November 14, 2011

The Breakdown: The offense, possible changes and Fozzy

1. Mack Brown is not sure if Texas can plan on having Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron back this week; he wants to simplify the offense; and said Texas got "deep happy" in the passing game on Saturday in a 17-5 loss to Missouri.

"I think the number one thing is we can't plan on Joe (Bergeron) and Malcolm (Brown) being ready for Saturday," Mack said. "And we can't plan on them playing the whole game if they are ready because for two weeks here we've been waiting, and Malcolm hasn't been ready for the two games, and Joe wasn't, and we anticipated they would be.

"And to our trainer Kenny Boyd's credit, they can't tell you what's going to happen a week from now. They can't tell if a guy is going to be better or worse because they don't know these guys. They haven't been around them very much. That's the first thing.

"The second thing is we have to make things as simple for the quarterbacks as we can. We've got to make protections simple. When we're not running it, we haven't been a great pass protecting team. We got deep happy Saturday. We've got to get some easier throws and make the quarterbacks more comfortable.

"We didn't have but the one turnover, and it didn't affect us. If you would have told me that we were not going to have a turnover that would matter in the ballgame, I would have thought we'd have won. Because usually turnovers matter during the game. And even with our blocked punt, we lost a point because we came back and blocked theirs and got a safety.

"We just couldn't figure out a way to get some points."

Mack said the blame needed to be spread around when it comes to the offense's woes against Missouri.

"The disappointing thing was we did not play well on offense," Mack said. "I did not think we stepped up, and I did not think we handled adversity well. Even at halftime, I said really good teams handle adversity and get stronger the second half. Offensively, we didn't. So it was very disappointing.

"We can go back and blame quarterbacks. We blamed Garrett Gilbert. We blamed these two young guys on Saturday. Guys have to help the quarterbacks, too.

"They have to play good around them. And the people around the quarterbacks didn't play well enough to help them Saturday, either. It's a combination of us as coaches trying to figure out with those guys gone how to move the ball.

"It's a combination of handling that moment of knowing you're in some trouble and you're in a fight on the road and you're not moving the ball. And they are stacking the line of scrimmage. So we have to keep growing and get better at all those things."

Mack defended his decision to punt on 4th-and-6 from Texas' 16 with 3:43 left in the game, down 17-5.

"We decided, 'Are our chances better to punt into the wind and maybe get a ball that hits them?'" Mack said. "'Can we stop them with three timeouts? Can we strip the ball? Can we block a punt and then onside kick? Because we weren't moving the ball at all.

"We punted the ball 9 times during the game. We haven't punted 9 times around here in a long time. That's obviously got to get better for us to win any of the last three games here. We have to score points to have a chance to win because this is a points-scoring league.

"At a time where we held Missouri to 17 points, we still didn't give ourselves a chance to win."

2. Bryan Harsin defended his decision to throw deep so many times against Missouri.

"From some of the scenarios we were in, we were in more third-and-long situations than we were in the previous two games," Harsin said. "We are probably more down-the-field type throws because of that.

"And then early on in some downs, we took some shots down the field and then hit one down the field and tried to hit a few more to change the field. When you're not running the ball and getting some of the big chunks like we had, you're trying to swap field position a little bit more."

Harsin was asked if he thought the offense's running game would still be the identity of the offense if Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron are out again this week.

"The philosophy is not going to change," Harsin said. "We've got guys to play. That's how we play. That's what we believe in, and that's what we continue to do."

Harsin said the run and deep pass are cornerstones of his offense.

"Any time you have an opportunity to get those big chunks of yards, you want to do that," Harsin said. "That's been part of the philosophy of this offense. Be effective in the run game and then take advantage of those one-on-one opportunities outside and really change the momentum."

Harsin said he can move guys like D.J. Monroe and Cody Johnson into tailback duties if need be.

"We've been able to use those guys in different packages," Harsin said. "They've all played tailback and done different things like that."

3. Now, the focus of the offense is trying to simplify it enough for the team's young quarterbacks to be able to put points on the board.

"That's the hard thing," Mack Brown said. "We've got us a mess that right now we have to figure out in a week. We've got an identity, and then all of a sudden that identity was gone in the first quarter of the Missouri game.

"We tried to change some things during the game, and it didn't work very well. So we have to regroup. That's what today (Monday) is really about. Today is about all day trying to figure out what we can do to score enough points to win Saturday. That's all it's about.

"Kansas State is finding ways to win. They nearly beat Oklahoma State on the road. What a game. They nearly beat Oklahoma State on the road, who may be as good as anyone in the country."

Harsin was asked about rolling his quarterbacks more and moving the pocket.

"David's done a nice job when we've moved the pocket," Harsin said. "We've run a couple nakeds, and he's gotten outside and has the ability to run and throw. All those things are good. So we'll continue to do that.

"In this last game, we had some good protection, some max protection to allow him to sit in the pocket and take his shots down the field. We'll continue to do that.

"We have to find a way to hit those deep throws, like the one he hit Marquise (Goodwin). That changed the field in a hurry, so we need to hit those 40 and 50-yarders and change the field like that."

Harsin was asked about throwing more short and intermediate routes, such as curls or comebacks.

"Those are sometimes tougher in anticipation and timing," Harsin said. "It's a shorter throw, it's a tighter window. There's more guys around. Than it is taking the shot down the field and getting a one-on-one."

When Harsin was asked how he would simplify the offense, he said:

"Conceptually, some of the things we've been doing that they've been good at. They feel comfortable with, just finding different ways to get to those a little bit more," Harsin said. "That way, they'll be able to make some quicker decisions.

"You're going to be in some situations where you're gonna have some pressure, and they are going to have to get the ball out of their hands a little quicker. So it's more about just concepts than anything."

Harsin said he doesn't think David Ash's confidence is shaken.

"I don't think so," Harsin said. "He's been pretty steady and consistent throughout this year, and that's just his mentality. Up, down. He's a guy who each week just comes back.

"Every game for our quarterbacks has been a learning experience as far as how we can improve and get better. And this game is no different. It was a tough game. But there was a lot to learn from it.

"But he's a guy who sits there and says what do I have to do and how do I do it and what do I have to work on this week? And we write those things down, and that's what he'll do this week and get back to work."

Harsin said his confidence in Ash is not shaken.

"No. Not one bit," Harsin said. "No one played to the level we needed to win the game. The quarterback gets way too much credit and way too much blame. That's just the nature of the position. It takes all 11 guys out there each play."

4. Harsin said he couldn't ever remember a game he called in which his offense didn't score a touchdown. He said he has to grow from the Missouri loss.

"It doesn't matter where you are when you're calling plays, you have to decide what's best for your team in the flow of the game," Harsin said. "And, obviously, we wanted to have a better performance this game and find some things that could have gotten us back into it.

"We just have to look at that. And it's not players. It goes back to looking back and evaluating each and every game and I do, I'm very critical of it and what I could have done and what we could have done better.

"What calls we could have used more. You have to learn from it. That's the no. 1 thing each and every week, I believe. You walk away from that experience and say, 'What did I learn?' and then try to improve on that."

5. It was an emotional day for players and coaches talking about the season-ending knee injury to Foswhitt Whittaker.

For the record, Whittaker doesn't blame Missouri's turf for the injury.

"In pre-game and whenever we did our walkthrough on Friday, I was getting used to the turf and nothing was wrong," Fozzy said Monday while sitting in a motorized scooter to keep pressure off his right knee. "I didn't have a problem with the turf."

Blake Gideon fought back tears when talking about Whittaker's character and what he meant to the team.

"Fozzy would lay down in the street for any one of us," Gideon said. "Just the type of guy he is, the type of … (Gideon lost it for several seconds, then apologized) … Sorry. Just the type of character Fozzy has and what he would do for any one of us."

Mack Brown said Fozzy "had become the heart of this offensive football team because they all looked up to him."

"Fozzy epitomizes what we all want in a student-athlete," Mack said. "He is a person who has given a lot more to Texas than he got back."
Mason Walters said he wants to "play his guts out for the guy" against Kansas State.

"This team is not about just me," Fozzy said. "This team, we've all become a big family. And even though I may be gone for the season, I may not be able to contribute on the field, but I'm going to contribute off the field as much as I can.

"I'm going to try to bring joy and excitement and make sure I'm cheering for them."

Rehab will take at least six months and then Fozzy hopes to get a shot at the NFL. If that doesn't work out, he said he'd like to work in "football administration and operations."

"Knowing me and my personality, I'm going to try and cut that rehab time down as much as possible. From there, just try to get back to full speed. I'm just hoping to get back healthy."

I asked Fozzy why he thought this was happening to him after suffering knee injuries his first two years at Texas and then a stinger that plagued him most of last year.

"I can't put a finger on it. I just know God has a plan for me," Fozzy said. "Whatever this is, it was part of his plan and not mine. I just have to keep my faith in Him.

"It was great just being around my teammates. I'm still with the team. It wasn't in my plan, but He has His hands on me, though."

Bryan Harsin said he will greatly miss Fozzy for all of his contributions and especially the Wild formation that Whittaker helped orchestrate. Harsin said the Wild formation will continue.

"We can still run it," Harsin said. "We'll have to obviously change our personnel in what we're doing. But the scheme won't change. We'll have another variation of that.

"We'll get one of those backs, and they've all taken reps , so we'll have to figure out who we put back there and how we are going to set that up now.

"I think we'll continue to use the running backs. We've got the guys who have done it. We'll see what the game plan looks like and what practice looks like.

"Still wish I had Fozzy out there doing that. But just that package, that package will stay. And we'll figure out which back can do it."

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