Texas Longhorns: Bridgepoint Holiday Bowl
The Texas coach talked about his team's performance in the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl and the Longhorns' season overall. Brown also talked about the expectations in Austin and the team's goals for 2012.
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Jody Gomez/US PresswireWith talent like Jackson Jeffcoat returning, Texas' defense should only get better in 2012.
Mack Brown understands that. So too do his players.
But that they made the most of it might mean Texas is taking steps in the right direction. Not leaps. Not bounds. Texas has to crawl before it can walk and run back into the national college football scene.
After an 8-5 season in which the downs seemed to overshadow the ups, Texas has to figure out if it indeed has passed the crawling stage.
On the defensive side of the ball it most certainly has. Even with the loss of its backbone -- Keenan Robinson, Emmanuel Acho and Kheeston Randall -- there is full faith that the Texas defense will be back next year and quite possibly stronger than it was in 2011. Desmond Jackson, Calvin Howell, Chris Whaley, Jordan Hicks, and Demarco Cobbs all appear prepared to step up. The return of Kenny Vaccaro will give stability to what was once thought to be the weakest returning position -- safety.
There are few, if any, worries about the defense.
But the offense, oh the offense, it continued its angina-inducing play against Cal. With more than three weeks to prepare, a quarterback change, and somewhat healthy running backs, the offense still produced just 255 yards.
OK, maybe Cal's defense is decent.
But consider this: Texas’ average starting field position in the first quarter was its own 43. It was 0 for 4 on third down conversions and scored 0 points in that quarter. Furthermore, the Longhorns' defense handed the ball to the offense five times. The average starting field position on those drives was the Cal 40-yard line. Texas scored once. Granted the last turnover was inconsequential. But even without it, the average starting field position was the 50.
When it was over, quarterback David Ash thanked his teammates for hanging with him through the rough times. He meant against Cal, but it might as well have been a blanket statement for the season.
Ash and Case McCoy, still have yet to prove that either can run a BCS-caliber offense. Both have shown flashes, but overall, it is clear neither has the arm strength required to make big throws in big games. Twice Ash missed wide open receivers more than 30-yards down the field against Cal.
Co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin acknowledged Ash's mechanics need work. But he stopped short of stating that Ash was incapable of throwing the long play-action passes on which so much of his offensive scheme is based.
Really, Texas has no other choice than to stick with Ash. Because of the manner in which it has conducted this quarterback shuffle -- five different starters in 13 games -- Texas is at risk of losing players and another quarterback if it continues.
Jaxon Shipley, McCoy’s roommate and longtime friend, summed up some of the frustration: “Everybody knows that having one quarterback and not switching from one to the other definitely would help with the consistency.”
Shipley quickly couched that statement by saying “But we got to do what we got to do, and if we need to play both of them, we'll do that.”
But Shipley’s first statement is essentially correct. Texas now has to take the next step. To do that, it has to figure out if Ash is a viable quarterback or a stop-gap player until the next Vince Young or Colt McCoy comes along. The coaching staff has nine months to figure it out. Maybe if they do that, then there will be a real cause for celebration.
A play would be called and the junior would look to his left and look to his right and finally ask “Where am I supposed to line up?”
The wide receiver found himself in all the right spots against Cal. Goodwin, who missed all of spring, all of fall camp and the first couple of weeks of the season, proved to be the most explosive player on the field in the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl. He caught a 47-yard touchdown pass and cut back an end around for 37 yards to set up another Texas score. And he was a good throw away from breaking a 98-yard touchdown.
In other words, it was a typical game for Goodwin.
“What he did this year was save us,” Texas coach Mack Brown said.
And this was a team that needed a lot of saving. The wide receiving corps was thin, and for a time when Jaxon Shipley went out, didn’t have a reliable option. The quarterbacks were young and jittery, not knowing where to throw, always looking for a security blanket. And the offense was always in search of someone, anyone, to make an explosive play. Goodwin proved to be the man for every job.
Goodwin finished the season third in receptions and fifth in rushing. His two touchdowns are not a huge number but this is an offense that only scored 40.
It was also a considerable amount considering where Goodwin was in the spring and summer. The world-class track athlete had given up football to compete in the long jump. At that time, he was unsure whether or not he would come back. But after missing the world championship long jump finals by 1 centimeter in South Korea, Goodwin started to think about playing football again.
“I thought about how they were getting ready for the season, working hard and pulling together, but it really hit me when I was in the airport on my way back from Seoul,” Goodwin said. “People were texting and Tweeting me with updates from the [Rice] game.”
After a talk with Brown, Goodwin was welcomed back with open arms. Now he is being embraced.
“Marquise is getting so much better every day and we just get him half a year,” Brown said.
What Texas has to learn to do is maximize that time.
“He will be around some, be able to work in the weight room and we want him to win the Olympics. So we're pulling him in a lot of directions,” the Texas coach said. “But he's matured and grown up, and I'm glad he came back this year.”
After watching him against Cal, Brown is undoubtedly not the only one.
Texas, after turning the ball over six times against Baylor, did not have a turnover against Cal.
Best call/worst result: On third-and-19 on the Texas 2, the Longhorns decided to air it out. It was an odd decision because co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin had been so conservative. The call worked. Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin was wide open, but quarterback David Ash under threw him. Goodwin had to come back to the ball and stepped out of bounds. The call proved that Harsin can take risks. The play proved that he doesn't have the quarterback to make the throws.
Unsung hero of the game: Goodwin provided the spark on offense for Texas. The junior receiver not only caught a 47-yard touchdown pass, he also made the strongest run of the game with a 37-yard sprint through the heart of the Cal defense at the end of the third quarter. Goodwin's run took the ball to the Cal 7. From there Texas was able to punch the ball in with Cody Johnson and take a two-possession lead.
Record performance: Not all records are positive and this one certainly falls into that category: Texas and Cal combined for 10 points in the first half. That's the lowest total in Holiday Bowl history. Combined, the two teams only had 12 rushing yards in the first half. Cal, which went 40 yards on its first possession, went 33 yards on its next 25 plays. Texas had 48 yards on its scoring drive and 44 yards on its 24 other players.
What it means: For Texas, at least this year and last, any win is a good win. And while this game was not pretty, it will serve as a morale booster for the young players as they head into spring practice. This game also served as a signal to the rest of the team that Harsin wants Ash to be the quarterback in the spring. The freshman, who had been benched, played every offensive snap. Ash's performance, while not stellar, was adequate. Ash didn’t move the offense with alacrity but he also didn't turn the ball over and that is Harsin's number one goal for any quarterback.
He played four games at that position as a freshman, never making his mark on the field, or in the stat book, for that matter.
Fifty pounds and a year later, Whaley had moved to the other side of the ball and into the role of a rush end. He started a game, played in 12, had a sack and a couple of tackles for loss. More than that, he was seen as a player on the rise.
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AUSTIN, Texas -- It doesn't matter that Texas is winging its way to the West Coast to face a Pac-12 team that put the high in high-flying.
So what if Cal coach Jeff Tedford has been the passing game guru that has put numerous quarterbacks into the NFL.
Gary A. Vasquez/US PresswireDepsite Cal's passing stats, Texas will focus on stopping 1,200-yard rusher Isi Sofele.
For Texas the mindset is still the same -- stop the run, the rest will follow.
In Texas' five loss it allowed 134 rushing yards per game. In its seven wins, Texas allowed just 82 yards per game.
Cal rushes for 167 yards per game and has a back, Isi Sofele, who averages 105 yards per game. Add to that quarterback Zach Maynard is moving the offense with his ability to scramble and throw on the run, and Texas will be picking its poison on defense.
“Again, it always comes back to first thing’s first," Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said. “The best way to stop the quarterback is to stop the run, take away his best friend, and then you can do some different things with him.”
With the exceptions of the Oklahoma State and Baylor games, Texas had been adept at making offenses one-dimensional. Texas gave up 191 on the ground to Baylor and 202 to Oklahoma State. Those were the two highest totals of the season. Baylor was also able to victimize Texas through the air more than the Cowboys.
Cal, while not as explosive, appears to be of the same mold. Couple that with the residual effects of the Baylor game, and it has made for refocusing of efforts during the bowl practices.
“In this game, and I have said it a million times is, all we do is go back and fix what we made mistakes on,” Diaz said. “We are in a constant fight to battle to improve. That is really all we are trying to do. That is why getting the bowl bid the [day after the Baylor loss] was a quick way to refocus us.
“Then when you play an offense as dynamic as what Cal has, that is an easy way to get yourself excited to go out and finish the year the way we want to finish it. I always look at bowl games as the bridge to next year’s football team. We have some guys who are trying to make a statement about who we want to be in the future, and we have a great opportunity to do that on national TV.”
That national exposure could backfire. Cal has put up big plays, but against lesser teams than Texas. The Bears had a 74-yard touchdown pass against Arizona State. They also had a 90-yard touchdown pass against Washington. Sofele has eight runs of 22 yards or more with his season-best being a 56-yard run against Oregon State.
“We have to get after the running back and try to minimize that,” defensive tackle Kheeston Randall said. “Then we will try to rush the passer. If we do that, we should put ourselves in a successful position.”
Here's Harris look at the Bridgepoint Holiday Bowl:
Bridgeport Education Holiday Bowl: Texas Longhorns vs. California Golden Bears, Dec. 28
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Read the full story here.
Huard looks at Notre Dame, Nebraska, Oregon, Mississippi State and Texas.
Here's a bit of what he had to say about the Longhorns:
The pressure is squarely on Texas on Dec. 28, as Brown doesn't want to enter 2012 spring ball having lost four out of five to end the previous season, with the lone win coming in a game that had more to do with the Texas A&M Aggies' losing than the Longhorns' winning.
Will UT be able to turn it around next season? The Horns' performance against Cal could go a long way toward providing the answer.
Here's Chad Millman and Sal Selvaggio's thoughts on the betting around California and Texas in the Bridgepoint Holiday Bowl.
First, the duo's criteria for picking bowl teams:
1. How a team ended the regular season:
"Were they on a run to make the bowl, or did they lose a lot?"
2. How much excitement a team will have headed into the bowl:
"You're looking for a team that is thrilled to be there and looking forward to the game."
A subset of No. 2 is bowl experience, but not for the reason you think: "I'm more likely to give a team a higher ranking if it hasn't been to a bowl for a while, because that will generate excitement amongst the program and fans."
3. How much time off a team has had before the bowl:
"When you are not playing, it's hard to simulate game speed. It's like driving on the highway at 30 miles per hour."
4. The weather on schools' respective campuses:
"The SEC, Pac-12, even the ACC tend to do better in the bowls than the Big Ten, Big 12 and Big East. I think the warm weather has a lot to do with that. Thirty days of practice in warm weather before a bowl game helps you get a lot more done than practicing in a bubble or outside in a cold climate."
5. Throw away any games against non-bowl competition.
"What you want to do is see how a team stepped up in class," Vegas vet Bryan Leonard says.
6. Emphasize a team's road performance over its home performance.
For the BBBII breakdown I asked Selvaggio to give me his breakdown for the bowls taking place between Thursday and next Wednesday. He added one more thought that isn't listed above: "Just like the regular season, I also like to play dogs getting a field goal or more that have good rushing attacks."
Now for the pick:
Bridgeport Education Holiday Bowl
California Golden Bears vs. Texas Longhorns
When: Dec. 28, 8 p.m.
Line: Texas minus-3
Watch | Pick Center analysis
Sal says: "Unless this is Mack Brown's last game and we don't know about it, this line makes no sense at all. I have these teams rated as even and although Texas travels well, this game is being played at Qualcomm Stadium in California, so it's not like UT is going to have some big home-field advantage. I have a couple bowl situations that favor the Golden Bears. Couple that with the line value and we have a pretty good wager. I bet California plus-3.5 and would be betting them at plus-3 as well."