Another Bad Day for the D in Austin
by Chuck Cooperstein
As much anticipation as there was in College Station for the Alabama-Texas A&M showdown, about 100 miles west there was nearly as much anticipation, albeit in a much more macabre fashion. How would the Texas Longhorns defense, emasculated to the tune of 550 rushing yards at Brigham Young the week before, a performance so poor that it cost Defensive Coordinator Manny Diaz his job, handle Ole Miss, whose coach, Hugh Freeze is rapidly developing one of the most explosive offenses in the nation?
The answer? Not so well. Ole Miss blistered the Longhorns for 272 rushing yards, The Rebels outscoring the Longhorns 27-0 in the second half on their way to a 44-23 rout that made the already very hot seat of Mack Brown, a blazing one.
Surprisingly, Brown went into the way-back machine this week to bring in Greg Robinson to be the new defensive coordinator rather than turn to anyone presently on the staff, including secondary coach Duane Akina, who had served as a Texas co-coordinator in a previous life. Robinson had been serving as an analyst on the Longhorn Network, but had not been involved in any coaching meetings until Monday afternoon. Prior to Saturday night, the defenses he had put together at Michigan, and, as the head coach at Syracuse were some of the most porous in the nation. Even when trying to recall 2004 when Robinson served as the Longhorns defensive boss, there is the lasting image of Adrian Peterson running over, around, and through the Longhorns defense to the tune of 225 yards for the Sooners.
Like that game at the Cotton Bowl when OU broke out a counter option they had never shown before, Ole Miss found a play to run. And then as LB Jordan Hicks noted afterward, “They ran it over and over again.” The play of choice was the speed option, and when you have a speedster like Jeff Scott in your backfield, and can get him into space, that’s a really good choice. Scott, whose late 75 yard TD stunned Vanderbilt in the season opener, gained 186 yards on 19 attempts, and threw in a 73-yard punt return for good measure.
Robinson moved people closer to the line of scrimmage in attempt to clog the run as the game went on. But once the initial line was breached, there wasn’t much help behind. Whether this is something that we’ll see when Big 12 play starts against Kansas State remains to be seen. His biggest job right now is a psychological one. He has to attempt to restore confidence in unit that has been badly battered. His ability to do that, may well determine whether he has a job next year, and whether or not his boss will too.