Nebraska fans' fascination with all things involving Texas football continues.
Out of the long list of good story lines in the Big 12 this season, I get more homegrown e-mails, phone calls and man-on-the-street comments about UT's struggles than anything.
Part of that is human nature. Between Texas' dominance of the Nebraska series and the Longhorns' bully-boy attitude in the Big 12, it's a guilty pleasure to take delight in the failings of a braggart.
Another factor is that Texas' woes really are an incredible story. To go from playing for the national title in January to worrying about reaching bowl eligibility in November is a stunning reversal.
Adding to all of that is a hint of mystery. No one has really put a finger on why this collapse — five losses in the past six games, with the only win at Nebraska — has occurred.
“I'm surprised,'' UT coach Mack Brown said Monday, “and disappointed.''
It's not like Texas (4-5, 2-4) has had a run of major injuries to star players like Oklahoma suffered in 2009.
Nor can you blame graduation. Thirteen starters returned for 2010. Besides, all teams turn over about one-third of their roster every year, and the Longhorns consistently bring in players touted by the recruiting hypemeisters as the greatest of all. (By the way, the team ranked No. 1 by rivals.com for 2011 recruiting is Texas).
Some of it is entitlement, as Brown stated earlier this season. Backups think that they know how hard they have to work to reach a high level, but don't truly grasp it until they have to play every week.
Another issue at a school like Texas is that sometimes things are too good.
A few years ago, I spent a week in Austin for a series on the UT athletic department. DeLoss Dodds, the man in charge, told me when the facilities are so good and the athlete support system so strong that you have to guard against “going soft.''
Let me add a different element.
The coach-in-waiting situation at Texas with Brown and defensive coordinator Will Muschamp is doing UT no good whatsoever.
Brown has given zero indication of when he might step aside — though he might get some suggestions with a losing season — yet a successor already has been named.
The situation creates mixed signals for the players about who they need to please. Creating ambiguity in the lives of 18- to 21-year-old athletes is always a bad idea.
Plus, I didn't have to dial through the football coaching grapevine very long to learn that Muschamp was livid when Brown tossed the assistant coaches under the bus after the home loss to Iowa State.
The old line about you are what your record says you are by this point in the season seems to fit Texas. Other than the Nebraska win, the Longhorns have defeated Rice (2-7), Wyoming (2-8) and Texas Tech (5-4).
The Longhorns are 52nd in scoring defense, 91st in scoring offense and 118th in turnover margin.
“We don't have anybody right now, any thing, any group of the three phases that has stepped up and taken over,'' Brown said. “When we played great at Nebraska, we played as a team.
“But we have not played as a team (since). That's on us as coaches.''
Is that enough to make you feel a little sorry for the Longhorns? Didn't think so.
Reports: Hawkins out
Colorado may be taking steps to clean up the mess that is its football program.
Multiple media outlets reported late Monday that embattled coach Dan Hawkins will be fired Tuesday.
A school spokesman said he couldn't confirm the TV and newspaper reports that Athletic Director Mike Bohn would replace Hawkins with associate coach Brian Cabral for the final three games.
Hawkins has been on the hot seat since last year. The cries for his ouster grew louder following the biggest collapse in school history Saturday when the Buffaloes blew a 28-point lead at Kansas with less than 12 minutes left and lost 52-45.
An interesting cry came from a Denver columnist. Late in the Kansas game, Hawkins still emphasized passing, leading the Denver Post's Dave Krieger to hint that Hawkins is helping his quarterback/son, Cody, break the school's passing record.
Krieger, under the headline “Suspicion infects CU football program,'' questioned the Buffaloes' clock management after taking that big lead.
Krieger noted that Cody Hawkins, on track to jump past Joel Klatt and Kordell Stewart on CU's all-time passing list with three games left, continued passing with a 28-point lead and took snaps with as much as 20 seconds left on the play clock.
When asked specifically Monday why Colorado didn't run more with a big lead, Dan Hawkins said:
“Just because we had thrown it so well. We didn't want to just totally get into a ground attack. We'd had success mixing it up.''
Colorado led 35-10 at halftime and 45-17 with less than 12 minutes to play. The Buffaloes passed 20 times in the second half and ran the ball 11. A Cody Hawkins interception set up KU's tying touchdown.
“You could always change a lot of things,'' Dan Hawkins said in regard to his late-game play-calling.
Very soon, he won't have that chance.
In this day of ever-present information, only Kansas State football coach and minister of information control Bill Snyder could keep a quarterback change from season-long starter Carson Coffman to Collin Klein a secret.
“It's just a matter of trust,'' Snyder said Monday. “The decision wasn't shared until Saturday. But that doesn't have anything to do with it. I trust our young people immensely.''
Klein, in his first career start, ran for a game-high 125 yards to help K-State clobber Texas 39-14.
“There's an awful lot of people involved in a football program who are privy to information,'' Snyder said. “You educate all of them the best you possibly can.''
In making the change, Snyder realized that Coffman — a fifth-year senior hampered by an undisclosed injury — wouldn't start on Senior Night.
“He's a team player,'' Snyder said. “Coming off the injury, I'm comfortable he understood. He was very helpful to Collin and Collin's preparation.''
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