It was another of those situations where the defense "saw too much," he said. It's a phrase Robinson has coined describing those times when his players get distracted by the big picture and thus fail to follow individual assignments and/or abandon techniques.
"We were going to stop the short yardage plays instead of reading keys right. That's not like us. When you study it (game film) and break it down, it's just not like us. We were there (in position)."
Whatever the reason for the missed tackles, poor pursuit angles and other breakdowns contributing to the 35-7 deficit, Robinson is certain of one thing: his team did not come out flat.
"Sometimes you try too hard," Robinson said. "I don't feel like we were flat at all. We came out hitting. I mean, sometimes you can get over-zealous and not using good fundamental techniques and not using weight properly. The margin for error against the real good players is a lot less."
Robinson continued to insist there were no significant halftime adjustments, stating, "It was more of a matter of us getting it right." Texas obviously brought its safeties closer to the LOS, occasionally blitzing them, and generally got more pressure on the QB from the DE position.
BUILDING THE PERFECT LINEBACKER
If we're tossing bouquets to Robinson for instilling this never-say-die attitude in the Longhorn defense, then it's worth a mention how the Co-DC has fine-tuned Derrick Johnson and made him even better. Robinson admitted long ago that there are some things about D.J. that are simply innate and just can't be coached. At the same time, Johnson mentioned this week that he was surprised at how much he has learned this season from Robinson.
The result may be college football's perfect linebacker. Johnson was named as one of four finalists for the 2004 Lombardi Award Tuesday, and the other three are down linemen. He joins Southern Cal DE Shaun Cody, Wisconsin DE Erasmus Jones and Georgia DE David Pollack. The winner will be announced December 8 in Houston. (The three Butkus Award finalists, a group D.J. is certain to be a part of, will be announced this Thursday at 11 a.m.)
Robinson recited a litany of drills that are part of the daily grind for honing the skills of his troops. But for D.J., in particular, Robinson sought to harness and redirect the blazing speed of someone whom he said already is the fastest linebacker he has ever coached at any level -- collegiate or professional. Johnson's speed, however, had been an occasional liability the past three seasons as teams schemed around his tendency to over-pursue by adding misdirection plays to their offense.
"By showing a little bit of control you might not make a play that two years ago you might have made," Robinson said, "but I think you're going to make more plays because you're going to be out of position less."
Johnson is seeking to join DT Kenneth Sims (1981) and Tony DeGrate (1984) as Longhorn Lombardi winners. He is the ninth Longhorn in the 35-year history of the award to be named a finalist, including DE Cory Redding (2002), DT Steve McMichael (1979) and DT Jerry Sisemore (1972).
Robinson briefly recalled the first time he met Johnson last February.
"I remember walking away from our meeting thinking, 'Wow. This is going to be good deal.' This kid is open-minded and receptive and you can't ask for much more than that."