Brown: Turnovers (Or Lack Thereof) The Difference

Same song, different verse.

During the preseason, head coach Mack Brown said the difference between Texas playing for a national championship last year (and settling for a second-tier bowl game) was turnovers. Ditto for Saturday's 42-28 loss at Texas Tech. Last year, the offense had too many giveaways in games against Oklahoma and Colorado; on Saturday, the defense didn't come up with enough.

"The difference in Saturday's game is we didn't force any turnovers," Brown said Monday. "That was the difference in the ballgame, in my estimation. (QB) Kliff Kingsbury did such great job in avoiding the rush. He got the ball out of his hands."

Both QB Chris Simms and Kingsbury registered one turnover (Kingsbury's fumble came the first time he touched the ball; Simms' interception came the last time he touched the ball). Obviously, the costlier of the turnovers comes at the expense of the team with no time-outs, late in the game.

The defense played well in the first quarter but then Kingsbury "got hot," the Texas head coach said. "You have to do something to get him off his rhythm, which we didn't do. It was the best I've ever seen him play."

Kingsbury spent four years of high school dreaming about playing for Texas, and then spent four years of college dreaming about beating the team that (he said) never recruited him. The senior was 39-of-62 for 473 yards and six touchdowns. But other than failing to produce the key turnover (that kind that saved games against Nebraska and Oklahoma State), Texas coaches are still scratching their heads about what they could have done differently to slow down a Red Raider team that has averaged 50 points at home.

"We tried just about everything we had," Brown said. "What we needed to do is make more plays. I wish we could have batted down some balls, sacked him once or intercepted him once."

On a day when the defense was without three of four down lineman (DT Marcus Tubbs and DE Kalen Thornton who did not even suit up and DT Rodrique Wright who played sparingly) and when the injury bug took a mid-game toll on CB Nathan Vasher (ankle) and LB Derrick Johnson (hamstring), the unit that needed to play defense…was the offense. Playing defense with your offense (by keeping the opponent's offense off the field) is predicated upon having at least a better-than-average ground game (the kind that Texas has not consistently fielded all season).

Same song, difference verse.

Brown commended the offensive line for its pass protection (Simms was sacked four times) but said he was "disappointed" in the running game.

"We had a great day offensively," Brown said, pointing to 10 explosive plays and 38 points, "but we wanted to stay on field more. Offensively, we scored too quick."

The Horns will spend the better part of this bye-week "correcting the mistakes we made" and trying to "figure out why didn't win the game, especially in the fourth quarter when it came down to making the kind of late play that we had been making all year, except for the OU game."

Frankly, when half of your banged-up defense is either sidelined or being carried off the field, the offense needed to win this one in the same way it did the Iowa State game (i.e., with a ground game that can move the chains. Three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust works in four down territory. And even with no timeouts, 5:41 is still plenty of time to negotiate the 34 yards needed after Ivan Williams' terrific kickoff return).

Brown conceded that the team "lost a lot of goals Saturday" but can still accomplish some otherwise noteworthy aspirations.

"We still have the goal of finishing in the top 5 and winning 11 games, which is hard to do," Brown said. "Hopefully, if we win two games, we'll be able to do that."

If it's any consolation, Texas A&M coach R.C. Slocum feels your pain. His 6-5 Aggies blew a double-digit lead at home against the Red Raiders before losing 48-47 in overtime, October 5.

"The Longhorns are a very good football team and they've had a heckuva season," Slocum said. "They've had some great road wins. The wins at Kansas State and Nebraska were great wins for them. They went to Lubbock and played a very good football team. Kingsbury had the hot hand the day we played him. I have been where they (Longhorns) were this past week; Texas Tech has a high-powered offense and Texas came up a little short. That can happen easily in today's game."

While Texas is now likely headed to either the Cotton or Alamo bowls, the Aggies are left to contemplate how humane it would be to their program, should they spring the upset in Austin, to accept an invitation to the Humanitarian Bowl (that's the bowl with the blue field in Boise, Idaho; a sky-view of the stadium makes it look like a toilet, which would be a fitting destination given the Ags' season).


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