Texas has serious issues after epic fail by defense
SEP 07, 2013 11:53p ET
When asked about whether Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz would coach next week, Brown didn't give a yes or no answer.
"I just got out of the game," Brown said, per San Antonio Express-News reporter Mike Finger. "I'd like to watch the video."
I'd like to watch the video.
No unequivocal support. No "tonight was a bad night" and no "back to the drawing board." No rallying cry or a "circle the wagons" type comment. In a sport that thrives on coach-speak and clichés so shallow toddlers could wade through them, Brown, in saying nearly nothing, said everything.
Manny Diaz is coaching for his job.
Context, of course, is important. Brown made that comment shortly after Texas's defense — maligned last year for allowing more yards than any defense in Longhorn history — set a new 'Horn record by allowing 550 rushing yards in a game. The opponent? Not Alabama. Not Oklahoma. No, Texas gave up all those yards, and the 40 ensuing points, to a BYU team that put up 362 total yards in falling 19-16 to Virginia a week ago.
Granted, that Virginia game was played on a soaked-through field following a torrential downpour. And the Texas coaches expressed mild concern this week about not getting a chance to truly see what BYU would present offensively because of that showing.
But Saturday, BYU was uncomplicated. The Cougars ran the read-option plays over and over again. Sophomore quarterback Taysom Hill, who rushed for a previous career-high in rushing yards with 143 at Hawai'i a year ago, ran for 259 yards and three touchdowns. And consistently, the Longhorns were out of place, in the wrong gaps, just a step away from being in the right spot to make a tackle. BYU pushed the pile, earned yards after contact and generally ran over, around and through a Texas defense that looked gassed, out-toughed and at times disinterested.
Offensively, things weren't much better, though those struggles were expected. BYU ranked third nationally in both total and scoring defense a year ago, and brought in arguably the game's biggest name player in edge-rushing terror and All-American Kyle Van Noy. When Texas lost top weapon Daje Johnson to an early ankle injury, the Longhorns lost a key downfield weapon to challenge the Cougars' defense.
Instead, Texas often tried to test BYU up the middle, to less-than-spectacular results. And when the 'Horns passed, they struggled to protect quarterback David Ash, even with the Cougars largely employing just three and four-man rushes. Ash left the game after taking a hit in the fourth quarter, with Case McCoy finishing out the contest while Ash was evaluated for a head injury.
"I don't think our players or our coaches lived up to what we needed to tonight to win," Brown said, per the Longhorn Network, "including me."
Texas doesn't have time to lick its wounds. The Longhorns are back in action in just a week, taking on a talented Ole Miss team in a game that many circled as Texas's toughest non-conference test. On the Rebels' minds? A 66-31 beat-down that the Longhorns supplied last year in Oxford. But more importantly, in the Rebels' offense is the extensive use of quarterback runs and the read-option, similar to those plays that gashed the Longhorns against the Cougars.
It's a quick turnaround, and more zone-read challenges await in Kansas State (runs it), Iowa State (runs it) and Oklahoma (yep, the Sooners run it too). There isn't much time for the Longhorns to figure it out. Brown's comments aren't quite as vivid as they were after losing to Iowa State in 2010, when he said he didn't trust his staff, but they could be as telling.
After that season, Brown reshuffled his staff, bringing in several new coaches. Behind those coaches — one of whom was Diaz — and the strength of strong back-to-back-to-back recruiting classes, the Longhorns showed incremental improvement. 2011 brought eight wins, up from five in 2010. And last season saw Texas get nine.
Those nine wins — and the 19 returning starters from that team — had the Longhorns talking Big 12 title. That goal is still available … Texas hasn't played a conference game yet. But to get there, Texas has to show that, for a third consecutive year, the 'Horns have made improvements. That starts on the defensive side of the ball. Texas struggled last year with many of the same issues that manifested against BYU: playing assignment-sound football and tackling in space.
If the Longhorns don't get that ship righted, Brown's comments on Diaz will likely evolve to similar levels as his 2010 comments. And in this case, as in that one, it could come with a staff change.