AUSTIN _ Texas coach Mack Brown vowed that unprecedented defensive struggles in last week’s 49-39 victory over Texas A&M will not trigger a lack of confidence for Longhorns’ defenders heading into Saturday’s Big 12 Championship Game in Arlington.
“It’ll be exactly the opposite,” Brown said during a news conference today. “They will play their tail off this weekend because they’re mad and embarrassed.”
Brown’s prediction will be put to the test at 7 p.m. Saturday in Cowboys Stadium, when No. 3 Texas (12-0) meets No. 21 Nebraska (9-3) to decide the Big 12 title. The contest features two of the nation’s stingiest defenses.
Nebraska ranks third nationally in scoring defense (11.08 points per game). Texas is ninth (15.42) but slipped two spots in the latest NCAA rankings after surrendering season highs of 39 points and 532 yards to the Aggies (6-6) on Thursday night.
Brown said he was encouraged by the post-game responses from defensive coordinator Will Muschamp and players after watching A&M score 39 points _ 15 more than any other Texas opponent this season.
“The defensive staff was over here early Friday morning. They worked Friday and Saturday,” Brown said.
Texas’ players had those days off before returning for a Sunday team meeting. As they reviewed tapes from the A&M game, Brown said his defenders “were not happy, which I like. They’re happy we won but they understood it wasn’t good.”
Muschamp said he counted 13 missed tackles, accounting for 71 yards after contact, against A&M. The missed tackle figure almost doubled the previous season high (7), set a week earlier against Kansas. Muschamp said the missed tackles were “spread throughout” all positions and that improved tackling would be a focal point in practices this week.
“That falls on my shoulders,” Muschamp said. “When you don’t execute with good players, that’s coaching.”
MUSCHAMP STAYING: Muschamp, designated last season as Brown’s successor at an undetermined date, discounted any interest in the Notre Dame vacancy after Monday’s firing of Irish coach Charlie Weis. The South Bend Tribune listed Muschamp as one of four candidates of interest to Notre Dame officials, along with TCU coach Gary Patterson, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops and Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly.
“I’m going to be at Texas,” Muschamp said.
Asked if he would take calls from other schools, Muschamp said: “No.”
INJURY UPDATE: Brown said special-teams player Clark Ford (ankle) will miss Saturday’s game but other regular contributors are expected to participate. That signals the return of receiver John Chiles (ankle), a Mansfield Summit graduate who did not play against A&M, and cornerback Aaron Williams (knee), who played sparingly against the Aggies. Cornerback Deon Beasley, who left the A&M game on a stretcher but later returned to the sideline, will be limited in practice this week but is expected to play Saturday.
PERMANENT SITE: Brown said he would “love to see” the Big 12 Championship Game take up permanent residence in Arlington, where it will be played Saturday and in 2010. No sites have been selected for championship games beyond 2010 by league officials. Brown said the option to close the roof at Cowboys Stadium is a bigger factor to him than the venue’s close proximity to Austin.
“Obviously, people would think that the Texas coach wanting it in (Arlington) is self-serving,” Brown said. “But I think an indoor area, at this time of year, to make sure the weather is not a factor … is something I’d be 100 percent for.”
MINIMIZING DISTRACTIONS: Brown said kickoff returner/tailback D.J. Monroe, who was suspended indefinitely after a DWI arrest on Nov. 15, will not play against Nebraska. Neither will defensive back Marcus Davis, who was suspended indefinitely after Saturday’s arrest in Pearland on suspicion of driving while intoxicated and possession of a controlled substance. Both players are freshmen. Brown indicated Monday that reinstatement is not imminent for either player at this time.
“Everybody that goes to (Arlington) will be focused on one thing, and that’s winning a Big 12 championship,” Brown said. “These seniors have worked way too hard for freshmen to be a distraction. We’re not going to let it happen. Period.”
NON-CONVENTIONAL SCORING: Marquise Goodwin’s 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against A&M marked the Longhorns’ 11th non-offensive touchdown this season. That figure leads the nation and is a school single-season record.
McCOY HONORED: Texas quarterback Colt McCoy was selected as the Big 12 offensive player of the week by league officials. McCoy rushed for a career-high 175 yards and passed for 304 yards and four touchdowns in the 49-39 victory over A&M. It marked the first time for a Texas player to pass for 300 yards and rush for 100 in the same game.
In addition, Texas Tech defensive end Brandon Sharpe shared defensive honors with Colorado cornerback Cha’pelle Brown. Special team honors went to Missouri kicker Grant Ressel.
NOT SO NEUTRAL: Texas has won its last four games played at neutral sites and is 10-1 in its last 11 neutral-site contests heading into Saturday’s matchup against Nebraska.
_ Jimmy Burch