By Rob Moseley
As embattled as Mack Brown might be, given questions about his job security at Texas, the UT coach handled himself with grace and aplomb Thursday morning during an Alamo Bowl press conference in San Antonio.
Brown addressed the speculation about his status, and moved on. He praised the Longhorns’ opponent on Dec. 30, Oregon, as a “BCS-type team.” He said the quality of opponent should ensure his own team “won’t come in without an edge.”
A couple of feet to Brown’s right sat UO coach Mark Helfrich, who also took questions during the session. But mostly, he sat by as Brown deftly maneuvered through about 20 minutes at the podium.
“Wow,” Helfrich joked at one point. “You’re really good at this.”
Among the subplots leading up to the Alamo Bowl will be the head coaches, Brown in his 16th year guiding one of college football’s most storied programs, Helfrich in his first season at the helm of the nouveau riche Ducks. Though they’re at vastly different points in their respective career arcs, each leads a team with goals of playing on a bowl after, not before, New Year’s Eve.
Texas had a chance to win the Big 12 last weekend, but fell 30-10 to a Baylor team thought to resemble the Ducks, at least offensively. Oregon saw its national championship aspirations die at Stanford in early November following a knee injury to quarterback Marcus Mariota, then looked listless is dropping out of the Pac -12 title race at Arizona.
On Thursday, Helfrich acknowledged that attitude and injuries – as well as some talented opposition – were factors in a 2-2 November.
“I thought our guys rallied pretty well,” Helfrich said. “Our win against Oregon State, and Utah as well, those were grind-it-out, gut-it-out, short-handed type of wins, that you have to do to be as consistent as our guys have been. You have to win a few of those every once in a while.
“Hopefully we’ll get healed up and ready to go for Texas.”
Brown hinted as well that injuries were an issue for his team late in the season, and said several Longhorns may have to sit out the Alamo Bowl. There’s also, of course, the question of Brown’s presence in San Antonio on Dec. 30; he said he’ll meet with UT’s president and athletic director to discuss his future some time soon.
The task in the mean time?
“Beat Oregon,” Brown said. “And that’s the only thing that’s important. This is about the kids.”
“You always want to be challenged in a bowl game, so you won’t come in without an edge,” Brown had said earlier in the press conference. “And we got that, no question. We got a BCS-type team in the Alamo Bowl.”
While the Ducks are sometimes thought to mirror Texas’ most recent opponent, Baylor, at least offensively, Brown said today “I don’t think anybody does compare,” at least in the Longhorns’ Big 12 Conference. He praised the Ducks’ ability to run the ball, and push the tempo, and said Oregon has noticeably improved at the line of scrimmage since the last time the teams met, in the Holiday Bowl following the 2000 season.
Texas begins Alamo Bowl practices Saturday. The Ducks have their first workout scheduled for Friday, at the end of finals week on campus and an intense two-week recruiting window for coaches.
Oregon players and coaches also have begun film review on the Longhorns, amidst those other priorities.
“As I started watching film on these guys, that’s no fun,” Helfrich said. “They’re big and fast and physical.”
As much as matchups, though, both coaches seemed to acknowledge Thursday that attitude will be at least as important when the Alamo Bowl kicks off on Dec. 30.
“We’ve got to hold up our end,” Brown said. “We better, because they’re going to hold up their end.”
“You want there to be an exclamation point on the end of the season,” Helfrich said, “rather than a dot-dot-dot.”