Mistakes pile up, earn Texas its first loss

September, 25, 2010
9/25/10
9:17
PM ET
AUSTIN, Texas -- Garrett Gilbert hung around Joe Jamail Field a little longer than his teammates, who walked slowly underneath the south bleachers into the locker room. He did the same, but slower and with his eyes fixed on a soon-to-be-hoarse section of delirious UCLA fans celebrating and chanting "U-C...L-A" over the half-hearted rendition of "Eyes of Texas" that sounded so much sweeter in Lubbock a week ago.

The last time Gilbert endured a loss, he threw four interceptions and added a fumble. This time, he threw just one, but added a fumble on a sack from his blind side similar to the one that ended Texas' comeback hopes in the national title game.

"I can't turn the ball over like that," Gilbert said. "That's on me."

[+] EnlargeMack Brown
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images"Turnovers are what loses games," said Mack Brown after his team committed five of them, " and we lost this game more than we had a chance to win it."
The interception -- a pass to an open James Kirkendoll that never cleared a roaming linebacker underneath -- was on Gilbert, but most of the other mistakes weren't. No. 7 Texas did very little right and most things wrong in a stunning 34-12 loss to UCLA, a team who was beaten 35-0 on its home field by Stanford two weeks earlier.

"There's probably 15 [mistakes] and they're all bothersome," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "Turnovers are what loses games, and we lost this game more than we had a chance to win it."

There were five in all, and three in the first half. None were more embarrassing, albeit meaningless, than a miscommunicated kickoff return in the final minute after a late UCLA touchdown provided the final margin.

In the first half, the defense made up for a few mistakes by recovering a pair of fumbles and setting up the offense for scores, but long touchdown drives on UCLA's first two possessions of the second half effectively quieted the Longhorn crowd and sent Texas to a loss earlier than about anyone expected.

"I don't feel like right now we're very good at anything," Brown said. "It's hard to point at what's worse when it's all bad."

He added: "It was a rear end kicking, and in the first half, it should have been a lot worse than it was, but the defense played their guts out."

The positives were minimal. Brown said a few players played well, and felt the team as a whole prepared well and entered ready to play. Running back D.J. Monroe even said Brown had to calm the team down before the game, so uncheck motivation and preparation as possible culprits.

"You can be ready to play and play poorly," Brown said.

Instead, it was mistakes, and Brown added it could have been 100-0 at the half if the team hadn't played well around the costly mistakes.

The only thing more numerous than the mistakes themselves were the ways Brown found to express his frustration about them afterward.

[+] EnlargeJohnathan Franklin
Brendan Maloney/US PresswireJohnathan Franklin gashed the Texas defense for 118 of UCLA's 264 rushing yards. The Bruins scored three touchdowns on the ground including this one.
"This one's embarrassing for me. As a head coach I'm responsible for everyone in this program," Brown said. "It was not fair to Texas fans, it was not fair to the players. I've got to do a better job. You can't have that many mistakes and be doing my job."

Gilbert's interception and fumble were just two. The late kick return was another. In between, a punt return fumbled by Curtis Brown -- one he fielded inside his own 5-yard line and turned over in the red zone -- and a fumble on a run by Monroe that produced a UCLA field goal.

"It's the hardest thing in the world when you do not play well as a team. It's an awful feeling as a coach because you feel like you let your kids down, you let your fans down, you let everybody down," Brown said. "It's just awful. It's the worst thing you can do in our business. We're paid to do it well and we didn't do it well today."

Texas will have to do everything better next week against Oklahoma. The defense, which led the nation against the run through three games, was exposed in the second half by UCLA's zone read from the pistol formation. It let UCLA running back Johnathan Franklin take a big, 35-yard chunk out of an 80-yard scoring drive to begin the second half. On a later drive, quarterback Kevin Prince kept it and trotted into the end zone almost untouched from 38 yards to put the Bruins up 27-6, conjuring up images of 1997's "Rout 66," when unranked UCLA beat No. 11 Texas 66-3. Texas never controlled this game, and that's a bad sign for a team whose annual, season-defining game is seven days away.

"I'll go home right now and see if I can put some sense into this," Brown said, adding that the loss was was disappointing and stunning. "In fact, I'm shocked."

It's hard to fix what you didn't realize was wrong. Now, Texas has to diagnose 60 minutes of its worst football in recent history before a date with Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl next Saturday.

"Everything that we did messed up," Brown said. "Our gameplan was to try to stay off the field like we did at Tech and make them play late. It worked early, but we didn't score points. I don't know why we're not scoring points. They ended up keeping us on the field and it totally backfired. Everything we wanted to do, they did."

The questions will come as the week progresses. Texas hasn't looked like a team that has successfully established the power running game it sought after Colt McCoy checked out of Austin and took his 70 percent completion rate with him. Brown wanted to support his quarterback with a running game. So far, that support hasn't been there.

Whether or not Texas will keep looking for it hasn't been determined, but Saturday's game tape may hold the answers.

"We have to make sure we're asking guys to do what they can do," said offensive coordinator Greg Davis.

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