AUSTIN, Texas — When Will Muschamp left his defensive coordinator position at Texas to take the head coaching job at Florida, Longhorn coach Mack Brown conducted an exhaustive search for a replacement.
Nearly one month later, in early January, Brown hired Manny Diaz, considered to be a rising young star in the coaching profession, to oversee the Longhorn defense.
Diaz, 37, was the defensive coordinator at Mississippi State for one season before taking the same position at Texas. After limiting Rice to nine points in the season-opener last week, Diaz takes on a new challenge as BYU visits No. 24 Texas today (5 p.m., MT, ESPN2).
Diaz expects a smashmouth type of game with the Cougars.
"This is going to be an absolute brawl," he said. "Everyone talks about (BYU quarterback Jake) Heaps, and historically BYU has been known for their passing game, but this version right here is coming down the hill. It is a 'buckle up your chin strap' and tell the equipment guy to have extra shoulder pads on the sidelines because there may be shoulder pads getting busted up. They represent their head coach (Bronco Mendenhall), I think his mentality. They're a physical football team, and they're going to come here to get after us."
Last week, the Longhorns surrendered 130 yards on the ground, on 30 rushing attempts. Diaz is wary of the Cougars' ability to move the ball on the ground.
"They have great variety in their run game. They fool people. They'll attack you inside. They'll attack you outside," Diaz said. "They've got good backs that run hard. They've got fullbacks that want to block your soul. They are mean, aggressive type people, and it'll be quite a challenge."
"We need to stop the run first," said Texas linebacker Keenan Robinson. "Once we stop the run, then we can work on stopping the pass. Then we can make them one-sided and make them one-dimensional. And once we do that, then we can start getting after the quarterback and start making plays in the passing game."
The Cougars passing game will pose a challenge for the Texas cornerbacks, according to Brown.
"Brigham Young will throw the ball deep, and we felt like our secondary played well (last week)," said Texas' coach. "We only had two three-and-outs — the first one and then one with a second team defense at the end of the game. Rice moved the ball better than we would have liked, and that's something we've got to do is have more three-and-outs or force some more turnovers on Saturday or Brigham Young will keep the ball."
Against Ole Miss, BYU's offense held the ball for nine minutes longer than the Rebels.
The Longhorns, who played 10 freshmen on defense last week against Rice, are looking to force Heaps into making mistakes.
"When you hear about a great young quarterback, you've just got to try to do something to confuse him, try to do something to get in his head," said Texas linebacker Emmanuel Acho.
Heaps said the Longhorn defense has the ability to wreak havoc. "They're athletic. They flood to the football. They're definitely a bunch of ball hawks out there and they like to get after it. We have our work cut out for us."
The Cougars' first-year offensive coordinator, Brandon Doman, is hoping for marked improvement this week — particularly when it comes to finishing drives — after BYU managed to score only one offensive touchdown in last week's 14-13 win at Ole Miss.
"We've got to execute better and make better decisions," Doman said. "And we've got to get points."
A week ago, the Cougars saw a few of their sustained drives stall due to a host of miscues — including an errant snap, a missed field goal and a pick-six.
"We can't be a great football team if that's how we play," Doman said. "I don't think we'll do that anymore."
Said Heaps, "Everybody knows there's a lot of work to be done. We feel that there were a couple of things that could have made that game a little bit different if we would have executed and fixed our mistakes and done some little things better."
Running back Bryan Kariya said the key to success against Texas is to "control the ball and march it down field. We're looking to come and start the game out as fast as we can, really push the tempo and score touchdowns."16 comments on this story
Center Terence Brown said he and Heaps have fixed the issues with the snaps, and the tempo, from last week. He is looking for a much better overall performance this time from the offense.
"We need to finish drives and score more points," Brown said. "We've shored up some small things that maybe weren't executed so we could finish those drives. And then we need to play hard again. I don't think our effort was lacking playing against Ole Miss."
Cougars on the air
at No. 24 Texas (1-0)
Saturday, 5 p.m. MT
TV: ESPN2 Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM