September 2, 2012

Texas launches season with things to work on

1. Kenny Vaccaro, who played really well with a SportsCenter-quality interception and pressure on the QB that led to a pick by Carrington Byndom, said, "We wanted to get off to a good start, and I don't think we did that. We've got to get our heads out of the magazines."

MY TAKE: You gotta love Vaccaro just telling it like it is. He also said there was poor communication on the 22-yard TD pass given up in the fourth quarter, when he had underneath coverage and was expecting middle safety coverage over the top.

Meanwhile, Vaccaro was just drilling people Saturday night and showed off some serious, NFL closing speed.

There was a little bit of bad luck on Wyoming's 82-yard TD pass in the first quarter because S Adrian Phillips and CB Carrington Byndom collided trying to tackle the receiver, and knocked each other out of the play. But Vaccaro didn't make any excuses. He just said the defense has to get its head out. You love that as a coach.

2. Bryan Harsin said David Ash "did everything we asked him to do. He had that bobbled snap, and we've got to get rid of that. But I'm proud of the decision-making."

Ash said, "Sometimes things don't go perfect, but we had a great attitude and played resilient football. We didn't blink. And I think that's something we need to have week in and week out."

MY TAKE: Ash was 20 of 27 for 156 yards and 1 TD and was never close to throwing a pick. He managed the game really well. But he has to get the ball out sooner on some of those deep passes.

His receivers were sometimes 2 yards clear of the defender on the break, and that's when Ash has to throw it - on the break - not 4 or 5 strides after the break. Throw them open. Harsin made it sound like that can get corrected quickly.

Ash gave credit to Case McCoy for helping him on the sideline and basically said all the right things after the game. I thought Ash was comfortable in his own skin. Last year, after games he would shrug his shoulders a lot. Not anymore.

3. Even though the defense held Wyoming to 1-of-11 on third-down conversions, Manny Diaz said, "We violated our rule of no long runs or pass for touchdowns." Texas gave up TD passes of 82 and 22 yards.

But Diaz was proud of Chris Whaley blocking the extra point after the 82-yard TD pass in the first quarter. And he was proud of Jordan Hicks coming up with a blocked punt.

"Our best players were our best players, and that's what you want. Now, our best players need to bring our other players along."

MY TAKE: Jackson Jeffcoat didn't get a sack, but he was everywhere. Alex Okafor got a sack and was everywhere. Jordan Hicks was solid. Byndom settled down. Quandre Diggs showed a little burst on a punt return.

4. Carrington Byndom said sophomore S Mykkele Thompson needs to learn to get his head around on the play in which he committed an obvious pass interference penalty on third-and-9 with 1:50 left in the half. (Wyoming did not get points out of that drive.)

"I think Mykkele just panicked a little bit," Byndom said. "He'll learn. The entire defense made some mistakes that need to be corrected."

Mack Brown said he was almost glad the defense had some things to work on this week, otherwise they might have left Saturday night "feeling too good about themselves."

Byndom called the big plays given up by the defense early in the game, "Opening game jitters. We have to communicate better."

MY TAKE: I thought sophomore Wyoming QB Brett Smith was a gutty, tough, son-of-a-gun who clearly leads that offense with the poise of a senior. He had his guys ready, and Texas wasn't early on.

Some things need work. But the defense came up with some big plays Saturday night, including the two big INTs. I thought Josh Turner made some good plays. Dalton Santos had a huge hit on kick coverage as well.

5. On Demarco Cobbs' being flagged for a personal foul for what the officials said was a "late hit out of bounds" - Mack Brown reached for his glasses and said, "I'm going to wear these next week."

Replays showed Cobbs was still in bounds when he hit the QB, and he just pushed the QB with his hands, didn't even knock him to the ground.

That play - on third-and-13 - gave Wyoming a first down and helped sustain a 75-yard TD drive by the Cowboys with 14:54 left in the game. Wyoming converted the 2-point conversion on that score, and then recovered Ash's fumble on the next play from scrimmage at the Texas 30, putting a mild scare into the crowd at DKR because the Cowboys were down 31-17 at that point.

Alex Okafor, who recorded Texas' only sack, said the defense needed to react better after the penalty.

"We can't let things like that bother us," Okafor said. "We've got to learn to fight through a situation like that and play the next snap. I don't think we played as fast as we could have tonight."

But the defense stuffed Wyoming on a fourth-and-2 at the Texas 9, and the Texas offense then went 91 yards for a TD aided by a 54-yard run by Joe Bergeron and a 17-yard TD run by Bergeron.

LB Jordan Hicks said overall he thought the linebackers got better as the game wore on. Steve Edmond and Hicks tied Jackson Jeffcoat with a team-leading 6 tackles.

"Steve got comfortable out there and was knocking people around," Hicks said. "We can all play better."

MY TAKE: Cobbs only had one tackle in the game and was taken out in nickel quite a bit. So he'll have better days ahead.

6. Joe Bergeron (15 carries for 110 yards and 2 TDs) and Malcolm Brown (14 carries for 105 yards and 1 TD) both averaged more than 7 yards per carry (Bergeron, 7.3 and Brown, 7.5). And so did D.J. Monroe (5 carries for 36 yards, 7.2 ypc and 1 TD). Monroe also had a 15-yard reception.

"I thought D.J. Monroe made some tough runs tonight," Mack Brown said.

MY TAKE: It will be interesting to see how Monroe's role changes - if at all - with Daje Johnson back from suspension next week.

7. The running game produced 47 carries for 280 yards - an average of 6 yards per carry.

"Our goal was to put up 250 yards rushing," Bergeron said. "So anything after that was gravy."

On his 54-yard run in which he was caught from behind, Bergeron said he looked up at the Godzillatron and saw the defender closing, so he protected the ball. But he finished that drive with a 17-yard TD run, giving Texas its final margin - 37-17 - with 8:48 to play.

MY TAKE: Mack made it sound like this was a much improved Wyoming defense from the group that gave up 232 yards rushing per game last season and 5.1 ypc - one of the worst in the nation. Time will tell how good this Texas rushing performance was. But anytime you go for 280 on the ground and 6 ypc, it's a good day.

8. Even though Malcolm Brown got off to the better start with 93 yards on 10 carries - bouncing a lot of runs outside - Harsin went back to Bergeron, who had just 9 carries for 21 yards to start the game, running primarily between the tackles.

"They were giving us some space plays in the running game," Mack Brown said. "But we wanted to keep pounding away up the middle."

Harsin said, "We're going to rotate those guys. When one gets tired, the other one will come in. We should always have someone who is fresh."

Bergeron said he wasn't worried when his first 9 carries went for only 21 yards.

"You just have to keep grinding," he said. "No one was worried."

MY TAKE: Texas has a ton of firepower in the backfield and didn't even really use Johnathan Gray (5 carries for 9 yards) this week, although Gray got an ovation from the fans whenever he appeared on the Godzillatron. The run game should keep getting better.

9. Mack Brown was happy with Nick Rose on kickoffs ("I've never seen a leg like that kicking off," Mack said.) and really happy with Alex King's punting (King averaged 53.3 yards on three punts).

Brown said freshman K Nick Jordan didn't miss a kick early in camp and then missed a couple late that might have caused him to overthink things on his misses from 46 and 44 yards on Saturday.

"Obviously, Anthony Fera will compete for that job when he's feeling better (from a groin injury). We'll know more about that this week," Mack said.

MY TAKE: Fera may not be ready to go next week against New Mexico, which pounded Southern 66-21. So Jordan may get a chance to redeem himself. Attempting kicks from 46 and 44 yards in your first college game - in front of 101,142 fans - is no cakewalk. Kid probably deserves a little slack. Jordan hit from 31 yards.

10. Overall, Mack said he was happy with the win.

"We feel like we can run it well. We're confident in the run game," Mack said. "David Ash's confidence is so much better. He has good presence out there. I thought the offensive line opened some big holes. We needed two fourth-and-ones to score touchdowns, and those are great plays we can build on.

"I feel good. I wanted to get mad some. We gave up an 80-yard catch for a touchdown. But that will get the attention of the coaches and players next week."

MY TAKE: Lots of things to work on. But there were some good things in this one that should give this team confidence going forward.

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