Texas Longhorns' 2011 College Football Season Turned the Corner Against UCLA

Ryan Wright@@HogManInLAAnalyst IIISeptember 19, 2011

The record-setting temperatures in Texas this summer had to pale in comparison to the heat Mack Brown was feeling in Austin. After finishing each season since his arrival at the University of Texas in 1998 with a winning record, Brown finished the 2010 season 5-7. What went wrong? 

Let’s put a little more perspective on the achievements Brown has accomplished while being the head coach at University of Texas to understand why 2010 was such a confusing year for college football fans. In his first three years in Austin he won nine games each year. From 2001 to 2009 he won 10 or more games each season with leadership on the team from guys named Major Applewhite, Roy Williams, Cedric Benson and Derrick Johnson. 

Coach Brown won the 2005 BCS National Championship with the on-field leadership of quarterback Vince Young, compiling a record of 13-0. In 2006 Brown put a new quarterback under center and that quarterback, Colt McCoy, went on to set a NCAA record for most wins as a starting quarterback, winning 45 games between 2006 to 2009.

So how did Texas get off track in 2010? Has it dropped in recruiting?

Texas has finished in the top five in the national recruiting rankings since 2009, finishing 14th in the nation in 2008. According to Rivals.com, the Longhorns are currently the No. 1-ranked team in the nation in recruiting leading to the 2012 national signing day. There’s been no major drop-off in overall talent being recruited to campus, but if one looks a little bit deeper at the recruits Brown has brought to campus, UT did not have a top-50 quarterback recruited in 2008. 

If the Longhorns had brought a top quarterback to Austin in the 2008 recruiting class, that player would either be a senior or redshirt junior at this point in his college career. After all of the talented quarterback play the Longhorns have received over the years, was the lack of leadership and production at the quarterback position the reason Texas finished 5-7 in 2010 season? 

In 2009 Texas recruited Garrett Gilbert (son of NFL quarterback Gale Gilbert). Gilbert was the fifth-ranked high school quarterback in the nation and thought to be the next great UT quarterback. He was put in one of the toughest situations a college quarterback could ever be placed into. As a true freshman he was asked to finish the BCS National Championship against Alabama after Colt McCoy was injured (pinched nerve in his shoulder). Alabama would win the won the title game, 37-21. 

Gilbert had a tough game against Alabama. He finished the game 15-of-40 with 186 yards passing and two touchdowns. What most people remember about Gilbert’s performance is the four interceptions he threw. 

Texas brought in two quarterbacks in 2010—Case McCoy (3-star recruit), brother of Colt McCoy, and Connor Wood (4-star recruit)—to help build competition for the starting quarterback position. Brown would add David Ash in the 2011 recruiting class (3-star recruit). Who would have thought that by the third game of the 2011 season the Longhorns would have given up on their 2009 5-star, prized recruit Gilbert for the brother of a Texas Longhorns legend (Case McCoy)? 

Gilbert, now a true junior, started the 2011 season with a decent stat line. He completed 13 of 23 passes against Rice for 239 yards passing and one score, leading the Longhorns to a 34-9 win. 

Perhaps the final straw in Gilbert’s playing career at Texas was his play against BYU in a close 17-16 Longhorn victory at home. Against BYU Brown played Gilbert, McCoy and Ash. McCoy ended the game 7-of-8 for 57 yards, Ash went 2-of-3 for 35 yards and Gilbert finished the game 2-of-8 for eight yards and two interceptions. 

Texas was down 13-3 at halftime. Brown needed to make a decision to ignite his offense and his team. Brown went with McCoy and Ash in the second half. McCoy led the winning drive for the Longhorns against BYU, twice connecting with true freshman wide receiver Jordan Shipley (Brownwood, Texas) before Cody Johnson ran for his second touchdown of the game. 

Against UCLA Brown called a trusted name, McCoy, to start for the Longhorns on the road. UCLA may not be the powerhouse team it once was, but the Bruins managed a 34-12 upset against the seventh-ranked Longhorns in Austin last season, which started the downward spiral of a very proud program. 

Last season Gilbert played well against UCLA, 30-of-45 for 264 yards passing with one touchdown and one interception. The difference in the game was the lack of a rushing attack for the Longhorns. Texas only had 85 net yards rushing against UCLA in 2010. 

In Saturday’s game against the Bruins, the Longhorns rushed for 284 yards and had nearly flawless play from the quarterback position. McCoy was 12-of-15 for 168 yards passing and two touchdowns while Ash finished 3-of-3 for 31 yards passing. Gilbert did not throw a pass against UCLA as the Longhorns went on to win without him, 49-20. 

The writing may be on the wall for Garrett Gilbert and his time in Austin. Case McCoy appears to have won the starting quarterback job with snaps being given to true freshman David Ash here and there for the rest of the season.

Was Gilbert the main reason for the 5-7 2010 season?

Texas did lose six players to the NFL draft off its championship game team. The Longhorn defense was solid last year, finishing the season ranked sixth in the nation in total defense. The problem was the offense turning the ball over and putting the defense in bad situations. Texas’ defense finished 49th in FBS in scoring defense, giving up 23.67 points per game. The team’s turnover margin was 116th in the nation by season’s end. 

Another glaring difference from this season to last is the play of true freshman running back Malcolm Brown (5-star recruit, Cibolo, Texas) and the Texas rushing attack. The Longhorns did not have a 100-yard rusher until Week 12 against Florida Atlantic in 2010. Cody Johnson ended the season with the only two 100-yard rushing games for the Longhorns. The two 100-yard efforts came during the last two games of the season (28 rushes for 124 yards versus Florida Atlantic, 14 rushes for 107 yards versus Texas A&M). Until the Florida Atlantic game, Gilbert had the team-high in rushing yards for a game with 93 against Kansas State in Week 10. 

Texas is 3-0 and appears to have a promising season ahead with the potential McCoy brings as the starting quarterback and Brown provides in the backfield for the Longhorns.

Can Texas finish the season 8-4 or better?

A tough road trip to Ames, Iowa awaits Texas this week. Longhorn fans should not take 3-0 Iowa State lightly. Iowa State upset 22nd-ranked Texas last season 28-21 in Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium and ISU knocked off in-state rival Iowa 44-41 in three overtimes during Week 2 action earlier this season. 

Texas is still a young team with tough games to play versus Oklahoma, versus Oklahoma State, at Missouri, at Texas A&M and at Baylor before anointing that the Longhorns are back. Betting on an 8-4 season for the Longhorns seems safe. Betting on Mack Brown getting back to nine wins seems like an even safer bet.  

Not all statistics tell a complete story but confidence and leadership is not something one can categorize. Perhaps the offensive line plays better with McCoy under center? Time will tell.


Just to clarify

The Longhorns had their first 100-yard rusher of the season when Malcolm Brown ran for 110 yards against the Bruins. When was the last time the Longhorns went two games without a 100-yard rusher? Oh yeah, this year when Gilbert was under center during the first two games of the 2011 season and during the first 10 games of the 2010 season for the 5-7 Longhorns.


Good luck, Case McCoy!


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