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September 4, 2010

Typical good news, bad news in season opener

Isn't it always a good news, bad news situation in an opener?

The good news was a guy like Malcolm Williams catching everything thrown his way (4 catches for 77 yards, including a 47-yarder in which he got behind the defense), Barrett Matthews' blocking, Tre' Newton finishing runs near the goal line, Foswhitt Whittaker popping a couple runs late and finishing with a 5.7 ypc average, best of the running backs.

Garrett Gilbert (14 of 23 for 172 yards, no touchdowns, no interceptions) had no turnovers. The offense was turnover free.

--The only turnover came on a muffed punt return by Aaron Williams on a play Mack Brown said Williams was supposed to fair catch.

Williams, however, was solid on defense (except for dropping a certain pick-6) and had a 25-yard punt return before his muff. Williams and Curtis Brown are alternating on punt returns (Curtis Brown had a 17-yard return, leaving coaches with a decision to make about who returns punts next week - or both.).

--Eddie Jones proved to be the team's secret weapon on kick returns. He had three of them as Rice squibbed kicks to avoid giving D.J. Monroe or Marquise Goodwin a chance for a return.

--Would like to have seen D.J. Monroe get some love on offense. But this was not the game for that. Monroe will be saved for the likes of Texas Tech or beyond. Marquise Goodwin had a 15-yard gain on a reverse.

--Justin Tucker made field goals from 51 and 26 yards but missed from 54 and 44 yards. And Tucker failed to achieve a touchback in a domed stadium with no wind and the roof closed. Mack Brown had said during camp Tucker was putting his kickoffs in the end zone, even into "a slight breeze."

--The defense pitched a shutout in the third quarter as Rice ran 11 plays for 0 yards. And Keenan Robinson capped a huge day that included an interception and a 5-yard tackle for loss with a fumble returned 10 yards for a touchdown. (The fumble was caused by Sam Acho.)

"I feel like I was doing my part within the scheme, and that's how those plays came about," said Robinson in a massive understatement.

"Keenan's playing well," Mack Brown said. "He's gained the weight up to 245 pounds without losing any speed. He made a great play on the interception and then ran in the fumble when Sam Acho had great containment and forced the fumble."

--Mack Brown gave credit to Rice, saying, "They started a quarterback we didn't anticipate. They ran an offense we didn't anticipate. Sam McGuffie is going to help them. He's a good back, who made some yards against us."

--These were Mack's recollections of the game in stream of conscience fashion:

"I remember two dropped passes for touchdowns. I remember a tipped ball for a touchdown by them right before the half. I remember a fourth-and-1 we didn't make at the 1-yard-line. I remember a third-and-2 we didn't make. I remember a dropped punt and two missed field goals.

"That's a whole season of things for us to fix. So I told the guys I was excited about being 1-0, but they need to quit talking about the end and quit talking about how good they are going to be and that we need to get a bunch better by Wyoming or we'll have trouble winning next week. Their focus will be going back to work, and that will start tomorrow."

--Freshmen who played Saturday: Adrian Phillips, Jackson Jeffcoat, Jordan Hicks, A.J. White, Darius White, Case McCoy, Carrington Byndom, Mike Davis, Reggie Wilson, Ashton Dorsey, Demarco Cobbs, Trey Hopkins.

--Mack Brown said he gave the team some atta-boys and then got on them pretty good.

"My job is to make sure they understand we appreciate the plays they made," Mack said. "Seventy-five, eighty percent of the plays were great. But there were 7 or 8 that will get you beat that we have to go back and look at.

"We'll make sure they understand you can't drop two interceptions for touchdowns. You can't have all the things we didn't do in this one if we want to win all the games. And that's our goal: to win all the games."


OFFENSE

--Let's just get this out of the way with regard to the offense deciding to pound the ball on the ground (46 runs compared to 24 passes).

I had a lengthy discussion with an NFL scout who played on offense in the NFL about the Texas offense Saturday in the press box. And he said, "Texas doesn't have the offensive line to pound the ball and run it against good teams. You have to have a top offensive line, a special back and a special receiver to be able to run the ball the way they are trying to run it now.

"Alabama has that personnel. But I don't see it from Texas. I don't see Alabama's O-line. I don't see a guy like Trent Richardson or Mark Ingram, and I don't see a guy like Julio Jones. That's why so many schools are spreading it out and using the shotgun option because they don't have the personnel to run a pro-style attack. You don't have the margin for error in a pro-style attack that you do in a spread offense."

But in listening to the coaching staff, they indicated Texas has no inclination to go back to being a shotgun, spread team that throws it to set up the run. The plan is to be a running team that can create play-action.

--Texas ended up running it 46 times for 197 yards ( 4.0 ypc) against a defense that was statistically the worst in the nation last year. (Rice gave up 43.1 points per game in 2009.)

But Mack said there was good and bad in what he saw. He liked some of the running between the 20s. He was not happy with the short-yardage situations. Neither was Greg Davis.

"We ran the ball for nearly 200 yards, but we couldn't make fourth-and-1 or third-and-2, and we have to go back and see why," Mack Brown said. "Those are situations that hurt us in the past. We didn't have as many negative plays. We didn't have second-and-12. But if you're going to run it for 4 yards per carry, you're going to have some third-and-2s, and we have to pick those up."

--When the running game questions got a little too hot and heavy, Mack Brown it up by saying, "I really don't care if we run it or throw it as long as we win. I liked Colt McCoy completing 80 percent. Some people didn't. It really bothered 'em. They got emotional. Needed counseling. I liked it. I liked Garrett completing a lot of passes tonight.

"When you run the ball more, a lot of the yards are going to come in the third and fourth quarter when the other team gets tired. But you've got to be a lot more patient than I am right now. I've got to work on my patience. We've all got to be patient because we've scored a lot of points really fast with guys like Vince Young and with Colt McCoy, so we're pretty spoiled."

---Davis took pride in not turning the ball over.

"That's one of the things we talked about with the offense from day one, that we have to play with no turnovers," Davis said. "We took care of the ball."

--Texas had first-and-goal from the Rice 4 on its opening drive and ran four plays for minus-1 yard, including a 4-yard loss on fourth-and-goal on a sweep by Cody Johnson.

Texas also failed to pick up third-and-2 in the third quarter from its own 25 and was forced to punt. (John Gold had only two punts on the day and averaged 42 yards.) Davis alternated between regular goal-line offense and a Jumbo Package that included LB Jared Norton at fullback and Greg Smith as the move guy/H-back.

"Obviously, I was disappointed in the red zone production. We did not do a good enough job in that area," Davis said. "We were pretty good on third down. The Orange group (first team) was 7-of-13 on third down. But we've got a long way to go to be a good football team."

--Davis took the blame for calling the sweep with Cody Johnson on the goal line.

"That was a poor call by me. We just have just lined up and came at them again," Davis said.

--Davis said he wanted to give his running backs a chance to run downhill.
"We came up short in some short-yardage situations. We have to do a better job. There were some really positive things I saw. But there were some backside things where we got our faces crossed as the back was going to cutback and he did not have a lane to go to because our faces got crossed."

--Davis said the goal was for the offense be up-tempo.

"We had a lot of quick snaps in the gameplan," Davis said. "We wanted to make sure we tried to establish the power play, with the guard pulling. From that, we were going to allow the play-action to come out of that."

--When asked if this is the offense Texas is going to "stick with," Davis said, "We're going to try to stick with winning. In different ballgames, there will be different mindsets. But the deep play to Malcolm Williams (of 47 yards) came off play-action. There were several passes that came off play-action, so that works together.

"But we do want to be a team that comes downhill at you, so we are going to stick with that."

--Davis was happy with Garrett Gilbert's play.

"I was really pleased with Garrett," Davis said. "They did not come after him a bunch. He had a third-down conversion on a corner blitz. He took care of the ball and went to the right place with the ball. I thought Garrett played pretty well."

--Gilbert said, "It was good to out and see where we are. We're going to have to take a look at the film. But for the most part I thought we did a good job getting consistent runs. We've got a long way to go to be where we want to as a team."

--Mack Brown was happy with the left side of his offensive line, except for two false start penalties on Kyle Hix.

"It looked like a couple times on the right side of the line, we missed early," Mack said. "That side is more inexperienced than our left side. Our left side played well. But our left tackle had two motion penalties, which we will have to get rid of. But overall, I thought the offensive line played a good second half."

--Cody Johnson had 12 carries in the first half and only three in the second.

"We were just trying to give everyone a look, and now we'll go back and see where we are," Mack Brown said. "We weren't mad at him. We did work him hard. He's never worked this hard in his life, I'm sure."

--Malcolm Williams didn't start Saturday. (James Kirkendoll started at split end, Marquise Goodwin was at Sub-B and John Chiles, who caught a deep post route to the Rice 1 yard-line, was at the inside receiver). Williams said it didn't bother him.

"I think I did pretty well, just trying to be more consistent and help the offense and the team win," Williams said. "I always have a chip on my shoulder. I have to get better every day. Whatever the coaches feel is the best for Texas (as far as not starting) then I'll go with it and just play when I'm called.

"It was important for me to prove to myself that I can do it and just relax and go out there and play football."

---Kyle Hix said, "I thought we ran the ball well today. We just have to finish in the red zone. We came into the game wanting to run the ball, and I thought we did that pretty consistently until we got to the red zone.

"We've come a long way as a line, but we have to work really hard this week to be successful against Wyoming."

--Added Michael Huey, "We had a few things we didn't finish on (in the running game). But overall, we did a great job. We just need more aggression and technique


DEFENSE

--Mack said, "Defensively, I thought we played well. We didn't tackle as well in the late fourth quarter, but it's a 3-point game by our defense, if you go back and look at it. And that was on the first drive, a really good drive by Rice.

"We should have had two other touchdowns off turnovers, and then the game gets to where you want it to be."

--Muschamp said he had to make some adjustments against Rice's zone read attack in the first quarter. Mack Brown said Rice came out with a quarterback and an offense Texas wasn't expecting.

"On the first drive, we had to clean up some things with the zone read. I think the third drive of the game, they hit a couple passes on us, and we had some mental mistakes. It was something we had prepared for and obviously need to do a better job of coaching it.

"Disappointed with how we ended the half. The last five minutes of the half are critical, and we have to keep the offense out of the end zone in that situation. It was a tipped ball and we have to get that ball to the ground. In the third quarter, we played really well. And in the fourth quarter, for the most part, we played really well. We were able to play a lot of guys. Disappointed we gave up the late touchdown.

"We gotta start the game quicker, play the zone read a little bit better. I thought we rushed the passer and did a nice job with some situational things other than the end of the first half."

--On the tackling, Will Muschamp said, "Late, it got a little sloppy. But for the most part, in the first half and into the third quarter, we tackled well."

--When someone said Texas "almost" reached its goal of three turnovers in a game (if Aaron Williams and Chykie Brown would have caught sure pick-6s), Will Muschamp deadpanned, "Almost counts in horseshoes and hand grenades."

--Muschamp said he played 10 guys up front, 6 linebackers and 12 guys in the secondary.

"We went into the game thinking we'd be a little different than how we've been before as far as the rotation because we have so many guys who are even and do a great job for us. We have to give them a chance to play on Saturday."

--Muschamp said he considers Kenny Vaccaro, who led the team with 8 tackles, including 1 for a 4-yard loss, a starter.

"He did such a great job for us in camp and really carried it over today," Muschamp said.

--Vaccaro said after the game, "I just love football. I don't think we played well enough to win a championship. But, of course, we're going to get better. I just want to be in a position where my coaches totally trust me out on the field."

"Kenny is a hitter," Mack Brown said. "When I say stay up in practice, he looks at me like he's going to come hit me. He can run. He can hit you. He will be a tremendous player for us. I thought he had the best big hits of the night. I think he can also play corner. He can play any position in the secondary, and that will help us."

--On Chykie Brown, who was beat twice on pass plays, dropped a certain interception for touchdown and had a pass interference flag waved off (because of off-setting penalties), Muschamp said, "He certainly had an interception he could have finished on. Certainly the deep ball on the first drive is a play we expect him to make."


SPECIAL TEAMS

--Mack said, "I didn't feel like we got the things we needed out of our kicking game. Their punter out-punted the coverage twice with like a 70-yard punt. But we got no return, and we should get returns on a punt like that. They sky-kicked, and we go the ball at the 50, and we didn't score. And you should score when you get the ball at the 50.

"We did a good job of covering kicks, but you can't miss field goals, and you can't drop a punt. Those are things that will kill you in a closer ballgame."





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