Only this interview, for Texas co-defensive coordinator Duane Akina, had an interesting twist. It was conducted not only for Mack Brown, who will hire someone as his defensive coordinator for 2007, but also for 65,875 fans on hand at the Alamo Bowl Saturday in San Antonio. And for probably a few thousand other Texas fans who monitored the game and wondered if Akina would, indeed, serve himself well during the interview process.
Akina was given the complete reins of the defense when Gene Chizik bolted last month to Ames, Iowa, where he is now the new head coach at Iowa State. Brown acknowledged that Akina would take control of the defense, and that he would not contact anyone about the job until after the bowl game.
Like most job interviews, this one started out a bit shaky. But if you had to grade it, youd probably give it a B-. Certainly the ultimate result was exactly what the boss wanted a Texas win, 26-24. But as with all tests, there was also room for improvement. And if Texas fans wished for a definitive interview/test that proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that Akina should absolutely be the one and only choice, without the "co", the answer is...
Thats as close to definitive as we can give you.
One thing that was definitive about Saturdays game was this when the defense had to make plays to win, it did. Iowa had the ball at the Texas 21 yard-line, facing 3rd and 8 with 6:30 left in the game, trailing the Longhorns 26-21. Pick up the first down, and the Hawkeyes remain alive for a potential go-ahead touchdown.
Texas stiffened, forced an incomplete pass and gave up only a 38-yard Kyle Schlicher field goal.
Iowa got the ball back again at the UT 48 yard-line with 3:35 left to play, needing to gain only 20-25 yards to set up a go-ahead field goal. On the first play from scrimmage, the Hawkeyes tried a reverse to receiver Dominique Douglas. Marcus Griffin snared him in the backfield for a loss of 11, and the drive ended with two incompletions and a punt.
In the third period, with Texas trailing 14-13 and Iowa driving at the Texas 29 yard-line, Akinas unit faced another moment of potential crisis. The Hawkeyes were looking at a 3rd and 3, but Texas linebacker Drew Kelson pressured quarterback Drew Tate, forcing an incomplete pass.
The ensuing field goal by Schlicher hooked wide left, and Texas had once again stiffened when it needed it most.
The Hawkeyes opened the game ablaze, driving 77 yards on nine plays, knifing through the Texas defense at will. Albert Young capped the drive with a one-yard scoring run, and not quite four minutes into the game, Texas trailed 7-0.
After a quick three-and-out by the Texas offense, the Hawkeyes zapped the Longhorns again. Tate hit receiver Andy Brodell with a short pass, and Brodell sped through the Texas defense, giving Iowa a sudden and rather shocking 14-0 lead.
Thats when Akinas interview began to improve dramatically.
Following the Brodell score, the Hawkeyes would not score again until 1:08 remained in the third quarter, when Brodell reached the end zone again, this time on a 23-yard pass from Tate.
Statistically, the Texas defense was like that proverbial curly-haired girl of yore: oh so good and oh so frustrating at the same time. Good was Aaron Ross interception in the end zone that kept the Hawkeyes from stretching their lead to 21-3.
Bad was giving up 114 passing yards in the first quarter on just five Iowa completions.
At the end of the day, Akinas run defense was above average (89 yards on 34 carries), and the pass defense was below average (274 yards and two touchdowns allowed on big plays).
But overall, Akina probably feels good about the outcome, and about his chances at changing the title on his business cards. And unlike most job interviews, he already had a job with the same employer, so if someone else is hired and he continues as co-defensive coordinator, so be it.
If he gets the gig, the Longhorns will turn their defense over to an intense and hard-working man who is popular with his players and has helped coordinate a national championship defense. And his last three defensive units have finished the season with bowl wins.
Not a bad resume. And all and all, not a bad interview.