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December 26, 2011
The Good Stuff on Texas and Cal from San Diego
***Texas is the healthiest it has been since the Kansas game, when the Longhorns had Jaxon Shipley and Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron all available.
The reports out of practice are that all three will be primed and ready to go Wednesday night. And look for the over/under on rushing attempts to be right around 50 for this game.
UCLA ran it 52 times against Cal for 294 yards and rolled the Bears 31-14. That was a UCLA team that ran the ball 34 times for 141 yards against Texas.
***Don't look for Mack Brown to name a starter at quarterback before kickoff of the Holiday Bowl.
Brown said it will probably come down to which play Bryan Harsin calls as to whether Case McCoy or David Ash starts the game.
"More like mid-season," Mack said.
***Mack got a lot of questions leading up to Wednesday's game about speaking out on behalf of Texas in 2004, when the Longhorns got into the Rose Bowl ahead of Cal to play Michigan in UT's first BCS game under Mack Brown.
Mack laughs that it's still a topic, seven years later.
"I was taken aback because I was asked so much about that at the Holiday Bowl press conference, and I thought we had moved on," Mack said.
"What I do remember about it is that I was asked after the A&M game if I thought our team was good enough to be in the BCS game, and I said yes. And people were taken aback that I would pull for our team. And I was taken aback that I people thought it was strange that I would take up for our team.
"I would do exactly the same thing again. I haven't taken up for teams that didn't do well. We got in the game and won the game and then we went back and won the national championship the next year.
"We've been back two other times. If we hadn't gone to the bowl game with Michigan, I still think we would have won the national championship the next year."
***Mack Brown says Texas is not trying to build an offense that de-emphasizes the quarterback.
"We are not trying to build an offense that isn't still built around the quarterback or that can survive without a good quarterback," he said. "We want a great quarterback. We want a quarterback who can run and throw. That hasn't changed.
"But we would like an offense that if the quarterback gets hurt, gets sick or has an average day, it doesn't lose a game for Texas. Because of that, we'd like to be very balanced.
"And we haven't been balanced since Jamaal Charles left. And even then, we had too many lost-yardage plays. We were big play or bad play. We weren't consistent in what we were doing.
"What we did against Kansas and Texas Tech is not what I want offensively. It's half of what I want. I would like to have thrown for 250 yards in those games and still be able to run the ball. In our best offense, we scored 50 points a game and averaged 250 yards rushing and 250 passing.
"We got away from that and part of it was because we were so good with Quan (Cosby) and Jordan (Shipley) and Colt (McCoy) that we didn't have to run it, and we still nearly won all the games. But that's what we are trying to get back to.
"LSU is No. 1, Alabama is No. 2, Oklahoma State is No. 3 and Stanford is No. 4. And all of those can really run the ball.
"And three of the four you know the quarterback's name really quickly. But there aren't many people who play for it all who can't run the ball or stop the run at some point in some way because they've had a bad day with their quarterback.
"That's where I want to get. There's a perception that for Kansas and Texas Tech we just want to run the ball. That's not what we want. We want to be balanced and throw it really well because if you are one-dimensional a good football team can take something away, and you have to be good enough to do both.
"I think what happened to us after Texas Tech is people started saying, 'We have to crowd the line of scrimmage,' and then our backs got hurt and Jaxon got hurt, and people crowded us, and we weren't able to do the things we wanted to do.
"We've got to be balanced, but you can't be balanced without running it. We were throwing it well enough around here. But you have to have the linemen, the backs and be physical to run the ball.. You can bring in some good receivers and get better fast at that position."
***Mack Brown further explained why he sent an e-mail to families of his players addressing rumors that he might be stepping down as coach at Texas.
"I didn't care about anybody except our players, their parents and recruits," Brown said. "I wanted them to know some guy decided to Tweet something that one of his buddies who coaches that we recruit against, and I thought that was really smart.
"I'm just surprised that some people believed it. That's what gets you. They believe it for about 15 seconds, and then there's a new problem or rumor out there.
"I didn't have time to call all the parents. We didn't have a team meeting because I was gone recruiting. It was after the Baylor game. So I thought it was best to tell everybody, 'Go back to work. We're fine. We're in this for the long haul. We're not slowing down.' So I didn't feel like I had to be proactive to anybody except them."
Mack joked again, "If I'm leaving, it won't come from Topeka."
***There has been some talk that Darius White might want to transfer to Texas A&M.
Mack didn't address Darius White specifically, but he did address if any player from Texas wanted to transfer to Texas A&M or Missouri, they'd probably have to wait until July of 2012 to do it.
That's because those schools are still members of the Big 12 until then, and Big 12 rules stipulate that a player has to sit out two years if they transfer to a school in conference.
Mack pointed out that a kid could transfer to TCU or West Virginia right now (before July2012) and only have to sit out one year because those schools are not currently in the Big 12 (even though they are coming).
***Mack likes the direction the program is going on the offensive and defensive lines.
Mack was asked about how this year's team seemed to be better at run blocking than pass blocking after years of being better pass blockers than run blockers.
"I thought last year we struggled in both," Mack said. "This year, I thought we were better in both.
"Now, we weren't far enough along at quarterback and receiver that some of the sacks, in my estimation, shouldn't have been attributed to the offensive line.
"I thought Stacy Searels did a great job with our inexperience, starting two freshmen, two sophomores and a senior.
"He did an amazing job in this league of hanging in there and rotating those guys and trying to get it straight for us.
"I think we'll be much better in both lines of scrimmage next year. That's where I'm excited about where we are, other than the numbers.
"I would rather have won 10 games this year, and we could have, and we didn't. But I think we're really ready to start getting depth in the two lines of scrimmages and when you do that, and you're really good at it, then you can start becoming a really good football team again. The rest of it comes around.
"We were in trouble at those two areas at the end of last year. Bo Davis has done an amazing job this year in my estimation as well. Just talking about all of our thoughts and concerns in preseason to where we are with depth - to watch Chris Whaley chasing down people and getting sacks, I think bo has done an amazing job bringing that position along.
"And we're bringing in some good players at that position next year. And we're only losing one (Kheeston Randall). On the offensive line, we're losing two (David Snow and Tray Allen) and we're bringing in some really good offensive linemen."
***Mack said with only a few players expected to start as seniors next year, he sees big things in the next two to three years.
"So next year, if you project next year's starters from who's played this year, you'd have five or so senior starters on next year's team, that's where I think two years from now everyone is going to show up and be shaving."
"This staff is passionate about getting this thing back on track and moving forward. I think they are so much more excited right now than they were at this time last year because they've gotten along so well with each other.
"They see that we're about to get a lot better. They are all very proud of the seniors in their leadership because last year things weren't well off the field. Everything's worked this year except for the injuries and that led to a couple of losses.
"But everybody is excited about where we're going, and that was not the feeling walking out of the A&M game last year."
***Teams that threw the ball more than 30 times against Cal were 1-5 against the Bears.
This Cal team reminds me a lot of the Washington State team Texas played in the Holiday Bowl in 2003 from a defensive standpoint because Cal gets a lot of pressure with a veteran defensive front and has a lot of speed on defense. But Cal struggles to hold up at the point of attack in the running game.
If Texas will stay patient with the running game and just pound on Cal, Texas should find success, eat clock and wear down Cal's defense.
Oregon ran for 365 yards against Cal. UCLA ran for 294 and Arizona State ran for 213.
***Cal has the Pac-12 defensive player of the year in LB Mychal Kendricks.
This kid will have to be a monster for Cal to pull the upset Wednesday, and he's capable of it. He's an inside linebacker in a 3-4 defense and posted 15 tackles against Washington and 13 against Stanford.
Cal nearly beat Stanford (the Cardinal won 31-28), but Kendricks was everywhere in that game. He had 2.5 TFLs, including a 14-yard sack of Andrew Luck.
***Cal safeties D.J. Campbell (6-0, 205) and Sean Cattouse (6-3, 218) are big, strong safeties who keep everything in front of them and then try to knock the ball loose with big hits.
Cal doesn't have a ton of interceptions (12), but the reason the Bears are No. 17 nationally in sacks is because their secondary covers well.
Cal's corners D.J. Williams and Marc Anthony are solid. Not great. But solid.
***Cal has a veteran, fast but undersized defensive line. Cal will attack Texas with a ton of upfield pressure that seems to get home most times from their DEs and LBs.
They get into the backfield and cause havoc, especially DE Trevor Guyton, who has 10 TFLs and a team-best tying 4.5 sacks. Fellow DE Ernest Owusu also has 4.5 sacks.
The best way to beat all this speed and pressure is to run it right at em and stay with it. Texas abandoned the run against Washington State in that 2003 Holiday Bowl, and it was a mistake. Harsin won't do that in this game. He better not.
***Cal's punter Bryan Anger is a game changer. He averages 44.6 yards per punt, and Cal covers punts well, giving the Bears a 40.2 net punt average (Texas has a 35.5 net punt average).
Anger can pin teams deep in their own end. He was first-team All-Pac 12. He has played a big role in flipping field position for Cal this year.
***Cal's QB Zach Maynard was up and down this season. He served it up big-time in losses to USC and UCLA, throwing three picks against the Trojans and four picks against the Bruins.
But Maynard was playing his best football over the final four games of the season, when Cal went 3-1 with wins against Washington State, Oregon State and at Arizona State and the only loss a 31-28 nailbiter at Stanford.
In that four-game stretch Maynard completed 68 percent of his passes (62 of 91) with 5 TDs and just 1 INT.
***Maynard can also run from the QB position for Cal.
He's not a dual-threat guy. But Maynard can hurt you with his legs. He ran for 52 yards in a win against Fresno State.. He ran for 36 yards in a win against Utah. He ran for 40 yards in the win at Arizona State.
So you have to respect Maynard's legs.
***If Maynard gets into a rhythm, the Cal offense can be a problem because the Bears have balance.
RB Isi Sofele runs hard for being just 5-8, 190 pounds. He ran for 1,266 yards this season (5.5 ypc) with 9 TDs. His backup, C.J. Anderson[db], comes in and does a nice job. Anderson averages 5 yards per carry and has 8 touchdowns on the year.
***Cal ran the ball for 100 yards or more on every opponent this season except USC (35) and Stanford (81), which were both Cal losses.
But Cal ran the ball really well in three of their last four games - all victories - against Washington State (292 yards rushing), Oregon State (296 yards rushing) and at Arizona State (247 yards rushing).
Those weren't great rush defenses (Arizona State is 59th, Washington State is 62nd and Oregon State is 100th). But still you have to respect Cal's running game because it was hot at the end of the season.
And if Cal can do a little damage with the run on first and second down, then Maynard goes up top to All-Pac 12 receiver [db]Keenan Allen (89 catches for 1,261 yards and 6 TDs).
Allen is 6-3 and 205 and can make plays with the ball in the air. He would be in the conversation with the best WRs in the Big 12 this season. He's no joke. Carrington Byndom will probably draw Allen in most situations. Great matchup there.
***Here's what Manny Diaz had to say about Cal's defense in San Diego on Christmas Day.
"They're a very balanced offense," Diaz said. "They run the ball well. They've got backs who run hard, and they've got a passing game with a group of wide receivers, and we've played some good ones, but the group they've got is as good as anyone we've played against.
"They challenge on the ground and in the air, so you have to be sound in what you're doing because they're a very well coached offensive football team. It will be a challenge to our defense, but one we'll be looking forward to."
***Maynard is a left-handed quarterback, so the Texas defense has to be mindful of his tendencies.
"It just changes things like scramble angles, which way he prefers to go when he goes on the run, things like that," Diaz said.
"But the field's still 53 yards wide, and they'll still come out with 11 guys and either run it or throw it, so schematically, it's not too much different. But it's certainly something you need to be aware of."
***Cal's FG kicker Giorgio Travecchio is really good, connecting on 19 of 22 for the season.
But Cal's return game is average. Punt return specialist Marvin Jones averages just 6.6 yards per return. And kick return specialist Brendan Bigelow averages 20.8 ypr but does have one return for a TD this season of 88 yards (against Presbyterian, yeah, Presbyterian).