Brown: It's All About Improving The Passing Game

Head coach Mack Brown made significant personnel changes immediately after each of Texas' previous four losses to Oklahoma. Following Saturday's 12-0 shutout, Brown is primarily looking for significant improvement in the passing game.

"We'll continue to work on our offense which did a great job until yesterday," Brown said Sunday. "We've got to figure out why we didn't make the plays yesterday and go fix them. But I don't think we're as far along as we should be at this point in the passing game."

QB Vince Young was just 8-of-23 passing for 86 yards. Young completed just three passes to wideouts (Tony Jeffery, Limas Sweed, Nate Jones) for 40 yards and zero passes to TE David Thomas.

"When you have seven, eight, or nine guys in the box, it's hard to get the tight end free," Brown said. "It makes it hard to make plays outside, and we didn't make enough plays outside."

(Just once when OU was stacking the line on one of those third-and-short situations, I wish Thomas would have released for the LOS. He'd still be running. OC Greg Davis, of course, saves all trick plays for Rice.)

"We had some throws to the tight end that we didn't complete," Brown said. "We just didn't get them there."

Brown refused to direct the blame for Texas' anemic passing game, which renders the offense utterly one-dimensional, at either Young or at the inexperienced WRs.

"It's not any one person, and it's not all about the receivers," Brown said.

Then isn't some of this about one of Division-I football's highest-paid Offensive Coordinators who has not found a way to move the ball against OU in the past five years, despite an arsenal loaded with Benson, Young, Thomas, Roy Williams, B.J. Johnson and Chris Simms? Even before the final gun, calls for Greg Davis' dismissal were surging through message boards, emails (you should've heard the voice mails I got!) and then later on newspaper editorial pages.

"A whole lot of people are involved with the offense," Brown said. "Greg gets the criticism because his name is labeled the offensive coordinator. I don't think you can ever put an entire ballgame on any one person. That would be really unfair."

Brown would rather take a bullet than publicly criticize one of his athletes but came close in defending Davis. Many of Davis' plays were well designed and were the right calls at the right time, Brown said, but were not well executed. But that raises the question of Young's development. Coaches have gushed over his development (ranging from improvements in his release to the efficiency with which he now goes through his reads) since the first day of August camp. If coaches don't have the improvement they need in the passing game by now, what makes them think they're going to have it by Saturday?

Brown is quick to point out that OU's defense had a lot to do with the ineffectiveness in the passing game.

"We played what may be the best team in the country and had a chance to win in the fourth quarter," Brown said. "I don't think that we need wholesale changes; we just need to adjust a few things."

Speaking of adjustments:

Oklahoma has had a new wrinkle for this game each of the past five years for which Longhorn coaches failed to make adjustments. You knew that Bob Stoops was gong to find a way to get Peterson matched up at the corners against Texas' depleted and slower DEs. Stoops unveiled a counter-pitch attack for Peterson, who racked up 225 yards, a series record for a true freshman. Still, if you had told me that the Texas D would hold OU to a pair of field goals during the first 52 minutes, I would have thought Texas would have had at least an 11-point lead at that point.

Instead, it was Texas' first shutout in nearly one-quarter century, ending the nation's longest scoring streak. That's because there were several wrinkles courtesy of a less-than-vintage Sooner defense (note: my definition of 'less-than-vintage' is a Sooners defense that ranks No. 38 nationally, fields only four starters from last year's team and gives up 24 points to Bowling Green).

The Sooner front seven defended the zone read by playing the gaps rather than assigning certain players to the quarterback or the running back. Sooner pass defenders showed some disguises that VY said he had not seen all week in practice. OU also switched up its blitz package: a team that had blitzed relatively few times in four games had typically sent its MLB or nickel back. On Saturday, the cornerback blitz did the most damage in the most critical situations (i.e., when Texas was on the brink of the impregnable Sooners 30-yard line).

Brown, who only conceded that the corner blitzes "got us a couple of times", refused to pinpoint the blame for Texas' ongoing struggles to pick up blitzes in high-profile games.

"Each one is different," Brown said. "Every time, it's a different play, with different protection, with different reads and different assignments."

Was thought given to calling more sprint-outs in the passing game, given Young's natural inclination for the rollouts?

"Vince sprinted out three or four times and ran some bootlegs," Brown said, "so we moved him quite a bit. But when they're blitzing from the outside, it's hard to move him."

For all the emphasis on defensive fundamentals, Texas missed far too many tackles Saturday in surrendering 414 total yards, 301 on the ground. The arm-tackling was evident to former Pittsburgh Steeler and current ABC Sports sideline commentator Lynn Swann who asked Brown about it during the national telecast. (Note: for those who can't stomach Brown's insistence that Texas is still a young defense that is a "work-in-progress", do yourself a favor and skip the following two paragraphs.)

"We're not an experienced defense," Brown said. "We're still working on who we are as a defense. I like the fact that they're playing as hard as they can play. We missed some tackles, but we're going to keep working hard and playing hard."

Added Brown, "We think we've mad great progress. We played great defensively."

His focus then shifted back to the Texas offense: "I don't think any of us responded in the passing game like we needed to."

Brown also noted that the defense held in check "sixth-year, Heisman Trophy" QB Jason White, who was 14-of-26 for 113 yards, two INT and no TD. Peterson, meanwhile, had more yards at the end of the third quarter than RB Cedric Benson has produced in three years against OU.

"We made a lot of yards in the running game (154 net) but we lost 31 yards," Brown said. "You've got to have a better passing game to get the pressure off your running game. The stacked line of scrimmage made it difficult for Cedric (23 carries for 95 yards). We've got to make plays in the passing game."

Brown was pleased with the kicking game, as P Richmond McGee averaged 40.2 yards on seven boots but, more importantly, placed four punts inside the OU 15-yard line. He also placed his only kickoff inside the Sooner 15.

"The kicking game, for a game like this, was the best I've seen (while at Texas)," Brown said.

Brown, who repeatedly maintains that he never sleeps the night after a loss, said he has already watched Saturday's game film five times. All told, Texas' offense produced six explosive plays (runs of 12+, and passes of 14+, yards) while OU had 12.

"You never feel good after a loss," Brown said, "especially after this game."

Following a late-afternoon practice (Sunday practices, by the way, are something defensive coaches Greg Robinson and Dick Tomey brought to Texas), Brown will review the film again. And again.

"We'll continue to look at what we could have done better and what we did well," Brown said. "We'll look long and hard tonight at any adjustments we should make. But we haven't made any decisions about what we would change."

Texas faces Big 12 North leading (is that really saying anything?) Missouri in a 2:30 kick at DKR Saturday (ABC telecast).

Last week, Brown mentioned that it usually takes at least two weeks to recover emotionally from the OU game. On Sunday, he suggested that it takes longer than that while adding that his team will have to rebound. A-gain.

"I don't think you ever move on from this one because it's a hard loss for us and a hard loss for our fans," Brown said. "But we have to move on and prepare for Missouri because you don't want the same team to beat you twice."


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