Mack Brown Monday press conference: Oct. 22
Opening statement: We're really happy to win the game at Baylor this weekend. You have to give Baylor credit, they played well and it was a hot and windy day. But it is all so good for the 10th straight year to be bowl eligible. Some people sometimes take that for granted, and if we're not careful, we take it for granted. It was an early season goal for us, and we'd like to have it in the first six games, and this year it took us eight. But it's something that we're very proud of. In fact, these kids have broken a record for the 10th straight bowl. We've only had nine straight in the past at one time between 1977 and 1985. Winning is what you have to do now and it is enough to win on Saturday, but when you come home, you'd like to play consistently good every week and then have some great weekends. We can talk more about that, but we're really pleased to have won the game.
You go back to explosive plays, and we've been a very explosive offense. We had 12 explosives on Saturday to Baylor's three and that means a run over 12 and a pass over 16 yards. This is the most explosive team we've had other than the National Championship team in 2005 since we've been here. So we've talked about all the things this offense hasn't done well and we'll continue to try to improve those things, but we have to give them credit because they've been so explosive. They've overcome some long-yardage situations and done well.
Turnovers gained and lost, we gained four and lost three, so the great thing is that our defense now is forcing turnovers and they've done a tremendous job the last two weeks in forcing them. The negative is that we gave up three. We still won those two phases and when we do, we're 59-0, when we win the explosive plays and the turnovers gained.
Our kicking game we thought was okay. It was better than theirs, and we ended up winning two of the three phases in the kicking game, but there are some areas there we need to improve. We had some missed opportunities due to the turnovers on offense, but we also felt like we had too many penalties.
Defensively, our staff gave Baylor a lot of different looks, especially with a new quarterback, and we felt like the multiple defensive back substitutions helped us confuse them. We did get a lot of pressure on the passer, but we didn't get as many sacks as we wanted, but they were getting the ball out of their hands quickly. They threw a lot of underneath routes and they didn't throw the ball deep very much, and it's hard to sack the guy when they get the ball out of their hands fast. We had four interceptions, which ties the four that we had in 2002 in the OU game. Deon Beasley has gotten an interception in each of the last two weeks. I'm really proud of Marcus Griffin with his two interceptions, and the 91-yarder for a touchdown is the longest one we've had in the last 70 years. Jack Collins had a 95-yard return against Baylor in 1936, and Marcus's return is the third longest in school history. So good for Marcus and he's a local young man and I'm really proud. The guys were beating him up about not being able to run fast to get there, but I thought he looked pretty fast to me. I didn't see any of those that were talking about his lack of speed in the picture when he was running, so I don't know where they were, but I am proud of Marcus.
We held them to eight yards rushing. They didn't try to run the ball a lot, but when they did, we did a good job of stepping up and stopping the run. We felt like we played really good sudden change defense, except for the one opportunity when we were about to score and the ball was fumbled and they run it back to about the 30. Colt [McCoy] and Vondrell McGee did an outstanding job of running back down and keeping them from scoring. But we had an all-out blitz the next play, and they hit us on a tunnel screen and scored very easily. But that was the only time they got points after the turnover. It is good for us to score on defense and on the kicking game, obviously. We've had 57 non-offensive touchdowns since 1999 and that ranks fourth behind Virginia Tech with 63, Miami with 60, and Kansas State with 58.
Offensively, like we said, we're really doing a good job with explosive plays, and that is something we need to continue to do. Our running backs had some explosive runs in the first half, I think there was an 18 and 16-yard run, which is good for us. We're doing a great job with our short-yardage and goal line running. Derek Lokey makes such a difference for us in that set, and that's really helping us, and Vondrell McGee weighs 208 pounds. When you have Chris Obgonnaya at 225 pounds, Derek Lokey at 295 pounds, and you start looking at Vondrell coming up there at 208 pounds, you can move the ball forward. We ran the ball very well in the first half, but our concern is that we're having too many negative plays in the running game. We're having some lost-yardage plays, and we're having too many one-yard and two-yard runs giving us 2nd-and-9 and 2nd-and-8. We felt like in the second half in the running game, we didn't have enough patience and we ran sideways too much when we needed to go north and south, and we probably tried to score too quickly. After you score 56 against Iowa State and you come back the next week and everybody expects you to score 56 against Baylor, you worry more about how many you're going to score instead of winning the game. We've got to grow up and understand that it's more important for us to go back and win football games instead of look pretty all the time and have more patience. But like I said, they overcame a couple of long-yardage situations, which is really good and hard to do. We need to continue our north-south running game out on the field.
We had too many missed opportunities. We missed a field goal, and we gave away three points right before the half where we had maybe the best drive of the day. Colt (McCoy) took us and led us right down the field for a field goal, with the wind, and we felt like we had an opportunity, but it went wide right. We tried to fake a field goal because of the heavy wind in our face early and there was a defensive pass interference called that was taken off. And the other opportunity was when we gave away 10 points in the first half, where it was 4th-and-1 and where we fumble the pitch and it ends up not only costing us seven, but they get seven out of it, so it was a 14-point swing. We felt like we should've been up 20-7 at halftime if we just do what was available to us. We've said we're putting the ball on the ground too many times, whether it's with turnovers, fumbles, or interceptions, and that makes the difference in your season.
We're also asking Colt to do a lot more than he did last year and we're putting a lot more pressure on him, just by throwing the ball more. We've got to have some help in the running game out on the field to take some of the pressure off of him. In the second half, at one stretch, he hit 10-of-11 passes for 143 yards, and he hit seven in a row. He's playing his heart out and he's playing tough and we like the fact that's he's running so much better than he was before, and that is something we think we can utilize more. It was a great play from Colt to Jamaal [Charles] down the sideline, and it was a super receiver catch, and it is a good of a catch as I have ever seen. He got both of his feet inbounds and it was at a point in the game where it really mattered. So we're really proud of Jamaal about making that catch, and it was an outstanding throw.
I'm also proud of the "storm" offense, the second-team offense. If you look, John Chiles is 203 pounds and Vondrell is 208 pounds, and those guys drove it right down and we got three points, and we wish we could've gotten them back in the game. But they continue to improve, and we just have to get John to throw the ball more when he has opportunities in the game, because he has been throwing well in practice but it hasn't been showing up in the game yet, but we think it will.
As for the kicking game, we've said that our punting game has been inconsistent as a group, and it hasn't been good enough and we need to continue to work on it. The wind was a factor on Saturday, but it's there and it's real and it's part of football. You have to handle the wind. We've also been inconsistent on our punt blocks this year and our returns, so we're not getting the points out of those areas like we have in our past and we need to do a better job. The fake punt was good and it was key, and the kids did a good job with it. Rashad [Babino] has done an outstanding job over his time here with running the fake punt because he is so low to the ground. We said we missed a field goal and we missed a fake field goal in the kicking game, which really hurts you because that is two fourth downs you didn't convert, which are like two turnovers. Our kickoff coverage was really good and Hunter [Lawrence] had two touchbacks with the wind which helped us as well.
When I was a young coach, I went to Iowa State for the primary reason was to coach against Coach Osborne at Nebraska and Coach Switzer at Oklahoma in the Big Eight, because I wanted to see what they were doing as a young coach to win so many games. So I've always had great respect for the University of Nebraska. When Texas and Nebraska meet, it's two of the top four teams in all-time wins in the history of college football. That's always really exciting, and it's one of the games I always look forward to. I wish we had an opportunity to play them each year because it's such a fun game, but with them in the north, we do have it every two years. But you go back and there have been five national titles at Nebraska and four at Texas. Bowl appearances, there have been 44 at Nebraska and 46 at Texas. Bowl victories, there have been 22 at Nebraska and 23 at Texas. Heisman Trophy winners, there have been three at Nebraska and two at Texas. Top-five AP finishes, there have been 13 at Nebraska and 18 at Texas. So you look at the two programs and they're both very proud. They're two programs that really love their football and both teams sellout every week, and it's just been amazing to watch the games between our two teams. You go back to last year's game where it was 22-20, and it was one of the best games that I have ever been associated with, and that's the same Nebraska team that will come in here this weekend.
Our seniors only have two home games left and we're not pleased with the way we finished the last one against Kansas State. So it will be really important for them to have two good performances against Nebraska and Texas Tech here for the weekend.
Bill Callahan kind of grew up around the NFL, and he's a really good friend of Tim Brewster, and that's my only connection with Bill. You go back and look at the fact that he took over the [Oakland] Raiders and went to the Super Bowl, so he obviously knows what he's doing when he was out there. Their running back coach, Randy Jordan, played for us at the University of North Carolina, and he's a great friend of our family, and he and his wife are very dear and close to us.
Sam Keller is doing a great job at quarterback. He had 275 yards passing this weekend and we expect Nebraska to come in and play really well. They've had the problem that we've had this year, and this is turnovers. If you go back and study it, they're having more turnovers than they're gaining and that is what we've been doing. You look at Kansas and they are plus-10 in turnovers and Texas A&M is plus-10 in turnovers, and that is a huge part of this ball game. You have to protect the ball and be able to knock some balls loose.
On A&M running a tremendous amount against Nebraska last week: We're not running it that well right now. We have to improve our running game, but we haven't even run it 66 times in probably the last two games. I'd like to run the ball better. USC ran for a whole lot of yards against them. Some of the times, you go back and look at the stats and try to figure out who they've played. It sounds really cool for me to sit here and say we held Baylor to eight yards rushing, but they only ran it 18 times. It's not like playing A&M and holding them to eight yards rushing. Part of that is that A&M is a running football team right now that throws it some as well. But they line up with Jorvorskie Lane and they run the football really well, and they did the same thing against us last year in the last ball game. We're not running it as consistently well as we'd like to. So it's hard, after eight games, to walk in and say, "I'll tell you what, let's run it every time this week." I wish we could do that, but we can't, and we have to be us.
On if it's easier to get the players to focus when playing Nebraska: They won't even look at the record or even all the stuff you guys talk about all week. They will be excited about playing Nebraska. When you put those two helmets out on the field, we'll be excited to see that white helmet with that "N" on it when they run out on the field, and it's a good-looking football team. This will be a really fun game for our kids and our coaches.
On if he expects this Saturday to have a big-game feeling to it: Nebraska fans follow their team and they will all be here. Our fans will be pumped and it will be a great game and a great environment. I can't wait, 2:30 p.m. on ABC, it's going to be fun.
On the changes in the Nebraska team since last year: We're studying that now. I think that A&M is running the ball well, Oklahoma State is really good on offense, and Missouri is really good on offense. Missouri is averaging about 510 yards total offense against just about everybody. Oklahoma State is moving it against just about everybody. I think some of it is the teams they have played the last couple of weeks. They have been moving it really well and we've got some of it coming up here, so we'll see how well we can stop it.
On Nebraska having issues with stopping the run: They've got some big, good-looking players, so we'll just have to continue to study it and see. What you do at Texas is, you look at the best game they've played all year, or the best two or three, and figure that's the way they're going to play against us, and you throw out all of the bad ones.
On changing their own running game: I think we're probably trying too hard. It's been over-discussed the past two years, and in the first half against Baylor, I think we had 135 yards rushing and we went north and south and we did really well. The games with Baylor have not been close, and I thought our guys tried to catch up too fast and we didn't have enough patience in the second half with some of the holes. There were some holes north and south and we bounced, and we have to go back and get those 40-yard runs again. We've improved on offense, and we're making the big plays and scoring a lot of points, but we just have to be more consistent. We've said that all year and it's still not where it needs to be. So we've got to go back and make sure everybody is doing their job. It's amazing how many times on Saturday how 10 guys did their job and one guy misses the block on a counter play and we get no yards, and there is a huge hole, but one guy missed his block. That's what we tried to do yesterday with the film, is to go back and show them that 10 guys did exactly what we needed done, and we're in great shape to get a 15-yard gain, but instead we get one yard because you missed your block. Then the next time, we go down the line to another guy or maybe the back was too wide, so we just have to go back and keep coaching.
On Ryan Bailey's kick against Nebraska last year: Yeah, that was a big kick for him because he got himself a scholarship. That was a money kick for him. His mom was in New York eating a burger I think, and she saw that Ryan was standing next to coach and wondering what was going on there. It's a great story, and it's one of the best stories of our 10 years here. He's a bright, young man, and a really good player who wasn't recruited because they didn't kick that much in high school. After Greg Johnson pulled his muscle, we had him prepared to kick against Baylor, but Greg was okay and he kicked in the Baylor game. I think next week, Greg's leg really tightened up because it was so cold up there. You start looking at signs around football games and when that wind started blowing and that snow started blowing in his face, and we're down to a fourth quarter shot with a guy who has never been on the field, much less kicked, going in to kick into a strong wind with snow blowing at Nebraska, you figure it's not good. But obviously, he kicked it straight through and it was a lot of fun for him and for us. I really thought, when we were trying to evaluate whether he should get a scholarship or not, that was such a huge game for us. It gave us a chance to stay in the conference and national championship hunt at that time last year on the road, that his kick alone would be worth a scholarship at The University of Texas if he never kicked again.
On Tom Osborne: When I went to Iowa State, we tried to study everything they were doing. They were running the ball, they were being physical, and they were running the option. They had a great kicking game as well. As a young head coach, that was one of the places I thought that we would want to pattern our program after. I've always been a Nebraska fan because of him and because of who they are and what they've done. All of us growing up remember the Johnny Rogers run, and there are just so many great players in Nebraska's history. You can go back through them and just run them off. We all used to sit down on Saturdays, when TV was limited, and watch Texas and watch Nebraska and there were about three or four teams that played, and Nebraska was one of those. We always watched the Nebraska-OU game and that was special for us for many years. After I got through at Iowa State, we started going back and visited Nebraska, and that's when we got to be friends with Coach Osborne. So we've patterned a lot of the things we do after what Coach Osborne did for his 25-30 years at Nebraska and a lot of people across the country have done the same thing. He is to Nebraska what Coach Royal is to us. He changed the scope of college football and he's one of the few people that has given back more to college football than he has taken away, just like Coach Royal. When people talk about Coach Royal, he started an offense that changed the way we think about college football and the running game with the wishbone. I haven't started anything, maybe trouble, that's about it. Coach Osborne has done same thing. When we look at the Texas uniform, because of Coach Royal, we know exactly who it is if we don't see the front, same thing with Nebraska. If you look at the offense that Coach Royal ran and the defense that Coach Campbell had here, everybody that is a football fan can go back and talk about it today and it's been 30 years. And everybody can tell you today, that Mike Campbell was a man-to-man, straight upfront, knock their head-off defense, and Coach Royal is going to run the wishbone. He had that little whip about how three things can happen when you pass it, and two are bad. He said he was kidding, but that thing got to be the most talked about quote that he ever had in his life and coach won his biggest games with passes, which people don't give him credit for. But you go back to Lincoln, with the option in the mid-90s, where you win three national championships in a row, everybody knows who those players are and the system that was run there and they had a huge impact on college football.
On what he likes about the Nebraska offense: Bill Callahan has been a great offensive coach for years, and they move around and get mismatches with formation changes. So they are a very difficult offense to prepare for. I think their players are all very good and they have been known for their lineman for years, so they'll bring a great looking offensive team that's been productive here on Saturday. Sam Keller was a great player at Arizona State, and Purify last year looked like he was 6-8 when he caught that ball against us and ran the ball for 80 yards when we had two guys hit him, and he ran right through us. He gets the height mismatches that we were worried about with Iowa State. We've played against some tall receivers and we'll have our shorter corners playing against them this weekend.
On his emotions from his 1998 victory against Nebraska: It will be one of the moments, when I get through, that I will look back and cherish, but not because of what happened in the game, but the fact that Ricky Williams probably won the Heisman that day against the black-shirt defense. The fact that I personally have so much respect for the University of Nebraska and their football program, and to go in there and win when we weren't supposed to be very good at that time, and to see those kids so excited. After the game, to be walking off after an ABC interview with Ricky Williams, and all the Nebraska fans still in the stands at the end of the game, and the tunnel you walk through of their fans would be dangerous anywhere else but Lincoln. But as we were walking off, I'll never forget, that I told Ricky to put his helmet on because it could get rough walking through. But I'll never, ever forget the moment that they gave him a standing ovation and started a Heisman chant, and that's why I love the Nebraska fans and I'll have respect for as long as I'm alive and involved in football.
On that game being one of the biggest building blocks in his career: Yes, there's no doubt, because of the respect that you have for Nebraska and how hard it is to play in Lincoln. I mean, that was 47 straight wins, and nobody is ever going to do that again, I don't think. Nebraska separated themselves from anyone else with 47 straight wins at home. And again, the reaction that their fans and their coaches had at a tough moment for them was one that I will remember for the rest of my life. They showed more class than I have ever seen in a stadium after a game that was disappointing for them and what could've been a tough situation.
On Nebraska wanting revenge after last year's game: This has become a rival game. It's an exciting time and game for us and them, and I really believe it's the respect of the two programs. When you start looking at Michigan-Notre Dame and Texas-Nebraska, winning over 800 games in over 100-plus years of football, that doesn't happen very often. So it's like playing the Michigan, USC and Ohio State out-of-conference games because they're in the north we don't see them all the time. Our guys get excited about this and it'll be a fun week to prepare.