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Texas Football: Surprises and Letdowns for the Longhorns Through Week 9

DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 12:  Case McCoy #6 of the Texas Longhorns and head coach Mack Brown of the Texas Longhorns celebrate after the Longhorns beat the Oklahoma Sooners 36-20 at the Cotton Bowl on October 12, 2013 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Tom Pennington/Getty Images
Jonathan WooCorrespondent INovember 1, 2013

As fans of any team we follow, we have to take the good with the bad. The expected and the unexpected. The surprises and the letdowns.

The Texas Longhorns have had plenty of both in this 2013 season, and fortunately they have experienced mostly good things in recent weeks.

But while physically impressive wins over Oklahoma and TCU are fresh in the memories of every Texas advocate, let's not forget from where the 'Horns have come.

The 1-2 start and abysmal defensive efforts are as real as Texas' four-game winning streak, so there is no telling when old habits may rear themselves again this season, especially with a tough three-game stretch to finish the season.

So as the Longhorns look to extend their winning streak potentially to five and six games, they will have done so with the help of some select few who have risen to the occasion.

 

The Surprises

Case McCoy. It's not just that McCoy has guided this Texas team to a four-game winning streak that has them atop the Big 12 standings. It's not just that McCoy has been playing with a confidence and looseness that has him making plays.

It's that he seems to be getting better, at times.

The senior quarterback was seemingly lost in the mix over the summer. McCoy missed 10 weeks during the middle months, giving way to true freshman Tyrone Swoopes receiving a significant workload to acclimate.

With initial starter David Ash still battling the lingering issues from a concussion sustained against BYU, McCoy has answered the bell, at times.

McCoy will always be McCoy, that is no surprise. But when the media had been dogging McCoy's arm strength, he has proven time and again that he can hit the deep man with touchdown passes of 44-, 59- and 65-yards in each of his last three games. That is the surprise.

Oct 26, 2013; Fort Worth, TX, USA; Texas Longhorns defensive end Cedric Reed (88) defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat (44) and cornerback Quandre Diggs (6) cause TCU Horned Frogs quarterback Trevone Boykin (2) to fumble the ball in the first quarter of the gam
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive Line. After losing defensive end Alex Okafor to the NFL, and with marginally productive players along the interior, the Longhorns could only speculate about three-quarters of their defensive front.

But the emergence of Cedric Reed opposite Jackson Jeffcoat at defensive end, as well as the sustained improvement of tackles Chris Whaley and Malcolm Brown, Texas suddenly may be fielding one of the best front lines in the Big 12.

Reed leads the team in tackles with 41. The starting four have combined to post 13 sacks and 27.5 tackles for loss. Reed and Jeffcoat also have 10 and 11 quarterback hits, respectively.

Greg Robinson. Texas has seen some big improvements on defense.

Tackling is visibly better. Team speed is seemingly better with better discipline in its positioning. The Longhorns are swarming to the football.

Texas' Defensive Coordinators in 2013
Games 1-2 (Diaz)Games 3-7 (Robinson)
Avg. Total Defense512.5362.2
Avg. Pass Defense185.5209.6
Avg. Run Defense327152.6
Avg. Points Allowed23.526.4
espn.com

The 'Horns have the talent on defense, but perhaps the change in philosophy was exactly what they needed. And defensive coordinator Greg Robinson has done just that.

 

The Letdowns

David Ash. This is no shot at Ash, but the Longhorns were expecting big things out of the improving junior signal caller.

Leadership was there, the physical tools were there. The mental game was coming, but Texas was explosive on offense with Ash at the helm and his down-the-field connection with Mike Davis.

But while Ash's lingering issues has shared the limelight with Texas' winning streak, it can only make you wonder what things would be like with fewer injuries and Robinson at DC at the start of the season.

Manny Diaz. As Robinson enters the fold with blue ribbons already on his board for the season, Diaz took a harsher way out of the program after just two games.

Diaz's defense performed brilliantly in his maiden season with the Longhorns in 2011, posting a top-15 defense led by senior linebackers Keenan Robinson and Emmanuel Acho.

Then 2012 came, and the Texas defense did a 180 by posting the worst numbers in program history.

Looking back, which season was the fluke? The good 2011 or the bad 2012?

Either way, Diaz got back on the bike really quickly after last season. But he fell off just as quickly to start 2013.

The 1-2 Start. Expectations were high in Austin when the season began.

Talk of a 10- or 11-win season, the former still very viable, a dominant march to a Big 12 Title and an even better performance in a BCS bowl.

But while the win over New Mexico State satisfied some, the losses to BYU and Ole Miss turned the seat under Mack Brown red hot.

That seat may have cooled, but Texas fans should not forget the first three games of the year.

 

The Bottom Line

Texas has rolled with every punch it has taken this season.

The 'Horns have brushed off the bad start and are looking directly at winning the Big 12.

Improvements are there, and if Texas continues to travel down that road, more surprises may still come.

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