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November 9, 2013

The Breakdown looks at Diaz v G-Rob; the New O; more ...

#1 ... No one affiliated with the Longhorns wants to talk about the difference between the Texas defense under Manny Diaz as compared to the defense under Greg Robinson - because the players like Diaz and don't want to pile on.

But during Texas' five-game winning streak, the defense:

… is giving up 126.2 rushing ypg (compared to 308.7 ypg the first three games)

… is giving up just 3.5 ypc (compared to 6.0 ypc the first three games)

… has forced 11 turnovers (compared to 6 the first three games)

… has posted 18 sacks (compared to 2 the first three games)

So let's turn to Kansas coach Charlie Weis, a former offensive coordinator with the New England Patriots, to break down the difference.

"Mack (Brown) made a bold move when he let go of their defensive coordinator and brought Greg Robinson in," Weis said. "He's really settled them down. You go back to our game last year, and they were moving all over the place - stunting and blitzing.

"And Greg Robinson has really settled it down and just let those athletes be athletes. Especially when you have(Jackson) Jeffcoat and (Cedric) Reed at defensive end and (Malcom) Brown and (Chris) Whaley on the inside."

In other words, the Diaz scheme was about shock and awe movement and trying to overwhelm an offense with twists, stunts, blitzes and getting into gaps while trying to stop the run on the way to the passer (think Rex and Rob Ryan).

With really talented and experienced players, that works because they can make the last-second reads and adjustments on the fly required of the scheme.

With young players who are unsure, it's a recipe for disaster, because if you're not making those last-second adjustments like Emmanuel Acho and Keenan Robinson made or you're not getting into gaps or getting home with pressure, you become easy to scheme.

Robinson, on the other hand, has simplified things by basing most everything out of 4-3 set and then using well-timed pressures and coverages specific to an opponent.

"It's different intensity, different schemes, different everything," said DE Jackson Jeffcoat. "The most important thing is the guys are all buying in right now."

Robinson was asked if the Texas defense's resurgence has reinvigorated his coaching career after difficult stops as the head coach at Syracuse and as DC at Michigan.

"No. I know I can coach," Robinson deadpanned.

#2 ... Texas' new identity as a power-running, play-action pass offense was born out of its lack of depth at QB and lack of a QB run game.

"That's the way we have to be built to win games right now," Major Applewhite said. "A lot of it has to do with quarterback depth. When you don't have a lot of depth or experience at that position, the last thing you want to do is find out how inexperienced you are."

Against Iowa State, Texas abandoned the run after 17 carries while averaging 4.9 ypc and ended up throwing the ball 45 times against the Big 12's absolute worst run defense (giving up 220.2 yards per game on the ground, 5.1 ypc).

In its last three games, Texas has run the ball:

* 60 times vs OU
* 52 times at TCU
* 44 times vs Kansas while using play-action to go deep in the passing game.

"This is not a league that's set up for stopping the run as much right now," Mack Brown said. "Everyone's getting smaller guys who can run. And we felt like we could be different from the norm in this league and still do it with tempo.

"Our offensive line has matured, and our backs are physical and hard to tackle. And we've got speed outside to get some one-on-one situations. And Case is not a guy who is going to run the option or beat you with a quarterback draw.

"We felt like his strength was throwing the ball. And that would come off play-action pass. So this all developed because of Case."

Applewhite said receivers like Mike Davis (30 catches, 386 yards, 5 TDs), who expected to catch a lot of passes from David Ash this season, have been unselfish.

"In some cases, it's frustrating for guys like Mike (Davis) or Kendall (Sanders) or the wideouts, because they want to catch footballs. But they've been selfless and blocked, and when they've had opportunities, they've cashed in on them.

"And that's helped us on the defensive side of the ball in terms of the number of snaps they've played. It's team ball, and it's what gives our team the best chance to win."

#3 ... RB Malcolm Brown knows just how to quiet West Virginia's notoriously hostile, beer-sold-in-the-stadium crowd Saturday night:

"If you can set the ball down and just run it right at them and get your yardage, and they can't do anything about it, you can shut down any team's crowd," said Brown, who posted a career day with 4 rushing TDs against Kansas.

#4 ... We've heard for weeks at OB that it was unlikely David Ash would play again this season after the ongoing effects of his head injury.

Now, it's sounding bleak from Mack Brown, one week after Brown seemed to try to hang out hope Ash could come back this season.

Brown said Monday Ash, who has not put on a football helmet since the Kansas State game Sept. 21, has suffered a reoccurrence of concussion symptoms and has been ruled out of Saturday's game at WVU.

In addition to Ash needing to be clear of those symptoms for at least a week, Brown is stressing more and more that Ash is not in playing shape and would need time to get into shape if he was ever cleared.

"They have to make sure he's in good enough shape to play," Brown said.

Thoughts and prayers to Ash as he recovers from this situation. The medical staff has to continue to evaluate Ash in order for the junior QB to qualify for a medical redshirt.

#5 ... Texas has won five straight, and the Longhorns are still unranked.

Texas' 6 wins are against teams with a combined 18-32 record, and people watched UT against BYU, Ole Miss and Iowa State.

Senior QB Case McCoy understands:

"I think we just didn't play well at the beginning of the season," he said. "You can only make a first impression once. And that impression is going to be there until we keep playing consistently. I think we're getting there."

Texas' final four games come against teams (WVU, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Baylor) with a combined record of 26-8 (15-7 B12 play).

"We're not ranked, and that's something for these guys that we would like," McCoy said. "But we don't control that, and our job is to keep winning. Being 5-0 in this league and winning five in a row is big.

"I could give you the political answer and say we don't care. But it is a goal to be ranked. We're not ranked yet, so we have something to prove."

#6 … There has been a lot of talk about when or if it would have been feasible to get freshman QB Tyrone Swoopes into a game to get some experience this season.

How about some numbers to break it down:

Texas has had 19 drives that began with a two-score lead (10-16 points). UT has had 17 additional drives that began with a three-score lead (17+ points).

So in a total of 36 drives with at least a two-score lead, Swoopes has gotten into a game for two of them (up 30-7 at TCU late in the fourth quarter and up 35-13 vs Kansas on Saturday with less than 4 minutes to play).

#7 … Junior DE Ced Reed is becoming a player with an NFL decision to make at the end of the season.

Reed used his patented long-arm rush to get to Kansas QB Jake Heaps in the third quarter, causing a sack-fumble that changed the game with the Longhorns clinging to a 14-6 lead.

Chris Whaley scooped and scored from 40 yards out, and Texas scored again within a 2:30 span to break the game open.

Reed is one of three players nationally with at least 5 sacks, 4 pass breakups and 3 forced fumbles - Arizona State's Carl Bradford and Clemson's Vic Beasley are the others.

"Ced is becoming a really good player," Greg Robinson said. "He's starting to make the most of some impressive physical tools."

#8 … Big 12 power poll

1. Baylor

Next up:
Texas Tech, Nov. 16

The Bears have had 11 three-and-outs all season.

2. Texas

Next up:
at West Virginia

Longhorns hoping there's no Oliver Luck Curse on Saturday night in Morgantown.

3. Oklahoma State

Next up:

The Cowboys' running game is suddenly rollin' behind Desmond Roland.
He had only 36 combined carries in the first five games when OSU's ground attack was struggling.

But the last two games, Roland has gone off - 26 carries for 219 yards and 4 TDs at Iowa State and 31 carries for 96 yards and 3 TDs at Texas Tech.

4. Oklahoma

Next up:
Iowa State, Nov. 16

Bob Stoops has been a double-digit dog three times in 15 years as coach at Oklahoma:

vs Florida State in the national championship game of the 2000 season (a win)

vs Texas in 2005 (a loss)

And in Thursday night's 41-12 loss in Waco

5. Texas Tech

Next up:
Kansas State

I thought the Tech defense was a whole lot better than giving up 277 yards rushing to Oklahoma and 281 yards rushing to Oklahoma State in back-to-back losses.


6. Kansas State

Next up:
at Texas Tech

With the way Tech is giving up yards on the ground, I'm expecting a whole lot of running by K-State QB Daniel Sams in this one.

7. West Virginia

Next up:

Everyone who plays in Morgantown has a hard time: just ask Oklahoma State this season.

8. TCU

Next up:
at Iowa St

Yikes. Gary Patterson has lost 11 of his last 17 games at TCU and is in his first-ever three-game losing streak in 13 years as coach of the Frogs.

9. Iowa State

Next up:

Looking for a pulse in Ames …

10. Kansas

Next up:
at Oklahoma State

Hey, look kids, it's basketball season in Lawrence. Andrew Wiggins time!

My Big 12 picks:

Texas 24, WVU 23

Texas Tech 31, Kansas State 28

Oklahoma State 42, Kansas 13

TCU 20, Iowa State 19

#9 … National college football thoughts …

Really good atmosphere at The Blackout. But wow was that some bad football from both offenses (and pretty good play from the BU defense) for a quarter and a half to start the game.

Bryce Petty was tight - maybe because he knew both of his RBs, Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin, were hurt. Thanks to Shock Linwood (182 yards rushing), Petty settled down.

The Bears also got some help from horrible OU QB Blake Bell with an INT that helped BU go on a 21-0 run in the second quarter to take control of the game.

Isn't it time for OU to see what Kendal Thompson can do at QB? It can't be worse than Bell.

Ahmad "Can God Save a Hooker?" Dixon always seems to be involved in the high and low points of a game for Baylor.

Low point: 30 yards in personal fouls during the aftermath of a targeting call against K.J. Morton.

High point: All the plays he helped make in holding OU without a TD until late in the second half.

We won't learn how good Baylor is until the Bears go to Stillwater to face Oklahoma State.

I'd put 1-loss Stanford ahead of Baylor right now after the Cardinal's bullying of Oregon.

(I also made it by Scruffy Murphy's to get one of those "Can God Save a Hooker?" T-shirts. I feel partly responsible, since I asked Dixon if Baylor could win the Big 12, and that was his response ...)

NO WONDER AGGIES DON'T WAN'T TO PLAY TEXAS … Amazing to think Saturday's Texas A&M-Mississippi State game is likely to be Johnny Manziel's last game at Kyle Field and possibly Kevin Sumlin's if reports out of Los Angeles are true that Sumlin is the leading candidate to replace Lane Kiffin at USC.

CALLING ALL HEISMAN HOPEFULS: Speaking of Manziel, the Heisman race is a small one right now with Marcus Mariota and Oregon getting beat up by Stanford Thursday.

Right now the trips to New York would seem to include Manziel and Jameis Winston, who is now being called "Jameis Squintston" after cameras caught him squinting to see calls from the sideline in FSU's victory over Miami.

Alabama QB A.J. McCarron could emerge in that race with a big performance in a win over LSU Saturday.

WHICH METTENBERGER SHOWS UP? Speaking of LSU, that game will probably come down to Marvelous Mettenberger or Mediocre Mettenberger.

The first seven games this season, Mettenberger completed 67 percent of his passes with 15 TDs and 2 INTs.

The last two games, including a loss at Ole Miss and a sluggish start in a win over Furman, Mettenberger completed 61 percent of his passes with 4 TDs and 5 INTs.

Mettenberger played well vs Bama last year, completing 24 of 35 passes for a then-career-high 298 yards and a touchdown with no picks. He completed 14 of 17 for 206 yards in the final 30 minutes when it appeared LSU would pull the upset.

Mettenberger was 9-of-14 passing for 89 yards on third down, converting six of those into first downs.

That's the QB play LSU needs to have any chance of winning in Tuscaloosa. That, and maybe some distracted Bama players worried about their coach longing for Austin (it's a joke ... I kid ... I'm a kidder).

MY PICK(S): LSU 31, Alabama 30 (If Marvelous Mettenberger shows up)
Alabama 30, LSU 17 (If Mediocre Mettenberger shows up)

#10 … The TMZ in me and other random thoughts …

1) I'm working on a feature story on new AD Steve Patterson that I think you all will find interesting.

2) There is so much blame to pass around in the Richie Incognito belligerence fiasco.

But if former Baylor kicker Jeff Ireland, the Dolphins' GM, really encouraged Jonathan Martin to punch Incognito to solve problems, that tells you a lot about the current state of the Dolphins.

3) Unintended consequence of losing your head coach for a time when he's also your offensive play caller: see Gary Kubiak.

Case Keenum looked like a Drew Brees starter kit before Kubiak went down at halftime of last week's game against the Colts.

The Texans were out of sorts (understandably so) in the second half after learning their coach was in "stable condition."

I think the Texans are ready to win with Keenum. They would have won last week if Kubiak doesn't go down. I think they win at Arizona this week.

4) Cowboys ran the ball 9 times and still beat Minnesota last week.

The Saints aren't the Vikings. And Drew Brees and Rob Ryan are coming off a loss … to the Jets!

Give me the Saints 24-13.

5) Heartbreaking news about Tony Dorsett and the possibility of brain injury symptoms.

6) A year ago this week, DKR passed away. God bless DKR. We should all strive to be more like him (and play golf as fast as he did).

7) And here's a thought from Major Applewhite and Greg Robinson about the Longhorns' improving morale:

"I think morale and chemistry are extremely important," Applewhite said. "Napoleon once said morale is to physical as three is to one. You can practice all you want, but if a team has morale, they are a tough group to beat.

"I think our offense enjoys seeing our defense go out there and get sacks and cause turnovers. And I think our defense likes seeing the offense having 7 and 8 minute drives running the ball and giving them rest.

"Guys enjoy watching their buddies on special teams. Morale is extremely important in any kind of endeavor.

"You see smiles on their faces, more self-esteem, more confidence, more energy in practice. Losing stinks. It's hard to have great body language and a smile on your face when you're losing. So to string five wins together has been tremendous for everybody."

Greg Robinson about his defense:

"I think there is a confidence developing," he said. "I think we are getting more and more consistent at the basics of defeating blockers, covering people. Our fundamental techniques look cleaner. You never want to take that for granted.

"If we keep working, we'll continue to improve."

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