Building blocks take shape for Longhorns

September, 14, 2011
9/14/11
9:00
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The last time UCLA and Texas crossed paths, it was the beginning of the end for the Longhorns.

It was no "Rout 66," but it might as well have been.

UCLA needed only eight pass attempts to roll over an undefeated No. 7 Texas team, 34-12. The Longhorns would only win twice (Nebraska, Florida Atlantic) in their nine final games.

[+] EnlargeTexas' Mack Brown
Brendan Maloney/US PRESSWIREMack Brown has played 25 freshmen this season, 18 of which who are true freshmen, including receiver Jaxon Shipley.
This year, Texas is again undefeated. It's again ranked, albeit far from the top 10.

And last week's gutsy win over BYU was the beginning of, well, something. Exactly what that is might be clearer by early Saturday evening when Texas and UCLA meet in the Rose Bowl at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC.

"We’re a team that’s going to fight until the end. Basically, no matter what challenge is placed in front of us, we’re going to fight through it and that’s definitely what we did," Texas linebacker Keenan Robinson said.

Trite as it may sound, that didn't happen for Texas last year. It's already shown signs this year is different.

UCLA led 13-3 at halftime of last year's blowout.

"They kind of ran away with a victory," Robinson said.

Last week? BYU carried an identical lead into halftime, but unlike all five times Texas faced a double-digit deficit in 2010, the Longhorns came back to win.

"We were putting seven and eight guys in the box and that put some stress on our DBs, but they were really able to make good plays, stay under control, stay calm," Robinson said.

That resulted in the 17-16 win over the Cougars, thanks to a strong second half from the defense.

But facts are facts: Texas coach Mack Brown isn't blowing smoke about what he's putting on the field this year.

"We're probably even with every team we play from here on out, or more of an underdog," Brown said.

Making that challenge more difficult is Texas' youth. Freshmen haven't had a hard time cracking the depth chart after last year's debacle, and the Longhorns have already played 25, including 18 true freshmen, more than any team in the country.

"It just makes me have to be that much better. They’re going to learn from what leaders do by example in front of them," Robinson said. "We’ve got to make sure we’re doing everything we can to calm guys down, make sure we stay calm, stay collected and not let anything get out of hand or get out of whack."

That's worked well for Texas so far. The Longhorns have let opponents in its red zone six times this season.

They've given up a touchdown just once. That percentage is good for 11th nationally.

The Longhorns are taking that youth to Pasadena, Calif., this weekend, hoping a new environment away from Austin doesn't stunt the early-season growth.

"We want to be a team that dominates no matter where we play," Robinson said.

Texas isn't there yet. It probably won't be this year. But games like this are the building blocks to eventually arriving.

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