Thoughts from the coaches and players after the necessary win over the Bears.
Head coach, on the home crowd...
"It was one of our better crowds. I thought they were loud, and very, very positive and upbeat. That's a real credit to our fans at The University of Texas. We're so lucky to have them. There were a lot of people that were negative this week. I don't think any of them were at the game. Because they came to win. They came to help us. They were very, very positive. The guys really appreciated that. And that just doesn't happen everywhere."
Kudos to the crowd, but frustrating that Brown is continuing his "with us or against us" theme from Monday, casting all those who did not accept the unacceptable loss to Oklahoma as not true friends, and, by extension, not true fans.
It would be nice if he would drop that this week, because it's getting old already, and it's insulting.
Brown, on why Texas took the ball...
"We decided to take the ball tonight if we won the toss, which is not something we've been doing but, West Virginia scored on the first drive, Oklahoma scored on the first drive. So we wanted to score on the first drive, and not only did we do that we also scored on the first play. And I thought that got the crowd excited and moved things forward."
It's probably an acknowledgement of how well the Texas defense is playing as much as anything. The offense did respond with the 84-yard run by Daje Johnson that put the Longhorns ahead early and generated some positive momentum for a team that desperately needed something to go right early.
Brown has been slow to change at times. When he does, it typically makes a difference and choosing to take the first was an example of such a positive change.
Co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin, on Johnson's run...
"That was great. We felt like throughout the week that was going to be a good play for us, and Daje went and let the rest happen. You know I say Daje but everybody - really [TE] M.J. McFarland is the one that got that play started. He is the guy that is going to have the biggest block on that play and everything revolved around him doing his job and then once he did, we had a chance to get to the secondary, and the wide receivers are down there blocking their [guy]. And then Daje, once he gets an open field, he has done great things for us and has proven that throughout the year. So that was huge. We wanted to start fast. We took the ball and wanted to get out there and get a score and he made it happen on the very first play, and I think that’s a huge statement that we wanted to make throughout the week. I think it says volumes about what those guys did in their preparation throughout the week to do that."
McFarland got his first really significant playing time of the season and made a catch down the seam from the flex tight end position that helped the offense early, and should have had another later in the game that Ash misfired on.
The El Paso native who redshirted last season is still a work in progress as a blocker, but Harsin using him on the first play showed some confidence in his abilities there and the former high school receiver came through. His development this season has perhaps been a little slower than those who hoped that he would be the long-awaited savior at the position would have liked.
Continued development and an increased role in the offense would help the team's ability to stretch the field vertically, something Texas hasn't had at the tight end position in years.
Sophomore quarterback David Ash, on his first-play execution...
"That first play was awesome. It set the tone. Everybody did their job. Daje [Johnson] took it to the house, and I watched. I didn’t do a lot, but I had a pretty good handoff. I’d give it a B+ on the handoff. It was good."
It was maybe the best handoff ever. Graded out as A+ here. Things are so much better after wins, aren't they?
Embattled defensive coordinator, on his group...
"All we talked about this week was that we wanted to play faster and more physical. We wanted to battle. We knew that this would be a 60-minute battle. Obviously, Baylor is a great offensive football team. I was really, really proud of the way the guys fought tonight. I saw some young guys that looked like they started to grow up. We played faster. We tackled better. We did some of the things that we had not been doing in the last few games. There’s some things that we can fix, but there was a lot of things that were encouraging. We asked them to fight tonight, and I think they did."
Diaz, on the extended drives early...
"When you look at it, we were good on third down all night. We had some self-inflicted wounds that really hurt us. In some of their scoring drives early on, there was some third down and fourth down penalties, and that extended drives. These offenses are way too good to let them get extra swings of the bat. We cleaned some of that stuff up. We didn’t give up the big plays. We found a way to get stops, which sooner or later happens."
Two drives that resulted in touchdowns were extended early in the game, one on a third down holding penalty and the other on an offsides penalty against Alex Okafor on a play the Longhorns stopped the Bears.
When it counted in the second half, however, it was Baylor drawing flags to kill drives, representing one of the major differences in the game.
Sophomore running back Joe Bergeron, on the team's mentality...
"So our mindset going through this week is that we needed to reestablish ourselves as a football team and as an offense and let them know who we are. I saw in the players’ eyes that we are not going to have that feeling again. It is not a great feeling when you go into your locker room and it is just quiet and having everybody asking you what happened or what’s wrong. It gets annoying after a while. So you just go out and play your game - you will win."
Talking about responding is cheap, which is why the media availabilities were so inherently unsatisfactory last week -- after what happened against Oklahoma, there's nothing to say, just work to be done.
Nice to see that the Longhorns did respond, especially offensively, in the matter needed to move forward.
Senior safety Kenny Vaccaro, on the physicality in practice last week...
"It was really, really physical. We took guys to the ground the whole time. The scout team, everyone was getting slugged around. We just got back to getting physical and not so much worrying about the stuff that you get distracted with at Texas and just got back to playing football. That’s all that really matters."
Vaccaro added that they went so hard his nose was bleeding from the effort. The defense gave up so many points and yards that it's hard to say definitively that the change in practice habits made a huge difference on the field, yet it was good enough for Diaz to say after the game that he was excited about the performances of the pair of young safeties and linebackers.
Beating up on the scout team to help with the physicality of practices is something that the Longhorns should always do. It may sound harsh, but the scout team is there to help prepare the first-team offenses and defenses, so if a few walk-ons need to take some bruises so that Texas can tackle in games, that's just how this whole thing works.
Hopefully Brown and his staff will continue to emphasize that element of preparation, and it will start having an impact on how well the linebackers can handle blockers and how well the defense can tackle overall.
Brown, on how the coaches are judging performances...
"The only thing we're evaluating right now is wins. The stats are out the window."
True enough, and just as well, because the raw stats are pretty ugly -- 607 total yards given up, 352 yards through the air on nearly nine yards per attempt, and 255 yards at almost six yards per carry. S&P+ will continue to like the Longhorns due to having gone against another highly productive offense, though none of those numbers really matter, just the end result.
Me, after Natalie Portman made an appearance on the Jumbotron...
"Oh my God, she looks so good."