Texas head coach Mack Brown, on changes to the offense in the second half...
"Offensively, we were trying to force runs when they had everybody on the line of scrimmage. They were wadding them up. There wasn't anybody outside. We could have thrown the ball any time we wanted to. We decided to go ahead and take it and just start throwing and get them spread out a little bit and then run the ball in the fourth quarter. That's what we did. If this is going to be an offense, you've got to take what's there. That's what the offense is set up to do. You can see the tempo and the two deep really wore them down."
Indeed, as noted in the game recap, the New Mexico State secondary that struggled so much last season giving up big passing plays was playing in extremely loose coverage, allowing Texas the opportunity to complete short passes whenever they wanted.
Increased stubbornness wanting to run the football is understandable in an opener against an overmatched team, but the strength of the New Mexico State defense is also in the linebackers and the BCS transfers along the defensive line.
Expect Applewhite to show much more willingness in the future to help the team get off to fast starts by eschewing that type of stubbornness and systemically attack defensive weaknesses, a rather difficult task in this game since there wasn't any film entering the game to provide much insight into the type of defense the Aggies are running this season with all the changes that were made.
Brown, on what happened in the first half...
"If you go back and look at halftime, what had happened to us, we had -- they had forced three turnovers to one. They had 47 plays and had the ball 21 minutes to our 29 plays and nine minutes. So we were either scoring really quickly or turned it over. So it was just everything that could happen wrong in the first half happened wrong. I'm proud of the guys that kept their head in there and kept their composure and played a great second half."
The early stubbornness and certainly the turnovers contributed to all those things going wrong, but it was also a big part of the New Mexico State game plan, which meant that giving up a couple of first downs here and there was always going to force a bit hit on the clock and reduce the ability to Texas to run as many plays as they wanted.
It happened in the New Mexico game last year and will happen in future non-conference games against completely overmatched opponents, but the key moving forward will obviously be to reduce the mistakes that destroyed scoring opportunities.
Brown, on Daje Johnson's improvement...
"I'll have to watch it on video, but he's really fast, and he's done everything right. He's working really hard. He's in great shape. He's trying to be a team guy. He can play tailback. He can play slot. The first half, there were a couple of routes that he had for the touchdown that he couldn't quite get to. So he hasn't been a receiver that long. They weren't there. They just didn't quite bend it long enough. There was one late in maybe the second half, third quarter that he had that was thrown a little bit too far because he didn't quite bend it enough. There are still some little things that he's got to work on. You can see, when he got the pass, they couldn't touch him. We couldn't get him loose on kickoff return or punt tonight. Hopefully, we can do that more. But also, when he took that sweep, it didn't take him long to get in the end zone."
It's scary to think about how good Johnson can be as he continues to refine his route-running ability and chemistry with Ash.
Brown, on true freshman quarterback Tyrone Swoopes not playing...
"Major (Applewhite) and I talked about it at the end of the game. We think we're going to be in tight games, and he has not performed well enough to be out in preseason because of his hamstring and he hasn't practiced that much. We thought it would be foolish to put him in a blowout game and maybe throw five times and maybe he doesn't play the rest of the year. I think that's foolish. We'll keep working him. If he gets to be the second team quarterback, he'll play. If one of the other two gets hurt, he'll play. We just decided in the fourth quarter. I don't think it's fair to him, and I don't think it's smart."
The Longhorns essentially ended up doing the same thing to Case McCoy in 2010 Brown was worried about happening with Swoopes and the bottom line here is that as much as Swoopes needs to play this season to step in to the back-up role in 2014, if he wasn't ready to play on Saturday night, he wasn't ready to play.
With West Virginia struggling with William & Mary, Iowa State losing to Northern Iowa, and Kansas State losing to North Dakota State, the hope is that Swoopes can continue improving and that the Horns can take care of business in at least two of those games to the extent that Swoopes has a chance to see the field.
Brown, on the offense...
"I think the guys like it because anybody can get the ball on any play, run or pass, because there's so many checks. And I think they bought into it, and they'll have fun with it. They do not feel like tonight they played great. And when they find out they had more yards than anybody in the history of this school and scored 56 points and they're disappointed, that will help them move forward."
The start of the game was extremely disappointing and showed the need for some improvements on both sides of the ball. At the same time, the defense only gave up one touchdown on what was basically a perfect pass from a quarterback with a shot-put throwing motion and questionable arm strength -- more luck than skill, in other words. And no Texas offense had ever put up that many yards in a game. New Mexico State is bad, but the upside for this group offensively is obviously pretty extraordinary from a raw stats perspective, even when compared against an offensive juggernaut like the 2005 team.
Co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite, on David Ash's second interception...
"The third turnover we have, he's getting ready to hit Daje right in the mouth with the ball and it's going to be a touchdown, and it gets batted at the line of scrimmage. So that's part of football. You know, that's part of football. Forget about it, move on to the next play."
Replays confirmed Applewhite's initial impression of Ash's pass, as Johnson was breaking into the seam with a trailing safety, but the defensive tackle got his hand up in the passing lane. Applewhite also said that Ash threw the first interception in part because he made a check at the line of scrimmage, the defense changed their coverage, and Ash didn't recognize the look when he made the throw.
Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, on how the defense performed...
"If someone broke a tackle, they didn't stay broken for very long. That's what I saw tonight. Yards after contact was pretty low. Guys flying around the ball. Again, when you look at what they end up doing, they had 4.1 a play. They were able to get nothing explosive on us, you know what I mean?"
Without an exact count, it looked like the number of missed tackles was right around seven or eight, about where Texas was last season. However, as Diaz noted, the tackles that were missed didn't result in massive gains as they did last season, in part because the defense did rally to the football better than they did last season, when missed tackles destroyed both effort level and trust. In the game, Texas only gave up two plays of more than 20 yards, both right in a row at the start of the third quarter. The defense responded with the interception by Adrian Phillips to stop the potential scoring drive.
Diaz, on the defensive adjustments that were made...
"Early in the game, the quarterback is throwing the ball. We're getting some poor reads, and really all our rushing yards were coming on the perimeter. So we had to make some adjustments to force the ball to stay inside because we thought we were winning the one on ones in there, but the game wasn't played in there. From the second quarter on, we brought the game back inside, and I thought the defensive ends did a very nice job at the point of attack."
The lack of film probably hurt the preparation here, as Texas wasn't quite sure what New Mexico State was going to be running offensively and didn't have any film of quarterback Andrew McDonald with the team. Still, the better bet is typically to force the give reads and allow the numbers to play the running back instead of having to deal with the quarterback in space.
Texas also did a better job in the second half of pressuring McDonald from the edge when he was outside of the pocket. As Diaz mentioned, Jackson Jeffcoat and Cedric Reed had strong nights with seven tackles apiece. Jeffcoat made one play behind the line of scrimmage and batted a pass, while Reed recorded a rare sack on the night -- something New Mexico State clearly game planned to avoid.
Ash, on adversity and having Applewhite on the sideline...
"We've been in that situation I don't know how many times, and we've failed before. We've understood it. We've been through it. It helped having Coach Applewhite down there. So much of football is about morale and believing, and I think Coach Applewhite's been in a lot of those situations. It helps when he's seen that, and he knows what to say, knows what to expect, and knows what to do to get guys going."
Applewhite, on how he approaches motivation ($)...
"I contemplated at the hotel in talking to the other coaches whether or not I should mention that Texas A&M had some early struggles on offense and so did Kansas State and it's not uncommon for that to happen, so don't press the panic button if it does happen."
"Then I said, 'I won't speak fear and I won't speak failure into these guys,' so I let it go. But it was really encouraging to see these guys fight through it on their own. There wasn't a lot of hollering and screaming. There were no panic buttons being pressed."
"There weren't any game plans thrown away. It was just a group of mature football players expecting to win, expecting to execute and believing in us coaches. A lot of times we put this thing too much on the coaches. I think it's because we have players who are smart and mature, and I think we have a good football team."
As with Applewhite's comments after the Alamo Bowl about the coaches and players being uncomfortable in the offseason, his thoughts here provide some deep insight into his philosophy as a coach.
"I won't speak fear and I won't speak failure into these guys."
If the Alamo Bowl comment was pure Nick Saban, this one sounds more like Art Briles, who is emerging as one of the top personalities and motivators in college football, in addition to being one of the top offensive tacticians.
It's too early to say that Applewhite is the superstar that Brown believes him to be, but it is rapidly becoming easier to believe -- right now, he's probably the program's greatest coaching asset, and therefore represents much of the hope for the immediate future. If things go right, perhaps even for the post-Mack Brown future.
In Major we trust.