Brown: Offense Back On Track

Buried in the offensive avalanche of 569 total yards of offense is the stat that head coach <B>Mack Brown</b> said was the most impressive in Texas' 52-21 thumping of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Saturday.

While RB Cedric Benson's 208 yards (on 31 carries) was just five yards shy of his career best, and although human highlight reel SE Roy Williams' 58-yard scoring grab in the fourth quarter made him UT's career touchdown reception leader with 17, and even though FL B.J. Johnson has caught a pass in a school record 27 consecutive starts, the most telling statistic (Brown said) is the one where Texas tallied a ‘zero'.

That would be ‘zero' turnovers, folks, for the second straight contest.

"The most pleasing thing to me is that we don't have any turnovers this year," Brown said.

The defense, meanwhile, has collected two interceptions and two fumbles in two games to push the Horns to 2-0. How important is it to dominate the turnover ratio?

"Our big emphases last year was, because of turnovers, we would have been in the national championship game," Brown said. "Chris (Simms) has done a tremendous job of taking care of the ball. Chris didn't have any bad balls last night, and nothing that came close to an interception. Basically, this is his redshirt junior year and he is developing into a great quarterback. In some cases, by his own admission, he's forced things and he's turned the ball over. But in the first two games, he hasn't done that."

As important as it is to hold on to the ball, Texas had yet to prove this season it could move it consistently -- on the ground and through the air -- for four quarters.

"Our offense is back on track, and we have to continue to do that," said Brown, who also lauded the very second-team unit that he blasted after the North Texas game. The group scored on a five-play drive late in the game, capped by true freshman RB Selvin Young's 30-yard touchdown run.

UT's offensive outpouring was matched only by that which fell from the Carolina skies throughout the day as the last remnants of Tropical Storm Hanna worked it's way through the state.

"I thought our offense last night was better than our offense with Ricky (Williams)," Brown said. The 1998 squad averaged 204.2 yards on the ground and 266.5 through the air.

"Our offense had an answer for everything they did," Brown said, as Texas responded to thwart North Carolina's third-quarter comeback effort. "I was pleased when we were playing average and they made some plays that our offense responded very quickly to make sure they knew they couldn't win the game. We were a tough, physical football team last night."

It was also Benson's brightest hour in the Burnt Orange.

"This is the best I think I've seen Cedric play," Brown said. "He was disappointed in his performance during the opening game (49 yards on 18 carries). We didn't want to pound him coming out of his (off-season) shoulder operation and then he played baseball all summer. It may take him longer to get started, but he and the offensive line took over the game last night."

Benson's biggest improvement since last season has been his pass protection, Brown added.

"(Blocking) is where he's improved the most and understanding how important it is to play well without the ball," Brown said. "He's in a situation now where we can leave him in a game."

The offensive lull against the Mean Green may have convinced the Tar Heels that Texas could not run on them, Brown said. Defensively, Carolina started stacking the line and blitzing its linebackers and safeties as the game wore on. The result was man-coverage on Roy Williams, who responded with 136 yards on five receptions, including two touchdowns.

Williams' performance was probably just a sneak preview of what the All-American candidate can do now that he is playing pain-free following off-season foot surgery.

"We've watched him play hurt for two years," Brown said. "Roy is playing as good as any receiver in the country right now. He gives Chris the confidence to know where he is and, if he gets it around him, he'll catch it."

The Longhorn defense, however, drew mixed reviews from the head coach.

There were at least 15 missed tackles and four dropped interceptions, plus the D failed to cover a fumble in its own end zone.

Although the defense forced seven three-and-outs and limited Carolina to 21 net yards in the fourth quarter as Texas added 223, Brown simply said, "That's what you're supposed to do, especially on the road."

Although Carolina's 343 total yards was about 100 yards below it's season average, the lapses in intensity the defense showed in the second half against the Heels was not unlike the disinterest the offense revealed against North Texas.

"I was afraid this is what would happen when people talked so well of our defense and so poorly of our offense," Brown said. "Defensively, we relaxed last night. I didn't think we made the plays on defense to keep them from scoring and that was the most disappointing thing. We missed too many tackles, gave up too many big plays, and missed too many opportunities for turnovers. We need to go back and re-emphasize tackling."

DT Marcus Tubbs injury in the second quarter didn't help.

"That made us softer in middle, and we have to respond better," said Brown, who would not disclose the nature of Tubbs' injury. The injury report will be released later in the day, Brown added (see Hot News for an update).

Meanwhile, DE Kalen Thornton returned to the lineup for the first time this season, playing effectively before slightly twisting an ankle.

"Kalen is back to his form in pass rushing, but he's not taken on the rush as much as we need him to," Brown said. "On that first (Dakarai Pearson) interception, Kalen forced that interception because he hit (QB Darian Durant) as he released the ball. We really need Kalen back on field for his pass rushing."

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