Mack Brown’s worst season at Texas is finally over.
So now what?
“What I will do is take my time and evaluate the coaches and the staff and each player and everything that we’re doing,” said Brown, who hasn’t experienced a losing season since going 1-10 at North Carolina in 1989. “At that time, I’ll be able to make the conscious decision on what’s best for the program.”
It’s humorous to think that Texas was ranked as the preseason No. 4 team, plastered on the cover of Sports Illustrated with a headline that read, “The Longhorns have the defense to win it all.”
Is that the same defense that allowed a record 223 yards rushing to Texas A&M running back Cyrus Gray and failed to make stops to reverse the momentum Thursday night in a must-win game?
Last season, defensive coordinator Will Muschamp had the nation’s No. 1 rush defense that held opponents to 72 yards per game. This year, essentially the same unit allowed nearly twice that.
“It’s disappointing,” Brown said. “This year was not our standard at all.”
Back in August, Brown told his defense that forcing turnovers would be key in getting good field position, as the offense needed to piggy-back off the defense until it got comfortable. But the offense never got into a flow, and the defense only caused 18 turnovers, not even half of the 37 forced last year.
Another failure was the balanced offensive attack Brown was hoping to implement, a smashmouth downhill running scheme and a nimble passing game that would blindside defenses.
Those things never happened because Texas usually got behind early and had to rack up the passing yards in an attempt to catch up. The only game this entire season when Texas was balanced like Brown envisioned was against Florida Atlantic in the second-to-last game of the year, when the Longhorns had 259 yards rushing and 263 passing.
“We were inconsistent,” Brown said. “That was the theme.”
Quarterback Garrett Gilbert showed flashes of adequacy, if not brilliance, but also mediocrity. He threw for 2,744 yards, which was more than Ohio State’s Terrelle Pryor and TCU’s Andy Dalton, but he also tied the Duke and Central Michigan quarterbacks to lead the league with 17 interceptions (Colt McCoy had 18 his sophomore year).
Gilbert also struggled on third-down situations, especially in the red zone, forcing Texas to settle for field goals. The Longhorns only scored touchdowns in the red zone 44 percent of the time — the fifth worst percentage in the country. Brown said backups Case McCoy and Connor Wood will get the chance to compete for the starting job in the spring, just like every other position.
“Turnovers and explosive plays are the key to any ball game,” said offensive coordinator Greg Davis. “The most important thing for an offense to do has nothing to do with rushing or passing or anything else. It is to score points. We fell far below what we have become accustomed to in scoring points. That is the most disappointing thing.”
But the offense just didn’t have any explosive playmakers. The receivers had no chemistry with Gilbert, and the running backs were battered and unhealthy from the start (not that that really mattered as the talent level was inadequate anyway).
Not one tailback rushed for more than 600 yards this season, and only Cody Johnson ran for over 100 in a game (124 against FAU and 107 against A&M). And it didn’t help that rare was the game when the offensive line opened up holes.
There’s a lot on Brown’s plate heading into the offseason, but with the nasty taste of losing lingering in his mouth, he’s determined to get it fixed.
“It was an up and down season,” said senior defensive end Sam Acho. “But things are looking up. There’s no question the team comes out next season with a fire and a passion from Day One that Texas has never seen before.”
Stay tuned, Texas fans.