Texas Coach Mack Brown: ‘It’s hard to figure out whether to blame coaches or players.’
Brian Smith – FOXSportsSouthwest.com
Every college kid has experienced it. The upset stomach, the pounding headache, the pure physical fatigue. Hangovers feel deadly, and they don’t just happen after a wild night out. Texas experienced a football hangover first hand on Saturday, falling to the Iowa State Cyclones at home.
Just one week earlier, Texas shocked the conference by silencing the Red Out in Lincoln and beating the previously undefeated Huskers 20-13. Longhorn quarterback Garrett Gilbert piloted an efficient offense which racked up over 200 yards on the ground against the Blackshirts. The most impressive part of Texas’ game that day was the defense, which put the clamps on Nebraska freshman quarterback Taylor Martinez so tightly that he was benched in the third quarter. The Huskers only managed 125 yards rushing against a stout, speedy Texas front seven.
Fast forward seven days. The Longhorns are now 21 point favorites and playing in front of over 100,000 burnt orange-clad fans. Their opponent: An Iowa State squad that had been outscored 120-20 in its last two contests. Naturally, most expected Texas to roll. According to Horns’ coach Mack Brown, even the players thought they would roll over ISU. At least, that’s how they prepared for this week’s contest.
“We said during the week that this team is not good enough to beat anybody unless they all come out and play as a team. They didn’t,” Brown said after the game. “Coaches did a poor job, obviously. I told the players it’s hard to figure out whether you blame coaches or players. The players didn’t get ready to play, and it’s the coaches’ job to get them ready to play. That’s my job to get the coaches ready to play.”
Gilbert looked lost behind center after what looked like a breakout performance against Nebraska. Though his numbers say he threw the ball well – 34 completions and 344 yards – most of those came after the Longhorns dug themselves a 28-7 hole in the fourth quarter.
Before Saturday’s shocker, Iowa State ranked dead last in the conference in total offense, and 10th in points per game. The offense on the field at Darrell K. Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium looked like a completely different unit. Senior running back Alexander Robinson sprinted through holes in the middle of the Longhorn defense for 120 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback Austen Arnaud passed for 136 yards and ran for 40 more. ISU seemed to always be on schedule and rarely ever faced a 3rd-and-long situation. If there’s a better word than “hungover” to describe the normally dominant Texas defense, it’s not in my lexicon.
This kind of upset win isn’t out of the ordinary for the Cyclones. Sure, Iowa State had taken beatings in its last two matchups against Utah and Oklahoma. But this is a team with veteran offensive leadership and an indomitable will which was on display throughout the game. ISU head coach Paul Rhoads said his team never lost faith in its ability to play with the best in the Big 12.
“I’m sure there are some people in here who have had children that are 18, 19, and 20 years old, and they are a hard group to figure out,” Rhoads said. “We came to play today. We were focused, resilient, and we executed better. I’m not saying we didn’t come to play against Utah and Oklahoma – we just came to play and played better this week. We fought for 60 minutes and executed our assignments. The difference between this game and Oklahoma is that we had early success. With that early success, we built confidence.
After a hangover of monumental proportions produced their second conference loss of the season, the Longhorn coaches are left wondering how to get a consistent effort from their players. They don’t have long to figure it out, as the 6-2 Baylor Bears visit the 40 Acres this Saturday. The Horns will have to have their bodies refreshed and their minds clear to try and contain Robert Griffin, or this wicked hangover could stretch into November.