THE COACHES' BREAKDOWN:
***Mack Brown said he thinks RB Malcolm Brown (turf toe) and WR Jaxon Shipley will both be available this week at Missouri. Mack said Brown could have played against Texas Tech, but that the coaches told him he'd only play if needed (and he obviously wasn't needed). Brown said he spoke to Shipley Monday and Shipley said his right knee (MCL sprain) is feeling much better.
***Mack said Malcolm Brown would probably be in a boot this week when he's not on the practice field. But Mack said boots have become the norm for players nursing any kind of foot injury, even when the injury appears to be subsiding.
"The boot just stabilizes his foot so he can't step wrong," Mack said. "So some people will probably panic when they see him."
"It was a good thought, a good idea," Harsin said. "And Luke has done a real nice job. He's taken a lot of pride in it. It has shown, just on the edges that we've been able to handle that one-on-one block outside."
***Harsin feels like the Wild formation in the red zone is working because Foswhitt Whittaker is the best Harsin's ever had running it.
"That's something we introduced in the spring, and Fozzy is the best I've had running it. He's got a very good feel. It's like having a quarterback back there. He really understands what we're trying to do. He's the right guy to do what we're doing."
***Harsin said the call of whether to give or keep on the read in the Wild formation is given to Whittaker before the play.
"We haven't put the read factor in there," Harsin said. "That way, those guys can go play fast, especially down in the red zone. If there's any hesitation there, we might not have a very good play. So we just want guys playing fast."
***Harsin said the Wild formation is good for the red zone because it forces the defense to commit a defender to the player taking the snap, which means there's no defender free to freelance.
"It really equals out the numbers," Harsin said. "When you have a quarterback handing the ball off, a safety, a corner, someone is free. When you use the Wild formation, you equal things out.
"And then you add some deceptive movement and motion and have a guy like Fozzy back there, that's the key. It's not the formation and the play. If you don't have the right guy back there handling the ball and running it, I don't think it's very effective."
***Harsin said the offensive line is thriving because "we've got the right five guys and then the right sixth, seventh and eighth guys mixing in up front."
"Schematically, we're doing things that fit our personality and what they can do well. And then it's just confidence. The entire package on offense of running the football builds confidence in the O-line, the tight ends, the backs and the receivers and everybody doing their job. And the type of numbers that they've had gives those guys some confidence in what we're doing running the ball."
***Harsin said freshman LT Josh Cochran "is doing a pretty good job. He's got a long way to go. It's not perfect by any means. But we're happy with where he's at. And we're more happy with how he prepares himself and how he practices, because we know he's going to get better with those habits."
Mack Brown praised Cochran for his smarts and his speed, adding that Cochran is the perfect guy to get out on sweeps and block in space.
***Manny Diaz said his players "have gotten more comfortable in how we play the run."
"It's hard to be unsure and aggressive at the same time," Diaz said. "The more you get into the season and see it happen at game speed, you get it and you become more aggressive.
"We are an attack style defense, but it's not about blitzing. It's about penetration. The defensive line is improving. Our defensive tackles over the last four weeks, you can see them having a better understanding of how they're supposed to fit in the run game.
"When the D-line gets it, then the linebackers can get it, and the rest of the defense can get it. The whole picture has to be the way you want it to be for everyone to truly trust that their teammate is going to be doing his job so I can run 100 miles per hour through that hole. That's where we're getting, and I think all the front seven has improved in that aspect."
***Manny Diaz was asked if he rather be a defensive coordinator in the SEC or the Big 12.
"This is a more wide-open league, and you see the difference in the quarterback play. To me, this league is a shining example of the high school football in the state of Texas because, generally speaking, this is where everyone comes to mine their talent.
"I think the passing game is so well coached at the high school level in this state, the kids have grown up with it. This state produces really good quarterbacks unfortunately. And they all go to schools that play Texas."
***On how the Texas running game has helped the defense, Manny Diaz said:
"If you can run the ball and be hard to run on, you're going to have a chance to win every football game. And I believe that. Our staff is united in that belief. And our players are having a great time with that concept in their mind.
"Every day on Tuesday and Wednesday in practice, we don't want to get run on. It's a battle. It's a fun challenge. We've been able to hang our identity on that. I know this, we are happy as a defense we don't play Texas."
***Playing 10 different DL has created great competition.
"What you want is your more experienced players, the Kheeston Randalls have taken their game to a new level and everybody's been able to follow them," Diaz said.
***DT Chris Whaley is showing he's a building block for the future.
"When we moved Chris inside, he showed he was not afraid," Diaz said. "He may not have known what he was doing, but he was going to shoot his proverbial gun and see what happens. Who he was shooting at, sometimes we had no idea, but he wasn't afraid.
"And that's a hard thing to do now. You're surrounded by a 300-pound man on either side, and you're not sure which one is going to hit you. And they might both hit you. So Chris is improving. He's working with Bo Davis every day on his pad level and hand placement.
"He really helps us in our third-down defense. Two weeks in a row, he's made a big third-down stop, and those are so valuable in terms of getting off the field, especially against the offenses you see in this league. On the one hand, he made a great explosive play on the sack last week. And then he comes back in the decisive second quarter against Tech, gets cut free and snuffs out the screen.
"That was a mature play because usually when a guy is free on the quarterback, they take the bait. But he thought, 'Wait a minute, this might be too good to be true, and he took out the screen. That's an advanced play by Chris and the type of thing we see coming from him in the future.
"He's what we wanted inside at defensive tackle. I think he could play outside, but he's just a big man with room to grow. We love quickness in our inside people. We love foot speed in our inside people."
***Diaz said the question for his young DTs is consistency.
"Right now, if we were playing basketball with the inside guys, Kheeston Randall would be our guy to take the last shot. When he's gone, who can step up to be that guy? That will be the challenge, and we don't know the answer to that right now."
Mack Brown said Calvin Howell and Ashton Dorsey remain neck and neck as co-starters for the other DT position.
***Diaz said the key to Saturday's game will be eliminating explosive running plays by Mizzou.
"Missouri takes blocking very, very seriously," Diaz said. "And we can't allow explosive runs. When we don't allow those, generally speaking, we're happy at the end of the night. And they are very good at creating explosive runs. They're running back (Henry Josey) is a home run hitter. He has tremendous speed.
"And the screen game. We gave up more yards than we'd like to in the screen game against Tech. So we have to get off blocks."
***Diaz said Missouri RB Henry Josey "may be the most explosive back we've seen so far in terms of the ability to go all the way."
"When you're averaging 9 yards per carry, that's almost hard to say," Diaz said. "But you don't average 9 yards per carry by getting 9 yards every time you touch it. Usually, there are some really big chunks in there. We have to take the chunk plays out of their offense."
***Diaz said Christian Scott has been vital because he's physical and versatile as the team's dime back (sixth defensive back).
"The guys really respect him because he can come down and play man coverage, play zone and his toughness speaks for itself," Diaz said.
***Diaz said the pass coverage deserves some love for the improved pass rush the past couple games as well.
"We made a big deal about this in our meeting yesterday - the coverage," Diaz said. "Sometimes we're just covering a little bit better to make the quarterback hang onto the ball a little bit longer. And the same rush you had in Week 4 turns into a sack in Week 7.
"That's the way this game goes. And the quarterbacks we've been playing might hang onto the ball a little bit longer than some of the quarterbacks we faced before. And the other thing is the confidence the guys are playing with. They are seeing the results."
TEXAS (6-2, 3-2 Big 12) at MISSOURI (4-5, 2-4), 11 a.m. CT, Saturday, on FX
SIGNATURE WIN: At Texas A&M, 38-31 OT
LOSSES: at Arizona State (37-30 in OT), at OU (38-28), at K-State (24-17), home vs Oklahoma State (45-24) and home vs Baylor (42-39)
THE BIGGEST QUESTION FOR TEXAS GOING INTO THIS WEEK:
Can the offense avoid turnovers in what will be David Ash's first road game since getting the QB job against Oklahoma State?
Mack Brown said, "It's a question. We'll see."
"We couldn't have taken on this four-week stretch four weeks ago," Mack added. "We weren't near ready. We were way too fragile after two losses. So it will be interesting to see.
"We do not have it scripted the way we want to here at the end. Three of the four games on the road. The one at home is Kansas State. They're good and we haven't played very well against them.
"We've got our hands full. But I think we're going to have to throw the ball better in our future to get back to where we want to get. And Missouri has had more trouble against the pass than they have against the run.
"They've got three pro prospects up front, and they are very good against the run. So this will be a game where we have to throw the ball downfield."
Added Bryan Harsin, "He's going to have to throw the ball. We've been in those games. I thought he made a real nice throw early in the game (against Texas Tech) to Mike Davis. We missed on a long one there (to Davis) that we need to connect on. We've learn from that, and those opportunities are going to come again.
"Ultimately for him, no turnovers, we had the one sack, he threw the ball away, and he had some big runs in there. So I think he's starting to complement himself, running the ball, making good decisions, along with his ability to throw the ball. We know he can spin it.
"He's starting to realize there's a lot more in his tool box that he's got available to him. When you do that as a player, you become more confident because you know if it's not there, 'I can do this, or I can do that, I can throw it away, and the coaches are good with that. All I have to do is make good decisions and take my throws when they are there.'
"And I thought he managed the game really, really well. We had several checks in the game that he got us out of, and we made some adjustments at halftime, and he didn't blink an eye. He was able to go out there and communicate and did a nice job with that."
MY TAKE: This week's game against Mizzou is all about turnovers. If Texas doesn't turn it over, I think the Longhorns can wear down Mizzou's defense with the run and win. Mizzou's defense has been all over the place. But they have some good players at each level of the defense, including senior nose tackle Dominique Hamilton, linebacker Andrew Wilson and CB E.J. Gaines.
Mizzou's LB Zaviar Gooden was expected to be the man this season, along with LB Will Ebner. But Ebner's been hurt since the opener, and Gooden has been very inconsistent. The Tigers have given up an average of 39 points over their last three games against Texas A&M, Oklahoma State and Baylor.
Mack Brown even said Monday he expects to have to score in the 40s to win some games down the stretch.
The decision making from the QB position for Texas this week will play a huge role.
Last week against Missouri, Baylor came out trying to run the football and was unsuccessful on its first drive. Robert Griffin III fumbled the ball away on BU's second drive. Then, trailing 7-0, Baylor began throwing the ball on first down on its third possession.
Griffin began having success throwing the ball, and that loosened things up for the running game. Baylor was trailing 14-13 at halftime. But big plays in the passing game softened up Mizzou's defense, allowing BU's Terrance Ganaway to score on runs of 38 and 80 yards in the third and fourth quarters, giving the Bears control of the game.
NOTABLES ON MIZZOU:
***Mizzou is off to the SEC, and football coach Gary Pinkel has been outspoken in the media about the problems of the Big 12 and has said, "We all know what the problem is," when he was asked about the inequity in the Big 12.
Many speculated Pinkel was referring to Texas and its Longhorn Network.
Pinkel had little to say Monday about Mizzou's looming departure for the SEC. And Mack Brown said he has nothing but respect for Pinkel and the job he's done. Mack said schools should do what they want, and he wished Missouri well.
Texas senior safety Blake Gideon said, "I'm glad they held off the move to the SEC until I'm gone. I've had a pretty good record against Missouri so far, so I'd like to get one more game in with them before they skip conferences on us.
"It's hard not to get caught up in that discussion of conference realignment, but we have to stay focused on the schedule we have this year, especially for us seniors."
***Mizzou sophomore RB Henry Josey is averaging 8.6 ypc and is the nation's No. 5 rusher, averaging 127.7 ypg.
Josey went to Angleton with Texas freshman CB Quandre Diggs, and the two are close friends. "Henry's the real deal," Diggs said. "He wants it bad, and he's willing to work to get there. But we'll see (on Saturday)."
***Mizzou QB James Franklin is averaging 66.6 ypg and will combine with Josey to represent the most difficult dual-threat running situation Texas has faced this season. … It will be a forecast of things to come with K-State QB Collin Klein and RB John Hubert as well as Baylor QB Robert Griffin III and RB Terrance Ganaway.
***Mizzou senior TE Michael Egnew caught a season-high 12 passes Saturday vs. Baylor for 69 yards. Egnew continues MU's recent tradition at the TE position established by guys like Chase Coffman and Martin Rucker. Egnew is second on the team in receptions (42 for 432 yds and 2 TD) behind WR T.J. Moe (44 catches for 547 yards 4 TDs). Mack Brown calls him one of the best he's seen.
***Missouri has been having to use punter Trey Barrow on field goals because kicker Grant Ressell is hurt. Barrow is 2-of-3 on FGs this season (the miss came from 46 yards with a chance to win at the end of regulation at Texas A&M). That's the only attempt Barrow has made beyond 40 yards.