Pressure is on for new Texas coordinators
October, 8, 2013
By Max Olson | ESPN.com
AUSTIN, Texas -- When you start off the first Mack Brown-Bob Stoops duel with a 17-0 deficit in the first quarter, you quickly figure out what pressure means in this rivalry game.
But on a week this important, Major Applewhite won’t be regaling his Texas players with film or tales from 1999.
“No, I won’t waste their time,” Applewhite said.
AP Photo/Eric GayGreg Robinson lost in his only outing against the Sooners.
Greg Robinson still remembers his first and only Red River game with fondness … even if Adrian Peterson burned his defense for 225 yards and Oklahoma won 12-0.
“I don’t know that I ever had more fun in a game,” Robinson said. “I hated that we lost, but man, it was just a great experience. … It was a great game and it was so unique.”
The Texas team that takes the field Saturday against No. 12 Oklahoma should, with the exception of David Ash’s absence, bears a strong resemblance to the 2012 team. Fifteen guys in Texas’ starting 22 have previous starts against OU. It’s the Longhorns’ change of coordinators that could provide a unique twist.
Applewhite has five games under his belt now as play-caller. Robinson has coached three games. Both have been handcuffed to some extent by a rash of injuries and, in the case of the defense, the rapid transition required when changing defensive coordinators two games into a season.
For as much scrutiny as Brown continues to face, to say both of his coordinators have something to prove this weekend is probably an understatement.
Texas fans will be fixated on the game plan Applewhite draws up for Saturday, especially after the strange run/pass balance the Longhorn offense struck in a 31-30 win over Iowa State.
Case McCoy attempted a career-high 45 passes while Johnathan Gray got 16 carries on the night. At one point in the game, McCoy dropped back to pass on 15 consecutive plays. The Longhorns punted eight times on the night, and on six of those failed possessions they attempted no more than two rushes.
Against ISU, the game plan was loaded with run/pass options and McCoy made decisions based on the looks the defense offered. After doing more film review, Brown and Applewhite both said they should’ve run the ball more in Ames.
“I’m comfortable with Case throwing the football, but I think looking back on the other night we wanted to do a little bit more in the run game,” Applewhite said. “In the second half, there were some times when we called some things and we didn’t have success for whatever reason. In terms of winning the game, that was obviously our goal. But I’m not going to sit and dwell on it too much, it’s time to get ready for the next one.”
Since Ash went down at BYU, McCoy has led the Longhorns on 34 offensive drives -- 12 have ended in scores, and 16 in punts. The challenge for Applewhite and co-coordinator Darrell Wyatt against the Stoops brothers will be playing to strengths while still being unpredictable.
And the way Applewhite sees it, there’s no point in saying more is on the line this year than in past Red River games.
“I think it’s all on the line when you play Oklahoma, every year,” Applewhite said. “I don’t think these kids or the coaches or anybody else feel any different. It’s the Oklahoma game. It’s what you come to Texas to play for. Same thing on the other side. It’s extremely important. It’s bragging rights, it’s what you get to talk about when you’re old and tired.”
Think Robinson doesn’t want this one as badly as anyone? Exactly one month has passed since Robinson took over for Manny Diaz. Progress has been made, but Saturday will be the real measuring stick of how far this defense has come.
Robinson doesn’t give much credence to discussing the pressure that Texas’ coaching staff faces this week, because the fact is, this big-time game is what the job is all about.
“The pressure of wanting to win and of beating them is exciting,” Robinson said. “It’s an opportunity for all of us. So I think that’s how you look at it. It’s how much can you get out of your guys come Saturday to do the right things and play well. That’s the challenge. I think we’re all excited about accepting that.”
In the end for Robinson, Applewhite and the staff, all that matters is putting the Longhorns players in a position to end to Oklahoma’s reign over the Longhorns.
“Doggone it, we want to get it back on our side,” Robinson said. “I’d like to think that’s the mindset with everybody that’s involved. We all feel like we have a responsibility to our Texas fans.”