December 1, 2009

Breakdown (Nebraska week)

1. Colt McCoy reflected on how he "bottomed out" after the Oklahoma game and then told Mack Brown and Greg Davis he was starting his season over heading into the Missouri game. And now here he is.

"That was probably the hardest thing I've ever done in my life was to get out of the funk I was in and just go out and just play," McCoy said. "I think you all have seen the difference."

McCoy said there were only a handful of people he felt comfortable turning to in that situation.

"There are a very select few who have been in that position, so it's hard to talk to people and get them to understand what's going on," McCoy said. "But it really did come down to me asking myself, 'Why do I play football?'

"Because I was at that point of saying, 'What am I doing this for?' And really analyzing that, it was a combination of things that brought me to a really low spot. We were winning. It wasn't necessarily that fun because I was getting criticized and people were saying, 'Why aren't you doing this?'

"I was listening to all that and it just really bogged me down. But to overcome all that, I just really relied on my faith and prayer and then realized just how blessed I am.

"It goes back to the Peru trip and different things to see just how blessed I was to be playing quarterback at Texas for my fourth year. I really took it back to, 'I've just got to start having fun. I'm the guy on this game everyone responds to, and how are they responding to me now? Look at our team. We're not doing that good. We're winning.' But to overcome that didn't happen overnight.

"I played pretty well against Missouri. I played a little bit better against Oklahoma State. Then, all of a sudden we started rolling and now look at where we are."

McCoy said he turned to his parents, coaches and some high-profile quarterbacks.

"I talked to my parents," McCoy said. "I talked to Vince. I talked to Peyton Manning and Roger Staubach. I talked to my coaches. But ultimately it comes down to you. It comes down to you being able to get out of the funk you're in.

"This is what God blessed me to do. It's my favorite thing to do. It's my passion. But why am I not having fun? You just have to realize how lucky you are and how lucky I am to enjoy my teammates. Once I got focused on those things, it started to turn around.

"It wasn't like I was playing horrible. They weren't talking about my play. They were talking about how I needed to be the one who everyone looks to and the guy who was calm and relaxed and having fun. Those were things I knew, but I guess I needed to hear that from people to be able to settle things in my own mind that it's what needed to be changed.

McCoy said he was as frustrated as he's ever been walking off the field against Oklahoma.

"At that point I was just pissed," McCoy said. "That's just what it was. I was just mad. I don't know any other way to say it. I was mad at myself."

McCoy took out some of his frustration in a tackle of OU's Brian Jackson after Jackson intercepted McCoy near the goal line in the fourth quarter with Texas clinging to a 16-13 lead.

"The tackle I made after the interception, if we do what we need to do, it may end up being the biggest play of the year, especially for me," McCoy said. "Even though that wasn't my fault, that kind of stuff was happening every game. That's why I was just mad. That's why I say not everybody knows the ups and downs of what happens."

Colt spent the least amount of time possible at Moncrief Neuhaus after the OU game so he could get away from football and rediscover himself.

"You work through all that during the week," Colt said. "I probably watched the least amount of film that week. I got away that week. I was mentally preparing to find a way to get back to having fun.

"I went into Coach Brown and Coach Davis' office and said I'm starting the season over completely, totally, 100 percent. It's 0-0, and I said there's going to be a difference. There's going to be a change. And sure enough, that's how it was."

McCoy felt like the mental adjustments he made leading up to Missouri started paying off immediately.

"We had a good first half against Missouri, and it seemed like that's when we found our identity as an offense - and as a team," McCoy said.

"You just want to be the senior quarterback you should be. You played for three years. You want to be perfect. You came back to do all of these things in your mind, and when things don't play out like they should, especially being in a place like this, you lose it."

McCoy said he no longer feels pressure to perform.

"It ended a while back. If you think about pressure and expectations, you're not going to be the best," McCoy said. "So I focused on what I needed to do to be the best to help the team.

"I focused all my energies on preparing and helping my teammates to be the best and firing them out and getting them ready to go."


2. Mack Brown said he could understand the pressures Colt McCoy was feeling earlier this season.

"There are some days I wonder why I coach," Brown said. "I'm getting old. I'm stressed over a game. I thought, in retrospect, what happened to Colt was we didn't know who we were to start the year.

"Offensively, we were trying to be smart and do things. We knew the Oklahoma game would be huge. So we did want to hold some things. Then, some offensive linemen got hurt. Huey's out. This one's hurt and not playing well. We don't have a tight end that's consistent.

"All the backs are hurt. Receivers, we're putting them in all different places. So there was no continuity on offense at all, and then Colt was sick for two of those games. Nothing was smooth, so it didn't allow for him to play with the confidence he needed."

Mack said he started to see things turn around in the second half of the Oklahoma game.

"I do think the second half of the Oklahoma game, even the long run he had right before the half, when he fumbled near the goal line, he realized, 'We can get back on track and be really good.'" Mack said. "Since that game , he's been as good as he's ever been. In fact, I think he's been better.

"Our staff and these kids live with a tremendous amount of pressure because that standard is set so high. Our defense is really disappointed Thursday night and we're 12-0. Our special teams feel like they failed, and we're 12-0.

"So it's something we live with when we create a monster like we have. They've won 24 of 25 and everyone is talking about the next one. That's what the kids have to understand."

Mack said he was asked this week if it's harder to build or maintain a program.

"After being at North Carolina 10 years and being here 12, it's not even close," Brown said. "You can have a great team because you can get lucky and find a couple kids, a quarterback and a tailback.

"But winning every year is really, really hard because the minute you get done with one season, there's pressure for the next one.

"I honestly left the 2005 press conference for the national championship trophy presentation, and someone asked me, 'What about next year? Can we win it again?' And I thought, 'Let me get to the car. Leave me alone until I get to the car. That's all I want.'

"That's when another guy said, 'Coach you've got a free pass at Texas for the rest of your life. You can be the Texas coach for as long as you want.' The guy walked off, and Coach (Darrell) Royal said, 'You got six months before they are going to be on you again, so you better not believe that ol' boy.'"


3. Mack Brown said Marcus Davis and D.J. Monroe will not be a distraction for his team.

"I told the team your focus needs to be on your family, your faith, your grades and your team and if it's not, I'm not taking you," Mack Brown said. "We will help young men who make poor decisions off the field, but we will not have them be a distraction for our team.

"Everybody who goes to Dallas will be focused on one thing, and that's winning a big 12 championship. These seniors have worked way too hard for a freshman to be a distraction. We're not going to let it happen. Period."


4. We are not breaking any news when we say the Texas offensive line will be under the spotlight on Saturday night thanks to Nebraska's big DTs Ndamukong Suh (6.5 sacks, 15 TFLs, 10 pass breakups/batted passes) and Jared Crick (9.0 sacks, 14TFLs, 3 pass breakups/batted passes).

"This game is going to be won with the big guys up front," Colt McCoy said. "If we can run the ball, and the line can create some holes and creases for our backs, that will really help our play-action, and I think we'll be successful offensively."

C Chris Hall watched Nebraska play Oklahoma.

"Nebraska has a great defense," said Hall, who won the Boss Hawg Award as the top offensive lineman from the Texas A&M game. "I was just watching the two defensive tackles.

"What stood out was all the plays they make. They are really balanced in their stance. They are good with their hands, and they look like they have really good instincts."

Hall said the Nebraska defense is more than just Suh.

"I know he's a great football player. They're a great defense. We've got a lot to worry about, not just Suh, as good as he is."

Left tackle Adam Ulatoski, who had his hands full with Texas A&M's Von Miller, now has to take on Nebraska's defensive line, which has accounted for 21 sacks this season.

"They're strong up front," Ulatoski said. "They're probably more like OU. Not the same schemes. But personnel wise, they're similar, hard-nosed, talented. They don't do a lot of different things. They are just really sound."

Added Mack Brown, "They run a four-down front. They're a confident defense. They've done a tremendous job. Ndamukong Suh is as good as any player in college football. You have to know where he is on every play, but the tackle next to him (Jared Crick) is a good player too."


5. The Big 12 football title game is in Cowboys Stadium this year and next year. Mack Brown said he'd like the Big 12 championship football game to be played in Cowboys Stadium on a permanent basis.

Big 12 officials have talked about having the conference basketball tournaments at the new Sprint Center in Kansas City on a regular basis and possibly having the football title game in Dallas.

"I would love to see it in Dallas," Mack Brown said. "It's centrally located. Obviously people will think the Texas coach wanting it in Dallas is self-serving, but it's a great facility. It's indoors and ensures so that weather is not a factor. I think it's a great idea."


6. Will Muschamp took the blame for the Legion of Boom's shoddy performance against Texas A&M (the LOB missed 13 tackles for 71 yards) but said the defense "will be fine" against Nebraska.

"Obviously disappointed with the performance Thursday night," Muschamp said. "It falls on my shoulders as far as preparation of the players. We obviously had some miscommunications, some missed assignments, missed alignments, 13 missed tackles, twice as many as we've had in a single game this season.

"We gave them life early in the game, which is the worst thing we could do. We gave them some belief early in the game. And when you have critical errors on third down and some critical errors on big plays, that makes for a long night and that's what happened.

"It falls on my shoulders as far as preparation of the players, and they were obviously not ready to play. I thought we had a good game plan going in, but give them credit. They did a nice job."

Muschamp was asked what the game plan was going into the A&M game.

"Whatever it was, it wasn't right," Muschamp said. "That's something we've got to move on from. We were very fortunate to win, and my hat's off to our offense. It won the game for us, and Marquise Goodwin with the big return on special teams. Defensively, we were just lucky to survive a night to win the game."


7. Nebraska's offense features a power running game with play-action passing. The Big Red have scaled back much of its passing game on offense because QB Zac Lee (12 TDs, 7 INTs) was struggling with turnovers.

"After the Iowa State game, when they had eight turnovers and lost the game, I think they circled the wagons some offensively," Muschamp said. "They probably said we're playing really well on defense and special teams, let's shorten the game.

"Let's manage the game. Let's play good defense. Let's run the ball and play-action some down the field, but we're not going t put ourselves in tough situations again. It's worked. They've won five games in a row. They're a very tough, physical football team. And that's what you've seen on film."


8. Mack Brown is the winningest coach in college football the last 14 years. But he only has one conference title in that span - and in his career as a head coach. Brown said that fact doesn't bother him.

"It means more to the kids," Mack said. "No one cares about your record when you're through. They're all talking about the current guys. Those things, I used to think they were so important. And I look back now at Coach Royal's record and Coach (Bo) Schembechler's record and Coach (Woody) Hayes' record, and no one cares.

"The people who are friends care, but it's not who you are. Your relationships, the things you accomplish, the things you did for young men. That's what counts in the long run.

"What I would like is for Colt and these seniors to win a championship because they deserve it. They've given us so much, and that's the thing that's not on their resume. That's what they want, and that's what Saturday night is about for me.

"I want Colt to finish getting the acclaim he should for what he's done for this program and for college football. And he'll have a lot more by winning Saturday.

"And I want these seniors to be rewarded. Sergio Kindle came back. Roddrick Muckelroy and Lamarr Houston have fought their guts out. And let me say the seniors played really well, even on defense, last Thursday night. That was not in question. So don't think they didn't grade out well and play great."


9. Mack Brown said he's telling the team they are finally at the point of being able to avenge all the forces that worked against Texas last year in the BCS.

"I told the team a year ago at this time you were as disappointed as any group of kids I've ever seen, and you committed yourself a year ago to be in this game and win this game, and now you've got it down to that goal," Mack said.

"I told them you have to keep finding ways to win. The defense wasn't as proud Thursday as they've been, but there have been days when the defense won the game and the offense stood around.

"That's what good teams do. They find a way to win. And we challenged them in the kicking game. But I told them to enjoy this week and to enjoy what they've accomplished.

"There's only six undefeated teams left, and that number is about to drop because two of them play each other this week. And I told them I did not want them to think about anything but this week because this has been their goal. This is what they've wanted.

"This team hasn't won a conference championship. Hasn't even played in it. So it gives these seniors a chance to finish this off right."


10. Everyone knows Colt McCoy's Heisman Trophy chances will come down to Saturday night's game against Nebrsaka.

"We'll mention it to some of the offensive kids because Colt is not interested in talking about it," Mack Brown said. "In fact, when he was leaving the dressing room Thursday night, he said, 'Don't call me because I'll be on a deer stand on Friday.'

"So I don't think he watched a single game this weekend. That's just not who he is. He's a kid and wants to enjoy this. He knows. He knows this game is important to all of us."

Even though he'll have access to information about how Tim Tebow and Mark Ingram have performed in the SEC title game Saturday afternoon before taking the field in Cowboys Stadium, Colt said he won't think about the Heisman on Saturday night.

"I've never gone into a game trying to win the Heisman Trophy," McCoy said. "I got into a game trying to win, and that's exactly what I'm going to do this week. That's exactly what I did last week. Winning is what it's been about forever. And I know if I go in there and play well and we win, everything else will take care of itself."


BONUS NUGGET: Mack Brown took a trip down memory lane when it comes to his different experiences with the Big 12 title game.

Brown was asked if the 2001 Big 12 title game in Dallas the Cowboys other stadium (Texas Stadium) was the lowest point for him as a coach because a berth in the national title game was on the line.

"The lowest point for me was probably losing to N.C. State (in 1999)," Brown said. "I thought it was poor coaching. We can go back and say a bunch of kids were hurt, but none of that matters. We had the best team, and we lost. And I added the game for extra money for assistant coaches. I felt really bad about that whole thing."

Thoughts on the 2001 Big 12 title game vs. Colorado:

"As far as the 2001 Big 12 title game, I have the belief that if you're good enough, you win the game. Colorado was a lot better than the 41-7 game they played in Austin. They fumbled four or five times.

"I was scared to death of that game going in. We had to play great to win, and then we didn't start well and turned the ball over. And then we came back. Even when we did not have the blocked punt on, poor Phillip Geiggar ran into the punter and they gave 'em a 5-yard first down. Just stuff like that.

"We punted them down at the 1, and they drove the length of the field. Chris Brown was the big back, and he still looks like a good player to me. He was a great player. We did not tackle well. Everyone blames the offense, the turnovers for that game. We did not play well on defense. We could not stop the run.

Thoughts on the 1999 Big 12 title game vs. Nebraska in San Antonio:

"In 1999, I was praying leaving the A&M game for Kansas State to make the field goal because I had no interest in playing Nebraska again because I thought they were the best team in the country.

"They fumbled five times in Austin and dropped the ball going into the end zone for a touchdown at the 2, and we recovered it. They were so much better than we were. We had no business playing them mad in San Antonio."

Thoughts on Texas' upset victory over Nebraska in the 1996 Big 12 title game in St. Louis:

"It cost us the Fiesta Bowl at North Carolina," Mack said. "If Texas doesn't beat Nebraska, we're in the Fiesta Bowl. We're a lock. And then we go to the Gator Bowl. That cost us again. So I was mad."

Brown had a funny line about the 2003 Big 12 title game that involved K-State upsetting OU 35-7. (The Sooners still went on to play for - and lose - the national championship to an LSU team with Will Muschamp as the defensive coordinator. While K-State took UT's berth in the Fiesta Bowl.)

"In 2003, we were supposed to go play Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl, and Kansas State upsets Oklahoma and we end up in the Holiday Bowl against Washington State," Mack said. "That was an awful thing.

"In retrospect, I thought we hung in there until a day before the (Holiday Bowl) game, and then I could see they were drifting and bored. I wish we hadn't even gone to that one because they were so disappointed.

"All the parents had tickets to the Fiesta Bowl. But it happens. I pulled for Oklahoma, so I'm never going to do that again."


BONUS NUGGET: Nebraska players are saying Texas has all the pressure in Saturday's game because the Longhorns are playing for a berth in the national championship game and for Colt McCoy's Heisman Trophy chances.

"People have asked about the pressure of playing Nebraska to get to the national championship game. If you're good enough, you win," Mack said. "If you don't , you don't deserve it. You go out and do your best job coaching. We'll have our best plan. Nebraska's going to do their best job coaching.

"Sports are really cruel. There is a team that loses each week. You can play good and lose. And you lose a lot when you lose. It's not fair. But it is what it is and it's not going to change."

NOTES …

--CB Aaron Williams, who sat out much of the second half against Texas A&M, should be at full strength this week.

--Coaches are expecting CB Deon Beasley (neck/shoulder) and WR John Chiles (ankle) to play this week.

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