about his 24 ypc average.)
"I thought it was obvious that his work during the off-season and during the summer had him in better position tonight," Brown said of his senior running back. "He used his hands really well. I thought he had great vision. I was real proud of Selvin, too. And I thought Vince threw the ball really, really well."
Of course, Brown and Benson gushed over the O-line's overpowering display.
"I had a great experience today," Benson grinned, before adding, "You wanna hear about it? The second team offensive line was about to go in (on the fourth offensive series) and I was asked if I wanted to go in with them. I said, 'Yeah, I trust you guys.' We're out on the field in the huddle and, on the first play I told them that I believed in them and that they were just as good as the first offensive line and then we took it all the way down the field. It's a great feeling for me to have that trust in them. They went out there and played their butts off."
Texas scored on eight of nine first-half possessions and then opened the second half with a 71-yard, seven play drive as if to say, "Oh, yes! We will score against this team after halftime." (The Mean Green pitched a third- and fourth-quarter shutout when they last visited in 2002.)
At the final gun, Texas had rolled to 673 total yards (513 on the ground). That's more firepower than at any time in program history save for the 692 yards generated against Rice in 1998.
"Cedric walked up and said to me (early in the third quarter), 'I've got 181 yards,'" Brown laughed. "I said, 'I know. Leave.' He wanted 200."
In a 65-0 rout where coaches generally saw improvement in critical areas, are there gray clouds behind the silver lining. Texas did commit three fumbles. And while it recovered all three, Brown noted: "Next week that will get us beat."
The question remains: does Texas have a deep ball threat among its untested receiving core? Yes, it's senior FL Tony Jeffery (but this game got out of hand so early that going deep following the first 15 minutes would have been almost cruel. Then again, Mack the Knife did not hesitate to go with the one-minute offense to tack on a FG and make it 44-0 at the half). TE David Thomas led all pass-catchers with 48 yards on two grabs.
Brown also said he wished Texas could have experienced a little bit of adversity Saturday, just so it would have had the opportunity to overcome it. That opportunity may come as early as next Saturday, when Texas travels to Arkansas (7:45 p.m., ESPN). But on this Labor Day weekend, you wouldn't need more than one hand to count the number of times Texas has opened a can of whup-ass of this magnitude in your lifetime. It quickly became one of those bench-emptying runaways where nearly every jock wearing Burnt Orange got to play except for former All-American point guard T.J. Ford who took in the home-opener from the UT sideline.
Overall, Texas absolutely, positively dominated in every phase of the contest (well, okay, North Texas won the punting game but that's only because they had 12 chances to perfect it).
"We got about as much out of an opening game that we could get," Brown said. "We felt coming out of this one that we got out of it what we needed to get done."
When asked if Brown was more responsible for the playcalling, Davis said: "The coaches were on the phones just like always. We've worked like we've always worked."
WR Brian Carter left the game in the third quarter with what appeared to be a minor injury to the right knee and did not return. He walked off the field with the team with his knee bandaged, taking time to hug a coed (didn't seem like he was in too much pain).