October 11, 2011

Bouncing back from OU: Coaches and players break it down

1. Let's get after it with the big headlines from the coaches and players after the OU loss and heading into a difficult showdown with Oklahoma State.

I thought Mack Brown said the right things on Monday about the mindset of himself and the team. I thought Mack was hedging things in terms of expectations about a win this week against Oklahoma State, and that's probably realistic, even though probably hard to hear for fans.

He said he wasn't going to pout and wasn't going to allow his team to pout after a loss. He said he allowed that last year and it caused one loss to lead to another.

The most sweeping statement was probably this one:

"Usually after a win you can really get on 'em," Mack said. "After a loss you'd better pick 'em up. You can be direct. You can be fair. You don't want to embarrass them more than they've been embarrassed.

"We have to move forward and make some hard decisions during the week, and they'll respond to that more than anything else. It sounds bad, but if we get beat 7-6 or 44-40 it would have felt better, but we'd still be 4-1.

"So really and truly, a loss is a loss. You don't have moral losses at Texas. The good thing for us, we're 4-1 and have another great challenge where we should show improvement.

"We still feel like we can win, but we have to do the things we felt like we needed to do last week to win. If we don't against a great team, then we won't win again this weekend. So we have to improve those areas.

"I thought practice was great Sunday night. They came out with a good attitude. This team has a lot of pride, especially after last year. They are not going to let what happened last year happen again. They are going to fight every week and make sure we don't get the down games we had last year because we don't try."

Mack went out of his way to talk about players who did well in the OU game. He said he didn't do that last year.

So he talked about Christian Scott, Carrington Byndom, Foswhitt Whittaker and said Alex Okafor and Jackson Jeffcoat both had good games.

Many of his young players are going through adversity at Texas for the first time.

"Everybody responds to difficult days differently. Some people get depressed. Last year, I got depressed. I came over here mad. I was upset. I'm not going to do that this year.

"I'm going to take what it is, and it's my job to pick em up. It's my job to go back to work. I'm not going to let them get down. I'm not going to get down, because it obviously didn't work last year.

"It's the first time I've been like that since I've been here. It stunk. We stunk. And it was my fault. So I'm going to go back and be positive. They're going to take my lead, and they are going to be positive, and they're going to go back to work."

2. OU setting school records with 17 tackles behind the line, including 8 sacks, tells you everything you need to know about how the offensive line played against OU.

"We did not play well in the offensive line," Mack Brown said. "We did not pick up the blitz well. We ran the ball 45 times. So Bryan really tried to be physical on the ground. But we did not make the yards we needed to make. We didn't protect the quarterback like we needed to and have a lot of work to do in that area."

The result is Josh Cochran is now listed as a co-starter with Tray Allen at left tackle.

"Josh is up to 295 pounds now, and we just need to continue to let him grow," Mack said. "We just need to keep looking for combinations that fit. As young as they are in the offensive line, there's not many places you can go."

Mack said Sedrick Flowers is a guy the coaches want to see on the field at guard, but Flowers has been limited with an injured ankle the last three weeks.

"We've been trying to get him ready," Mack said. "He just hasn't been well enough to play. Probably won't play him as much this weekend. But he'll start playing more as soon as we get a chance to get him through the open date (Oct. 22).

"We kept thinking he would play, and then he would get to the game and he couldn't do it. So hopefully he'll keep coming on. We think he has a chance to be really good."

Left guard David Snow said, "There's a lot of things we need to fix.

"That stuff can't happen. If you want to win against a good team, it can't happen. We have to change some things up, start game-planning for OSU and get this behind us."

Bryan Harsin wouldn't put the blame for all the woes behind the line solely on his offensive linemen.

"We played a very good opponent up front," Harsin said. "Those guys (Oklahoma) did a great job of giving us some different looks - three-down, four down. The biggest difference is the speed of the game that you have to prepare for. When you see that, you're not going to get that same type of speed from a scout team.

"When you prepare against the scout team, you always have to go back and look and say, this is what OU looked like, and you have to prepare like that in practice and move quicker, a step faster. Those guys learned from that.

"I thought the O-line did a nice job of competing. It wasn't perfect, nor was any position on the field. But those guys kept competing. I didn't see them pouting or getting down. That's the biggest key in what you're looking for in a defeat like that."

Harsin said he needs to do more to help the offensive line.

"I'm not going to say it was any one group. It's more than that," he said. "There's situations in there where we have opportunities to get the ball outside and we're running into a look that's difficult just based off of that already.

"I thought they played hard. It wasn't perfect by any means, neither was any position on the field. They made as many mistakes as anyone else. But they kept competing.

"It goes back to myself making sure we have those guys in position to be successful and giving them the proper looks to go out there and understand what they need to get done and play fast."

3. Mack wants the ball in Marquise Goodwin's hands more and in D.J. Monroe's hands more.

"Marquise got hurt at UCLA (shoulder) and missed a whole week of practice in the off-week," Mack said. "So he has not been able to learn as much as quickly as we would like. There's another 10.2 100-meter guy who needs the ball in his hands.

"And we're really impressed with what D.J. (Monroe) has done. For the first time in my estimation, he is playing really, really well.

"Even on the kickoff return for 90 yards for a touchdown (by Monroe), the holding was on a double team away from the play. It was just another young mistake. Two kick returns for touchdowns is significant.

"It looks like to me D.J. is making yards when we hand it to him. He's running tougher. He's protecting the ball better."

Mack also expects Monroe to be back on kick returns with Fozzy Whittaker.

"With Malcolm Williams gone and you can't put Christian Scott out there with that cast, so we will get D.J. back involved," Mack said. "We'll probably keep Marquise (Goodwin) from getting involved because he can't take the pounding on kickoff returns like he did last year.

"We want Marquise (Goodwin) to pick up his learning curve and move faster. You think no summer workouts. No spring practice. No two-a-days. He's four weeks into a brand new offense, and that learning curve just needs to move faster."

Ketch asked Harsin about getting the ball to Monroe more considering he only got three carries against OU and averaged 7.7 yards per carry and is averaging 7.8 yards per carry for the season (18 for 141).

"There's a lot of guys and one football," Harsin said. "There are a lot of guys you'd like to have the ball in their hands. And he's one of those guys most definitely.

"And he's been productive, and we continue to try each week to have several ways to get him the football. And sometimes the game plan changes.

"There's certain things they give you that your game plan may not work because of what you're getting defensively. And that might eliminate two or three plays.

"And we just keep finding ways to try to prepare all the different looks and try to give some of those plays, regardless of what we get defensively, he can get the ball in his hands.

"Running the ball and getting out on the perimeter is what you want with him, and we got into a throwing situation (against OU) and that eliminated some of things he was going to have."

4. Mack met with Bryan Harsin and Manny Diaz on Sunday to perform an autopsy on the OU game.

"They reacted really well," Mack said of his coordinators. "They know the importance of the game and know we need to play better. Offensively, they need to bring the quarterbacks along further. There were things we didn't do well in that game. We can add different aspects to the offense and help.

"Same with Manny (Diaz). The defense did some good things at Iowa State. This bunch was better than Iowa State, so they exposed some things we need to do a better job with this weekend.

"Everybody understands we did start over. Everybody understands the odds of beating OU weren't very good. We knew what we had to do to get that done. And we thought we could. We planned on it. And didn't get it done. We didn't come close to what we wanted to do. So there was disappointment.

"They are the best team we've played. When you play a team that good, it exposes your weaknesses, and we will have a better idea of who can't block who this weekend.

"When you have 8 sacks, we should have protected better. You can change things by scheme if a guy gets beat. We'll need to progress in that area, and it may limit some of the things you can do. But we've got to do a better job of taking care of a guy who can't take his man one-on-one.

"Same thing in the secondary. Don't blitz unless you're getting there and affecting the quarterback. And why did they have such a good beat on us to start the game? And then we got better as the game went on.

"Hopefully, that will progress this weekend. I was excited to see us against OU. I was disappointed. It was obvious. I'm excited to see if we'll do better this weekend because these are two of the best teams in the country. It doesn't get much better than this."

5. The questions came fast and furious about the quarterbacks for Bryan Harsin.

He was asked about:

--His quarterbacks combining for four turnovers against OU

--If the rotation between Case McCoy and David Ash will continue

--If one has a leg up on the other

--If he's hesitant to name a starter for fear of how the other would react and much more.

Harsin said the turnovers can't happen, and he took some of the blame.

"We know we are going to make new mistakes each week," Harsin said. "We don't want to make the same mistakes, especially the turnover mistakes. And it's not all on the quarterbacks or any one position. It's on scheme, it's on me, it's on protection.

"It's get them into the right play or out of a bad play. It's an entire offensive unit, from players to coach that we've got to do a better job helping those guys out. We've got to learn from our experience and plan better for some of those situations and prepare better."

Harsin said he'd love to see his quarterbacks separate and for one guy to take the lead. But he said if it doesn't happen, he thinks the QB rotation can continue.

"Each week, like at every position, we're trying to get guys to separate," Harsin said. "We're trying to get guys to continue to compete throughout practice. You get in the games, it's another opportunity to evaluate 'em. And the quarterback position is no different.

"As you look back on it, and here's the several things that Case needs to do and David needs to do, those things need to happen in practice this week. And that's another chance to separate themselves when they do that.

"That's no different than any other position. We're always looking each week for the 11-best guys to put out there and what are our best packages and schemes with those players in there. And that's what we're looking at with that position as well."

Harsin was asked if Ash does anything better than McCoy or vice versa.

"From the understanding of the offense, they are equal," Harsin said. "Each one has been in the system just as long. And so, it comes down to, always at that position, it's toughness, preparation, their decision-making and their accuracy.

"And those four things don't change. As I watch film week to week, did they stand in there when they needed to? Did they get out when they needed to?

"Did they throw it away, even though they wanted that play so bad, but they had the maturity to get rid of the ball? That's really what we need from that position. That's what I'm looking for."

Harsin said he and the quarterbacks on Sunday dissected their preparation for the OU game and where it may have fallen short.

"We talk about the process of how we do things," Harsin said. "As you look onto film with the players, we ask ourselves, 'How did you prepare for this? Were you ready for this?' And really just try to go back and evaluate, 'Did we do our best job going into this game?'

"You can't just focus on the loss and everything that happened in the game. You have to focus on everything leading up to it because if we prepare correctly and have a good week of doing those things, we're going to have an opportunity in the game.

"So it was more about that and trying to get the guys to refocus on this next week and what areas we can improve on in terms of how we practice and prepare, and we've got to move forward."

Harsin said he thinks the rotation can still work.

"I do. That game was so extreme from the adversity standpoint with the scenarios we put our team in with the five turnovers and three returned for touchdowns," Harsin said.

"The thing I look at from the quarterback position is the decision-making process, but I also look at if those guys continue to compete, even when we're down. And I thought those guys did.

"Neither one of them gave up or hung their head. They continued to battle, and I can live with guys continuing to battle. I can find ways to get our guys in better positions, so we don't have the same issues."

6. I asked both Bryan Harsin and Manny Diaz what they would have done differently in the OU game.

"When you have the turnovers like that from the quarterbacks, and I coach the quarterbacks, we've got to do a better job of getting out of certain situations and letting those guys have the ability to do that," Harsin said.

"Or getting rid of the ball in some of those pressure situations. I can do a better job of helping those guys of knowing where their quick throws are at; helping those guys get into a better protection; helping those guys to know situations of when to get the ball out of their hands.

"I take a lot of pride and responsibility when things happen at the quarterback position. It's my job to make sure those guys have answers and know what to do. And if we have to punt, it's OK.

"We reserve the right to punt and let our defense go out there and play. They've been doing a great job. Just don't put ourselves in a bad situation. That's what I want from that position, and it's my job to make sure it happens."

Diaz cited his defense's woes in the second quarter:

--Giving up third-and-25 en route to an OU TD

--Giving up a drive right before the half in which Jones completed passes of 9 yards to Ryan Broyles, 16 yards to Jaz Reynolds, 36 yards to Broyles and a 14-yard TD pass to Kenny Stills for a 34-10 lead.

"Their offense scored four touchdowns," Diaz said. "One was a long run in the second half (Dominique Whaley's 64-yard burst around right end), which is so unacceptable. We refuse to let long touchdown runs happen, and it happened. That's fixed already. We can't let that happen.

"The drive that was most disappointing was the drive right before halftime. I felt like we just lost concentration. I just don't think we played as well as we did the rest of the game on that drive.

"That was a major, major moment in the game - along with the third-and-25. As a coach, you'll always look at some of the calls you make in the game. But usually when you make a call there's a reason you did it. If there was a defense that stopped everything, we'd all call it."

7. Even though his defense allowed OU to convert 8 of 15 third downs and 5 of 5 red zone chances and gave up a 64-yard TD run and 367 yards passing (including 3 TDs), Diaz tried to find every single positive he could in his defense's performance.

"We told the players we were disappointed but not discouraged," Diaz said. "When you have a game like that, especially when the scoreboard looks the way it did, there's a generalization that it was a horrible day in every aspect.

"When you put the film on, the reality is that's not the case. The truth is we had some guys play their best game of the season. And there were also some plays we played really well. So we have to find out where it went wrong.

"Where we hold ourselves to our standard, it was obviously our third-down defense. Our third-down defense was something that had been a strength for us. It is a strength for us. It had to be a strength for us.

"And for different reasons, on third down, they were better than us, and that was a telling aspect of the game.

"The second part was red zone. We knew that was going to be a big deal. We gave up an explosive play the first play of the game, but we got on the ground and stopped them in the red zone.

"Then, we turned the ball over and hold them to three more. And our goal that day was to hold them to kicking field goals. So things were going according to plan, and then our play in the second quarter on third down was really responsible for the game getting to the way it was."

Texas, for the most part, made OU one-dimensional by stopping the run in the first half (13 carries for 10 yards). But UT didn't disrupt Landry Jones at all in the passing game and didn't hit him very much. There was one sack by Calvin Howell.

"Landry Jones is not going to let you sack him," Diaz said. "And maybe some of the most impressive plays he made is when we brought pressure.

"They averaged 7.1 yards per pass attempt, which is less than they've averaged all season. To put it in perspective, we averaged 6.2 yards per pass attempt. And I don't think to the eye test that you would say they're passing game was only .9 yards per attempt more than ours.

"I think to the eye test the reason it looked the way it looked is because there were some bad looking plays, especially on third downs, that really tilted the game and sort of ruined the batch in our favor.

"They completed two passes over 20 yards. So what was happening is Landry Jones was doing a great job of getting the ball out.

"They were able to out-execute us in our blitz coverage, where when we had people coming free, and he was throwing the ball hot, we weren't getting to his hot throw to take it away.

"That goes back on my preparation of the team in taking away his hots. And even when we played max coverage, it was slants and quick throws.

"The surprising element of the game was we played the run about as well as we could play in the first quarter, and it turned into such a throw game.

"They threw it 27 times on Florida State. They threw it 50 times against us in a game they were really pretty much in control for most of the game.

"When it becomes a throw game, and it will be the same this weekend. The reason why, in theory, you're not supposed to throw it every down is because there's a chance for bad things to happen. And you'll eventually end up in third-and-longs, and that's where you'll have a problem.

"They got some yards, but when we got them into some third-and-longs, they were able to convert. So we never punished them for making it a throw game. That was really one of the bigger elements of the game.

"Win or lose, we have to fix the mistakes that we had. The coverages that didn't act the way we wanted them to act, we have to make them act more the way we want them to and continue to improve.

"We talk about the performance and not the result. If I'm a player, I can't control the result, but I can control the performance.

"Whether it's watching us beat Iowa State or lose to Oklahoma, we have to get into my performance. And then, bang, here comes Oklahoma State. They're going to make yards and complete passes. So now, what can we not let them do? What lessons have we seen? And that will be our challenge."

The third-and-25 conversion on a 30-yard pass from Jones to Jaz Reynolds with Quandre Diggs playing underneath coverage for a first down at the Texas 5 was supposed to include safety help, Diaz said.

"I thought that was a crucial play in the game," Diaz said. "It was 13-3. It was coming off a turnover (an interception by David Ash). I felt like if we could get them stopped there, they probably have to punt. And that would have been two real big, sudden-change stops for our defense.

"We went to a max coverage on that play. We should have had help over the top, and we didn't make our coverage act the way it was designed to act.

"It should not have been a one-on-one situation on the outside, but that's what ended up happening.

"And to Jones' credit, if you do things 85 percent right against a quarterback like Jones and like the one coming in this weekend (Weeden), it is punished. That, to me, is what it came down to."

8. Diaz singled out Carrington Byndom as well as Alex Okafor, Jackson Jeffcoat, Calvin Howell and Christian Scott with having their best games of the season.

"I thought Carrington played his best game by far," Diaz said. "They threw three fades on him. In the first quarter, he took Stills and jammed him out of bounds and made it a non-issue.

"In the second quarter, he made an unbelievable play knocking the ball out of there. There's a third one where they caught it but it was an offensive pass interference, which I thought was justified.

"And that's where, again, it's easy to group everyone together and say the entire pass defense was suspect. But when you put the film on, there's a lot of good.

"There's things we have to fix. But there's a lot of good things our guys can come away with in a setting like that. Those are some pretty hot players to compete against, and we did some pretty good things."

On his team's defensive line play, Diaz said:

"Alex Okafor was very disruptive up front and forced throwaways. Unfortunately, those were our good downs. We felt like, all along, we had to make plays on defense, like they made plays on defense. But to their credit, when we were there, they turned into throwaways and not interceptions or strip-sacks.

"I thought Jackson Jeffcoat played his best game and has improved each week. I thought Calvin Howell played well.

"I thought we were hard to block inside, and, again, I didn't know we could play as well up front against their front and to stop the run and make them as one-dimensional as we did. That was a pleasant surprise."

9. Oklahoma State's offense leads the nation in scoring (51.4 ppg).

--QB Brandon Weeden, who turns 28 this week, is completing 75.8 percent of his passes (Colt McCoy's single season record is 76.7) with 15 TDs and 6 INTs.

--Biletnikoff Award winning WR Justin Blackmon is averaging 106.8 yards per game receiving with 6 TDs. WRs Josh Cooper and Hubert Anyiam are also deep threats (six OSU players have multiple TD catches this season).

--RB Joseph Randle is averaging 96.8 yards per game rushing and 5.4 ypc with 8 TDs; and RB Jeremy Smith is averaging 4.9 ypc (44 carries for 214 yards) with 5 TDs.

Needless to say the Cowboys' offense has the UT defense's attention.

"We definitely pride ourselves on being good in the back end," Carrington Byndom said. "OU did a good job of throwing the ball around. We're going back to basics and playing our game. When we do that, everything will take care of itself.

"Oklahoma State has a great receiving corps. Just like OU. It's another challenge for us and one we're looking forward to.

"Justin Blackmon is a great receiver. He has a lot of ability. And I think we're ready to show that last week was our fault on the back end and that we're going to step up and bring our game to another level."

Blake Gideon said Texas' pride will be on the line Saturday against Oklahoma State.

"We're all in this to win," Gideon said. "This is not a participation thing with us. We work all year long and prepare every week to be successful on Saturdays.

"We'll see where we are as a team. To be able to take a tough loss like we did this past weekend. We'll see how mature we are. And how us as older guys, how we are able to lead this team by how we rebound this week.

"We'll see how we come out and compete. There's no doubt in my mind that we've put this behind us and we're ready to get back to work."

Senior LB Keenan Robinson said the scary thing about the OU game was that Texas was playing within the scheme Diaz prepared for the game.

"It wasn't like we were out there busting," Robinson said. "We were playing within the scheme. The quarterback and OU had a great game plan.

"So it seemed like they were prepared for everything we were going to throw at them. So they completed the passes they needed to complete. They called pretty much a perfect game plan on offense. They did executed very well on their side of the ball."

The other scary thing to consider is that Robinson said Oklahoma State "is as good or better than OU on offense."

"They can hurt us passing and running," Robinson said. "But I think we'll be able to stop the run and then focus on hammering the pass, hitting the quarterback and making him unsure of his reads. We didn't do a good job of that Saturday. If we can make him feel uncomfortable and hold the ball, we can force turnovers."

Robinson said the pass rush has to be better against Oklahoma State.

"It's got to get better," he said. "But that comes from coverage, too. A lot of times, they max protected. It's hard to get to the quarterback with four guys when seven guys are blocking. We have to also make sure we take away the passing lanes with good coverage.

"If the quarterback has nowhere to throw the ball, he'll take a sack or throw it away. Pass rush comes from good pass coverage as well. We all have to help each other out."

Jackson Jeffcoat has yet to record a sack this season. He said he's not frustrated.

"Sometimes you get sacks, sometimes you don't," Jeffcoat said. "Like Coach Diaz says, they're going to come. We're working. We've got plenty of guys getting sacks, so they're going to come.

"As a unit, we've been doing well. We have to keep playing hard. It was a tough loss against Oklahoma, but we're bouncing back and getting ready for Oklahoma State."

Jeffcoat was asked if he's ever tackled anyone as old as Weeden (28).

"I've tackled old men before, but it was my dad," Jackson joked, referring to his father, Jim Jeffcoat, who was a sack artist in the NFL with the Cowboys and Bills. "That's about it. I'm very excited to play against him. He's a great player."

Jeffcoat is aware of Weeden's ability to hide the ball on play-action and pump-fake a defense in the passing game.

"We just have to keep going after him," Jeffcoat said of Weeden. "When he pump fakes, we can't stop and jump. We've been taught not to jump - just put your hands up and keep running at him when he tries. We'll be watching the ball, so we'll be looking for it.

"This defense is made to get pressure and stop the run. A lot of teams are throwing it quick, but we'll just keep coming after them.

"Weeden is good at sticking with a play. When he doesn't have his first read, he'll go to his second and stick with it. And he's got a great arm. I've seen him throw it way down the field and thread a needle. We definitely have to get pressure on him, try to make him move and sack him. That's going to be our goal."

I asked Jeffcoat about his favorite style of pass rush.

"I've worked on a lot of stuff. I like to speed rush, get outside a guy, maybe get him to overset and then come back inside. I work on that a lot," Jeffcoat said. "My Dad told me to just keep working hard. He's told me the sacks are going to come."

10. Everyone wants to know how UT's young players are handling the adversity of the OU loss. We got a chance to talk to Jaxon Shipley and Malcolm Brown on Tuesday night.

"Obviously, that was a hard loss for us," Shipley said. "We had to rebound this week. You can think about the previous game for 24 hours and then start on the next game. We had a great practice today and so things are looking good for us.

"Oklahoma was obviously an outstanding team. We didn't play well. But the turnovers and stuff are things we can fix. We're working on all those corrections and are getting better."

Texas is facing an OSU defense that has posted 14 sacks already this season (Texas has 6) and has already forced 17 turnovers, including 10 INTs (UT has forced 12 turnovers, including 6 INTs). OSU has four players with at least 2 INTs.

OSU is No. 3 nationally in turnover margin - +10. Texas is +2.

Shipley said he's confident Case McCoy, his roommate, and David Ash, will bounce back this week.

"I think they'll do a great job," Shipley said. "They had a great practice today. I think they work well together. They've both got different packages when they are in there. They're going to need to rebound this week because we're going to have a tough game against Oklahoma State."

Shipley (6-1, 190) was asked about Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon (6-1, 215).

"He's outstanding," Shipley said. "He's very aggressive and is going to go up and get the ball. He has the mindset that he's going to get the job done no matter what, and I'm very impressed by that."

The Texas offense wants to run the ball, eat clock and try to keep the OSU offense off the field.

"We have to refocus and listen to our coaches," said Malcolm Brown, who has 84 carries for 381 yards (4.5 ypc) and 1 TD. "It's nothing too big. We just need to focus in that much more and look at film and work hard in practice to get those details down."

Brown was asked if the OU game was the hardest he's ever been hit.

"I'm not trying to downplay the OU defense, but I've been hit harder," he said.

Brown was asked when he expects to have a breakout game in Big 12 play. Brown has had one 100-yard game this season (110 vs. UCLA).

"I haven't had a huge game or anything like that," he said. "But you just can't come into the game and just break out all of a sudden.

"You have to work on the little things and be a little more confident going into the games. Not everything is just going to be a break-loose touchdown run.

"I'm just trying to keep going and keep my confidence up."

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