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November 19, 2012

Breakdown with Mack and the players

MEETING THE AGGIES ON A DIFFERENT HOLIDAY?: Thanksgiving has usually meant Texas and Texas A&M. But there's speculation the two rivals could meet on a different holiday, well, Jan. 4 (New Years-ish) in the Cotton Bowl.

That projection is drawing a mixed reaction from players.

Junior safety Adrian Phillips and senior running back Jeremy Hills both kind of liked leaving things the way they ended last year.

"We closed it out exactly the way we wanted to close it out," Phillips said of ending the century-long series with the Aggies.

Added Hills, "We ended that with the first, the most and the last. That chapter is done for me."

But Alex Okafor is sensing the fans want the matchup.

"That's what the people want," Okafor said. "I just want to be in the best bowl game we can go to. If it's the Cotton Bowl, then bring it on."

Players said it's definitely different preparing for a Thanksgiving night game without the opponent being the Aggies.

"It's a little weird," Okafor said. "But I don't feel sorry for A&M. We still have the big-time game on Thanksgiving, and they are the ones missing out."

MY TAKE: Okafor is maybe my favorite player on this year's team. The guy has gotten so comfortable in his own skin. Compared to where he was a couple years ago, when Will Muschamp moved him inside to DT, and he was losing confidence by the second, Okafor is a completely different person.

He's a baller now. And he's letting his personality show. Nice to see.

****

AGGIE SUPPER NOW 'SENIOR SUPPER' … HEX RALLY CONTINUES: Mack Brown detailed why those traditions for the Texas A&M game will continue even without the Aggies.

"We decided that we'd keep things like they've been, so instead of the Aggie Supper, a traditional supper on Sunday night before the Aggie game, we changed that to Senior Supper, because it's the seniors' last home game.

"Last night, we had over 35 ex letterman come back and speak to the team. Dan Neil was the guest speaker. So that tradition will continue. There was a lot of talk about do we continue to have the Hex Rally. We asked a lot of students and asked our players. They were just about unanimous they wanted to keep that tradition.

"I felt like it should continue as the Hex Rally, because it's to create spirit for the game by putting a hex on the opponent, regardless of who it is.

"Our first game was in 1893 against the Dallas Football Club, and that was on Thanksgiving. We beat them 18-16, and that was a big game for us from what Bill Little told me. He was there."


MY TAKE: It will take time for people to get used to the Hex Rally not placing a hex on A&M and instead trying to put the voodoo on TCU or Tech or whoever comes to Austin for Turkey in the future. But Mack's right about realignment screwing up a bunch of traditions, and I think it's cool he gave some thought about keeping it and the "Senior Supper."

So many former Longhorns have lived and loved those experiences. Give future Longhorns the same chance to live it. It will be different. But in time, it will be its own unique deal.

****

THANKSGIVING IN AUSTIN HERE TO STAY?: Mack Brown would like Texas to keep playing on Thanksgiving and would like the Longhorns to always play the game in Austin, since the campus is used to such a tradition.

That decision will ultimately be made with the help of TV executives.

But Mack gave his thoughts on not facing the Aggies this week.

"Realignment has changed history and changed traditions, which I don't like," Brown said. "But it's fact, it's real and it's happening. And when A&M left our league, and the decision was made that the two teams would not play anymore, I wanted to still play on Thanksgiving.

"I think it's a great time to play for many, many reasons, and I'm really excited we're playing an old Southwest Conference rival and foe who has done a great job in the BCS the last few years. So they are a prominent foe nationally.

"I think the same people will watch this game who would watch the A&M game. When I was asked about playing on Thanksgiving, I said yes, because you are the college game that night, so everyone watches it.

"I said I would like to play an old Southwest Conference opponent if we could, because our fans like that. And they'll be excited about it. And No. 3, I love that the kids can go home on Friday and Saturday and actually have a Thanksgiving, because most coaches and most players don't even have a Thanksgiving while preparing for a game.

"It still showcases a lot of great high school players from the state of Texas, and it still showcases the passion at this place and at TCU, and I think it will be a great game."


MY TAKE: This will all just take some getting used to. But Mack's points about playing on Thanksgiving are right. Unique showcase but more competition for football-watching eyeballs with the NFL now on NBC on Thanksgiving night as opposed to the NFL Network.


****

TCU D, PASS RUSH NO JOKE: Horned Frog DEs Stansly Maponga (6-2, 265), a junior with 3 sacks, and true freshman Devonte Fields (6-4, 240), who is third in the Big 12 with 8 sacks, are expected to be the best edge rushers Texas will face this season.

Maponga grew up in Zimbabwe until he was 8, playing rugby and soccer and chose TCU over Oklahoma and Arkansas. He's TCU's active career leader in sacks with 14.5 and 22 tackles for loss. But Fields is closing quickly.

In his true freshman season, Fields already has 8 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss.
When I asked Mack Brown if he recruited Fields, all he said was, "Yes," and then moved on to the next question. Hmmmm.

****TCU's defense is strong up front, ranking No. 7 nationally in rush defense (98.4 ypg).

****TCU held K-State to just 12 first downs, 260 yards and a season-low 23 points while forcing two turnovers.

****In a 39-38 double OT victory at West Virginia, TCU held WVU to just 338 yards and 3.8 yards per snap.

****In a 56-53 triple OT loss to Texas Tech, TCU allowed the Red Raiders just 71 yards on 27 carries - 47 of which came on one run. Tech's other 26 rushes totaled 24 yards.

****Only two teams - Baylor, 432; and Oklahoma State, 471 - have topped 400 yards on TCU.


MY TAKE: This was a defense in transition after losing MLB Tanner Brock, TCU's leading tackler last season, and starting DT D.J. Yendrey and CB Devin Johnson and CB Ty Horn.

And thanks to the emergence of sophomore MLB Joel Hasley, who leads the team in tackles, Fields and sophomore DT Chucky Hunter and redshirt freshman DT Davion Pierson, this front seven is growing up fast and growing up talented and well-coached.

Patterson does a great job on the defensive side of the ball. And it doesn't matter if he's got young players or not.

Look at that front seven: sophomore MLB (Hasley) ; true freshman DE (Fields), redshirt freshman DT (Pierson), sophomore DT (Hunter) and junior DE (Maponga).

****

MACK BROWN REFLECTS ON OU: There were a lot of questions today about what changed after the Oklahoma game to allow Texas get on a four-game winning streak that now has UT with a chance to share the Big 12 title and earn a BCS berth by winning out.

"We've played poorly against Oklahoma the past two years, and we have to go back and look at why," Brown said. "That's not the players. That's on the coaches if it's two years in a row."

MY TAKE: My initial thought when he said this was, 'Duck.'

****

ALL ABOUT TRUST: Adrian Phillips said it was pretty tough to watch some of his early film from this season. He said he was trying to do too much.

With so many new faces on the defense, Phillips said there was penchant to try to make sure plays didn't break in places they shouldn't. But that resulted in Phillips getting out of place and taking bad angles to tackles.

It took a while, he said, but the defense now trusts each other that each player will do his job and his job only.

"I'm letting the plays come to me now," Phillips said. "We've just taken a lot more pride in our work. We decided after that stretch we were going to be the dominating defense on the field, and I think we're headed in that direction."


MY TAKE: Phillips was trying to help make up for mistakes being made up front and ended up making some of the worst mistakes and losing confidence.

It's amazing what a domino effect that can be. He said the physical practices since the OU game have really helped everyone reconnect with a more aggressive attitude and to be more accountable.




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