AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A day after firing his defensive coordinator just two games into the season, Texas coach Mack Brown spent Monday trying to calm fan fears the program is in panic mode and teetering on the brink of a repeat of the losing season of 2010.
“You can look at it as panic,” Brown said. “I’m trying to fix it.”
Brown also insisted that the 40-21 loss to BYU — in which Texas gave up an astounding 550 yards rushing — didn’t raise any pressure on his own job.
“When you lose at Texas, you’re going to be bashed. I accept it,” Brown said.
Texas is 24-17 since losing to Alabama in the national championship game after the 2009 season, but Brown had talked openly in before this season about high expectations, that this year’s team could return the program to national prominence.
But an embarrassing road loss on national television exposed a defense that is still seriously flawed, and sent Texas tumbling from No. 15 out of the Top 25. Texas (1-1) hosts No. 25 Mississippi (2-0) on Saturday.
Brown, who had never before fired an assistant in midseason, seethed over the loss and declared immediately after the game he would evaluate Manny Diaz’s job when he watched game film. Brown watched it twice overnight and fired Diaz on Sunday.
Brown has turned the defense over to Greg Robinson, who spent one season as the defensive coordinator in 2004 before leaving to become the head coach at Syracuse. Robinson also spent 14 seasons in the NFL and coached Michigan’s defense for two years.
Brown said he fired Diaz after just two games to avoid a repeat of the first half of the 2012 season when the Texas defense was riddled by Oklahoma State, West Virginia and Baylor and struggled to stop the run.
“I wasn’t going to let that continue,” Brown said.
But Brown’s move also led to questions why it wasn’t done sooner.
Diaz had a solid first season in 2011 before glaring problems emerged and players complained they often weren’t lining up correctly or teammates didn’t play hard every game. Brown stuck with Diaz after last year because he thought the unit played better over the last few games of the season.
Brown said Monday his entire defensive staff knew they would be on a “short leash” this season.
Brown complained Monday his defense couldn’t stop BYU’s rushing attack and quarterback Taysom Hill even though the Cougars only ran about four plays.
“We couldn’t stop it,” Brown said.
As the head coach Brown signs off on the offensive and defensive game plans devised by his coordinators every week. On Monday, he alternately suggested the game plan against BYU was both flawed or a good one undone by poor execution.
Brown didn’t spare his offense from criticism, but didn’t fire anyone on that side of the ball.
“When you have 82 plays, you should have more than 21 points,” Brown said.
Texas linebacker Jordan Hicks said he was “shocked” by Diaz’s dismissal.
‘He’s meant a lot to us around here,” Hicks said.
“As a leader on our defense, I feel responsible for him being gone,” senior defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat said, adding he believes the Longhorns can recover under Robinson.
“Nothing is so damaged that we can’t get it fixed,” Jeffcoat said.
Brown said the message Diaz’s firing should send to his players is that, “I’m doing everything in my power to help them win.”
Robinson helped Texas go 11-1 in 2004 before taking over as head coach at Syracuse. Texas hired him back over the summer as a $62,500-a-year football analyst who reviewed video of Texas practices and was to help scout opponents. As defensive coordinator, he gets a 1-year deal worth $250,000.
Robinson met with the team Sunday night but was not made available to the media on Monday.
Brown dismissed any concerns that Robinson’s defenses at Michigan in 2009 and 2010 ranked among the worst in the country.
“They had really bad players,” Brown said.
While the Texas defense gets turned inside out, Mississippi coach Hugh Freeze said he expects the Longhorns to play better Saturday night.
“I expect them to be very emotional in front of their home crowd,” Freeze said. “I think they’ll raise their game.”
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