Getting the magic back
Texas destroys UCLA and starts to look special
If I were Texas Head Coach Mack Brown (and I am so glad I’m not, for so many reasons), I would complete my post-game press availability, keeping that “we aren't nearly as good as we need to be” tone—then I would walk to the nearest custodial closet, close the door and scream “Yeah, baby!” with a giant, throw your back out, fist pump.
Brown deserves the personal moment, because everything he has done since leaving last season’s pain behind has turned to gold.
Today, almost exactly one year removed from the start of that 5-7 abomination that was the Longhorn’s 2010 season, it is more clear than ever what went wrong: the reasons are myriad, and the solution was nothing short of extraordinary, touching every corner of the Texas football program.
It’s further clear that the change in offensive leadership (the departure of Brown’s long-time friend and former offensive coordinator Greg Davis) was as badly needed as so many fans thought. New co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin, working with Major Applewhite, has developed an extraordinary set of offensive weapons, using what he had to work with: young receivers, young running backs, young offensive lineman and perhaps most important, young quarterbacks.
Saturday’s 49-20 whipping of UCLA was the exorcism Mack Brown needed. It was probably only Mack who needed it, because so few Texas Longhorns playing or coaching yesterday had anything to do with that past mess, but they have everything to do with what’s happening now.
Harsin’s offense took three weeks of tweaking to mature, but what an offense it’s turned out to be: 488 yards of total offense against UCLA, with 284 rushing yards.
Case McCoy, the patient sophomore making his first start and showing all of the accuracy and decision-making brilliance of his brother, completed 12 of his 15 passes with no interceptions.
Tailback Malcolm Brown, getting the opportunity to show if he can run as well in the first half as he has in the second, showed strength and stamina that Longhorn nation hasn’t seen since Cedric Benson ran across the 40 acres. “I didn't know after the Rice game if he was for real or not,” said Mack Brown after the game, “but after today and the BYU game, we know.”
And we haven’t even started talking about a nasty, rock solid defense that intercepted 3 passes (…in the first quarter), took the ball away four times, held the strong running UCLA offense to 141 yards on the ground and, overall, dominated the game.
Texas met every goal for this match:
1) Be consistent on offense.Texas need not blow out UCLA in the first half. But it’s OK if they do. We don’t even know what consistency means for this team they just keep getting better. Brown figured out the magic in the second half of the last two games, and moved those guys to the first half—cha-ching.
2) Stick with the young guys. This isn’t even a question anymore, not only can these kids play, they set up Texas to be very good for a very long time. “This is probably the biggest role any group of freshmen has had to play at my time at the University of Texas," said Brown during his post-game press conference. “The old guys have been great encouraging the young guys. Team chemistry is really good right now, and I think this team is all about winning and nothing else.”
3) Play shut down defense. Texas D must continue shutting down the run. Done, as mentioned above. Again, we don’t know how great this defense can be yet.
Looking at the keys to victory:
• Win the turnover battle – Four for us, one for them. Malcolm Brown lost his third fumble of the season. None have affected the game, but that’s a freshman mistake he must fix.
• Give the ball to Malcolm Brown 24 times – How about 22 times for 110 yards. Who can remember the last time Texas had a 100 yard rusher?
• Take care of the quarterback – Texas QB’s were never sacked and showed great accuracy.
The Texas Longhorns confidence should be high, and it needs to be as they head into conference play in two weeks at Iowa State, the prep game leading to the Oklahoma match-up. The schedule has worked to Texas favor, not too tough, but increasingly better teams—and Brown knows he has work to do. But the foundation has been laid, this is a team ready to compete and win, and they have a chance to be special.