Aaron Williams

Last week I circled both the Washington Redskins-Oakland Raiders and the Buffalo Bills-Baltimore Ravens games as the two to watch if you were interested in following some former Longhorn greats. Both of these contests lived up to the hype I put on them in my blog last Friday. Contrary to my predictions, the Redskins earned their first victory of the season, while the Bills upset the Ravens at home. Here’s a look at how some key former Longhorns performed for both teams, and other standout Texas performances from the week.

Brian Orakpo (Redskins defensive end)

I guess Orakpo heard me loud and clear last week. He had to play well and set an aggressive defensive tone for his team if the Redskins wanted to pick up their first win of the season. He did just that by providing suffocating pressure on Raiders quarterback Matt Flynn. Orakpo finished the game with four tackles with two for a loss, and two sacks. He spearheaded the Redskins’ defensive attack as they would tally a whopping seven sacks in the game. Overall his defensive did a nice job of limiting the Raiders to just 298 total yards and 14 points. That’s a nice way to set up a win.

Aaron Williams (Bills defensive back)

This is Williams’ second fantastic defensive week of the season. Quarterback Joe Flacco had possibly the worst game of his career and Williams and the Bills’ defense played no small part in his embarrassing afternoon. The Ravens’ defense forced five — that’s not a typo — five interceptions and from Flacco. Williams claimed two of these picks, while also finishing with two tackles and four pass breakups. Buffalo’s defense is starting to become a stingy unit. Williams has been, and will continue to be a major factor in its success as the season progresses.

Earl Thomas (Seahawks safety)

In typical fashion, Thomas brought energy and swagger to the Seahawks’ heroic defensive efforts in what was a potential Super Bowl preview against the Houston Texans. The defining play of the game was cornerback Richard Sherman’s pick six against quarterback Matt Schaub late in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 20. Thomas contributed on defense all throughout the game prior to that play. He pitched in seven tackles and two critical pass breakups from Matt Schaub. The result: The Seahawks remained unbeaten even after one of their toughest tests of the season. Quarterback Russell Wilson and the offense played poorly and still managed to win this game. That speaks volumes about the quality of Seattle’s defense.

As always, this weekend of NFL action features a parade of former Texan Longhorn players.  For Longhorn fans there are quite a few games Sunday to keep an eye on.  Two games in particular – Washington Redskins vs. Oakland Raiders and the Baltimore Ravens vs. Buffalo Bills – will feature a nice collection of Texas players.  In addition to their appeal to Texas football fans, both of these games seem to have make-or-break implications for at least one of the teams involved.  Let’s take a look at the matchups.

Ravens at Bills

Marquise Goodwin is still out with the fractured hand he suffered in the Bills’ week-one loss to the Patriots.  Bummer.  It would have definitely been exciting to see his blazing breakaway speed matched up with the likes of defensive backs Michael Huff and Chykie Brown.  

Look for CB Aaron Williams to have another huge day against a Ravens squad, which is depleted at the receiver position.  In week two, Williams recorded a team-high 12 tackles.  This is a paramount game for the Bills – the difference between 1-3 and 2-2 in this league is greater than it appears.  This is Williams’ chance to shine again, only this time against the defending champs.  I’m taking the Ravens in a close one, as Justin Tucker wins it on a last second field goal.  

Redskins at Raiders

Since 1990, only three teams have made the playoffs after starting 0-3.  To avoid permanently crippling their season with their 0-4 start, the Redskins need some big-time defensive help for Robert Griffin III.  Enter the Texas stars:  DE Brian Orakpo, CB Cedric Griffin and LB Keenan Robinson will need to step and play effectively to keep Griffin and the offense on the field.  The defense has already surrendered 98 points in their first three games.  Offensively, the Redskins are putting up a decent amount of points but Griffin is constantly having to play catch up – thus turning himself into a one-dimensional quarterback.  The defensive effort starts with Orakpo, who has been Washington’s best individual defender over the first three weeks.

Oakland defensive tackle Lamarr Houston will be key in applying pressure to Griffin in the pocket.  In three games this year, he’s tallied two sacks and a forced fumble.  If he and the Raider defense can minimize their time on the field, Oakland is in good shape.  The last thing the Redskins’ defense needs right now is 35+ minutes on the field.  This is going to be tough contest for Washington, but I think they’ll pick up their first win.  It’s not the opponent but the wild, Oakland atmosphere that will make things difficult for the ‘Skins as they look to avoid an 0-4 start.  

For former Texas Longhorns, Week 2 of the NFL season was collectively one of the most impressive in recent memory.  Here's a recap of some of the great Longhorn performances this week, as well as a look ahead to their teams' matchup in Week 3.

Earl Thomas - Safety, Seattle Seahawks

Along with Seattle's deafening home crowd, Thomas was a large part of a phenomenal defensive effort against the potent 49ers' offense. He recorded three tackles and intercepted the 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick. This week the Seahawks will host the Jaguars. Expect Thomas and the Seahawks' secondary to perform well against struggling Jags quarterback Blaine Gabbert.

Brian Orakpo - Defensive End, Washington Redskins

Orakpo filled out his stat sheet nicely this week against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. Despite the Skins' 18-point loss, Orakpo's never-ceasing motor earned him five tackles, two for a loss, and a sack.This weekend he'll face another relatively immobile quarterback in the Lions' Matthew Stafford.

Aaron Williams - Cornerback, Buffalo Bills

The Bills fought hard for new head coach Doug Marone's first NFL victory against Carolina last week. Aaron Williams made a pretty bit difference in the Bills' secondary, as he made a game high 12 tackles including one for a loss. He's always been a lock down corner but sometimes had issues tackling. It appears he's corrected that problem since he left Texas.  This weekend, Geno Smith and the New York Jets await Williams, a great matchup.

Jermichael Finley - Tight End, Green Bay Packers

Finley had an effective outing last week against the Redskins. With Greg Jennings gone, Finley figures to be a bigger target for Rodgers going forward. His six catches for 65 yards and a touchdown last week certainly validates that claim. He and Rodgers will face a tough Cincinnati secondary next week.

Jamaal Charles - Running Back, Kansas City Chiefs

Compared to Charles' standards, last week's results weren't all that impressive: 16 carries for 55 yards, 3.4 yards per carry, is far below his career averages. But he made big runs when the Chiefs needed them the most. He ran for a key first down late in the fourth quarter to keep Dallas' offense off the field, sealing the win.

 

Defensive backs Chykie Brown and Aaron Williams silenced critics Tuesday with a pair of impressive 40-yard dash times, putting to rest questions surrounding their draft status.
 
The two turned in a pair of lackluster performances at the NFL scouting combine in February, but made up for it Tuesday. Brown confirmed his time in the 40-yard dash at 4.35 seconds and Williams said he ran a 4.36 as each prospect displayed the necessary agility to play at the next level. But Brown’s mark could have been slightly faster. 
 
“The one I ran at 4.35 I kind of swerved on it so I was looking to run a 4.2, but Coach says it’s good enough,” Brown said, grinning. “My film spoke better than my combine workout and today brought everything together.”
 
The Longhorns’ pro timing day certainly went a long way in improving the stock of Brown and Williams with draft day approaching on April 28. Coaches and scouts from all 32 NFL teams attended the workouts.
 
“It gives the guys that went to the combine an opportunity to come back and improve on what they did there,” said head coach Mack Brown. “The guys got a lot of attention and hopefully they helped themselves.”
 
Brown said he wasn’t satisfied with his combine results and focused his training in Orlando on his hands, footwork, explosiveness and, most importantly, his speed. The senior also attributed his improved workout to a change in scenery.
 
“In front of my fans and family I felt more comfortable,” he said. “My old teammates had me pumped on the sideline. They were cheering me on and all that. I just felt like I was at home.”
 
Former Longhorn defensive backs Michael Griffin, Michael Huff, Aaron Ross and Tarell Brown watched as the younger DBs took turns running drills, offering their support when they could. All four played at Texas in 2005 when the Longhorns won the National Championship, and Griffin, Huff and Ross were first-round draft picks.
 
“I know what they went through,” Huff said. “When I was coming out, Quentin Jammer, Rod Babers, Nathan Vasher; all those guys came back to watch me.” 
 
The alumni’s presence was felt throughout the practice bubble, from the sidelines to the playing field.
 
“We had a pretty good secondary standing on the side out here today,” Mack Brown said. “All the coaches were saying, ‘My gosh what about these guys.’ It’s so much fun to see them come back and support our current guys because somebody came back for them.” 
 
Williams, who proved himself worthy of a first-round pick, also welcomed the sight of Huff, an old and close friend. 
 
“This is really what it means to have that family atmosphere,” Williams said. “All the old guys, all the alumni coming out here, it shows the actual brotherhood that we have here.”
 
That brotherhood will grow in the coming weeks as a new crop of Longhorns rises to the professional ranks. Like those who came before, expect the 2011 draft class to turn heads along the sidelines of next year’s pro day.

The days of a football player getting knocked out, taking a whiff of smelling salts and running back on the field are over.

Tre’ Newton, who recently ended his football career because of a series of head injuries, can attest to that. So can Kyle Hix, Aaron Williams and a few other Longhorns who have missed games because of concussions.

Head injuries and violent collisions have the NFL’s attention as never before, and the NCAA is making moves to keep its athletes safer as well.

In the past, concussions might have been considered mere dings or minor injuries. But in the last five years or so, neurosurgeons and scientists have conducted research in order to understand how they occur and how to take care of them.

Sports Illustrated dedicated almost an entire issue to concussions a few weeks ago. In one of the articles, Peter King explained the link between football and psychological, physical and behavioral problems that afflict players down the road. He wrote how one scientist tested the brains of 14 former NFL players and diagnosed 13 of them with chronic traumatic encephalopathy — basically “incredible chaos in the brain,” which is seen in disorders such as dementia, Alzheimer’s and depression.

With this backdrop, football is changing how it deals with blows to the head. But how much?
Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis had four concussions as a quarterback for McNeese State in the early 1970s, but he never missed a practice or a game.

“I remember I had one in a Saturday scrimmage during spring training and I practiced on Monday,” Davis said. “I don’t mean to imply that I’m some Rambo tough guy; times were just different.”

Davis said that offensive line coach Mac McWhorter, who was an offensive lineman at Georgia in the ’70s, joked that he had so many concussions that he carried ammonia capsules in his belt on his uniform.

But players can’t just pop pills anymore.

“It used to be if a kid got one, he could go back in the game,” said Texas head coach Mack Brown. “Now, if he has symptoms, he’s through. They take his helmet. They may take him inside. They don’t wait to see if it clears and we’ll put him back in. If the doctor says you’ve got symptoms, you’re through for the night.”

The most common symptoms are headaches, dizziness and nausea. Victims of a concussion can also have trouble concentrating and problems with eyesight. University of Georgia head athletic trainer Ron Courson told The Associated Press that oftentimes symptoms can be subtle, so it’s up to the team doctor or trainer to ask pointed questions and for patients to be honest with what’s going on with their bodies.

To help doctors assess an athlete’s recovery from a concussion, major college football programs frequently use what’s called baseline testing. All athletes who would be susceptible to concussions in their sports are given these neurological balance and psychological tests that measure memory, reaction and recognition before their season starts. Athletes who sustain a concussion are tested again, and their healthy tests and post-concussion tests are compared.
Courson told AP that he makes players tell him the months of the year backwards, for example.
Baseline testing is important, but the No. 1 thing doctors and trainers go by in deciding if a player is healthy are their symptoms.

A few weeks ago when Texas played Baylor, Williams got a concussion when he and safety Blake Gideon accidentally collided late in the fourth quarter. Coaches recalled that Williams seemed out of it and Texas head trainer Kenny Boyd deemed him ineligible to practice the following week or make the trip to Kansas State.

After his week off, Williams returned to practice and played against Oklahoma State and said he felt “100 percent and I didn’t see any symptoms come back.”

After being cleared to play, however, an athlete who has sustained a concussion is at greater risk for another one. That risk goes down over time, though.

“I think guys are bigger, faster and stronger now,” Brown said. “From my standpoint, collisions are bigger. I’m seeing hits out on the field now that are amazing hits. I’m talking about Saturday and Sunday. The equipment, nutrition, strength training and stretching are better and I think all those things lead toward bigger hits.”

In addition to the tests, the NCAA has made moves to protect its players during games. There’s the targeting penalty, which means players cannot initiate contact with the crown of their helmets. Then there’s the halo rule, which prevents players from tackling an opponent in the head or neck areas.

The torso and chest are fair game, but sometimes jerseys are slick and if a player’s helmet gets knocked in the least bit, that is considered helmet-to-helmet.

These rulings have made it difficult for coaches and players to determine the difference between a big hit and a personal foul.

“I don’t know what to tell the players,” defensive coordinator Will Muschamp said. “If you lead with your shoulder, they’re defenseless. If you lead with your head, it’s helmet-to-helmet. The officials have a hard judgment call, but it’s hard on a defensive coach. I’m very concerned with where it’s headed. We’ll all be playing flag football here in about 15 years.”

With these rules, coaches are worried that if players can’t aim for the upper body, they’ll start zoning in on the legs.

“We’re going to have some nasty knees now,” Brown said. “If Sergio [Kindle] had gone at [Texas Tech quarterback Taylor] Potts’ knees, he’d have broken his leg.”

Regardless of the cringe factor that’s setting in, players won’t hold back.

“I always go 100 miles per hour. I’ll worry about all that health stuff 10 years from now when I’m done playing,” Gideon said. “I’m making memories now. We all knew what we were signing up for when we started playing football.” 

As it turns out, the Texas secondary is not invincible.

A unit that was ranked as the nation’s second best heading into Saturday was picked apart by Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden in a 33-16 loss, the Longhorns fourth straight home loss for the first time since 1956. Weeden completed 29 of 43 passes for 409 yards and one touchdown and the nation’s leading receiver, Justin Blackmon, had nine receptions for 145 yards and one touchdown.

“Weeden was unbelievable,” said head coach Mack Brown. “He made throws that very few college quarterbacks can make.”

One throw in particular stood out — a 67-yard bomb to Blackmon early in the second quarter that put the Cowboys up 16-3, and sucked all the momentum out of the Longhorns for the rest of the night. Cornerback Aaron Williams, the best defensive back Texas has, matched Blackmon step for step, but Weeden’s pass fell just beyond his grasp.

“It was just a great throw and a great catch,” Williams said in a melancholy tone after the game. “[Blackmon] is just a great receiver. Oklahoma State is a great team. We fought hard, but things went their way.”

As a testament as to how good Blackmon is, Brown compared him to Michael Crabtree, the former Texas Tech standout that ruined the Longhorns’ chances of making it to the national championship in 2008, and complimented him further by saying Williams “covered Blackmon the best anyone could.”

Though Blackmon accounted for the majority of receiving yards, Weeden found six other wideouts who all had receptions over 20 yards. Out of the eight receivers Texas quarterback Garrett Gilbert passed to, only two surpassed the 20-yard mark.

The Cowboys’ balanced offense allowed them to taunt the Longhorns with their running game as well. And just like in the UCLA, Iowa State, Baylor and Kansas State games, Texas could not stop the run. Heralded tailback Kendall Hunter, who was averaging 137.8 yards per game before playing Texas, gained 116 of the Cowboys 123 total rushing yards. He also scored two touchdowns.

“That Oklahoma State offense ... That’s not our scout team we’re playing against,” junior safety Blake Gideon said. “They’ve got great athletes on the [offensive] side of the ball and they showcased that.”

Two weeks ago against Kansas State, Texas knew that running back Daniel Thomas would get the ball the majority of the game, yet the Longhorns had no answer. Same thing this weekend — Texas knew Blackmon and Hunter were going to get the ball, but their talent was unstoppable.

“Blackmon gets over 100 yards, Hunter gets over 100 yards,” Brown said. “That puts pressure on you.”

Before the game got out of hand, the Texas defense did what coordinator Will Muschamp has been emphasizing all season — holding the opponent to a field goal or less in Texas territory. On Oklahoma State’s first series, it drove down to the Texas 6-yard line and had to settle for a field goal. Then on the Cowboys’ next drive, safety Kenny Vaccaro intercepted Weeden on the UT 34.

The Texas players were fist pumping and it looked like the night might turn out differently than it had the past four weeks.

But OSU took control of the game in the second quarter, scoring points on four out of its five drives.

“We always talk about wanting to start fast and obviously we didn’t,” Gideon said. “It’s kind of a downer when you look up at the scoreboard and we’ve given up touchdowns early. As a defense, we need to rise to the occasion.”

After the game, Muschamp complimented Oklahoma State’s effectiveness on offense, a group that ranks No. 3 in the nation in passing offense (354 yards per game), total offense (549 yards per game) and scoring offense (46 points per game).

“We tried to mix it up during the game, but they’re very fast,” Muschamp said. “They’re very balanced and we didn’t stop them.”

Texas has two guaranteed games left this season and it has to win both to become bowl eligible.

Justin Tucker isn’t the best punter or the best kicker, but he might be the most important person Texas has ever seen at either position.

For the past decade, playing kicker for the Longhorns has been like playing running back for the Red Raiders — not usually a factor. Sure, there were some exceptions, but with an explosive offense, Texas head coach Mack Brown rarely needed a field goal or a punt.

That was then. This is now.

With this Longhorns team loaded with offensive struggles, Tucker has suddenly become one of Texas’ most dangerous weapons. He can punt and he can kick, and the combination of the two helped Texas beat Nebraska. Tucker connected on two field goals in the 20-13 victory, but he also contributed a 55-yard punt in the third quarter that was downed at the 3-yard line and a 67-yarder that was downed at the 5.

“The ball bounced right for us on Saturday,” Brown said. “And a lot of that had to do with Justin Tucker.”

Because of his success, Tucker became the first Longhorn to be named Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Week this season. But being a modest and laid-back person, Tucker gave credit where he felt credit was due.

“I’ve got to give some big props to Malcolm [Williams] for getting to the punt and downing it where we wanted it,” Tucker said.

Tucker even sent Williams a text message after the game saying, “Thanks for making me look good on that punt.”

“Anytime, Justin,” Williams replied.

Tucker’s surge as one of the most important players on the team can be attributed to his confidence. One teammate said he “might have the most swagger on the team,” and he’s a music aficionado. He can rap and make beats and don’t doubt him — while many football players choose kinesiology, Tucker is majoring in recording technology. He’s so hip-hop that his teammates call him, “J-Tuck.”

“Justin is ... ” Aaron Williams said while searching for words. “ ... Justin is very much a character.”

The 6-foot-1-inch, 185-pound Austin-native junior might not fit in with his teammates physically, but he makes up for it with his humor. He’s a huge South Park fan who can play video games with the best of them. But while most of his teammates are strictly into the football games, Tucker’s favorite video game is FIFA World Cup.

“Being an ex-soccer player, Justin’s got great control with his feet,” Brown said. “And he’s really good because of how well he can control the ball.”

With the rugby punt nailed down, the Texas coaches let Tucker experiment on Saturday. Instead of rolling right to kick it right, Tucker rolled right to kick across his body to kick left. As a result, the Nebraska punt returner didn’t know what to do, and it cost the Cornhuskers major field position.

“Sometimes people don’t give special teams enough credit,” Tucker said. “But they can turn out to be pretty huge down the road.”

With an abundance of close games, Tucker could be exactly right. He’s 11 for 13 this season, perfect from 40 yards or less and two for four from deeper. He’s constantly improving both his punting and kicking and is ready for a game winner like Hunter Lawrence had in last year’s Big 12 championship victory over Nebraska.

“I’ll get mine one day,” Tucker said.

With the weekend off, the Longhorn players had a chance to get away from football.

“It was definitely a great time to relax and have a normal Saturday,” said safety Blake Gideon. “I’m not used to those weekends, but bye weeks can be pretty nice to rest up and get fresh.”

Quarterback Garrett Gilbert enjoyed a nice round of golwith his father, Gail, and several family friends. Gilbert wasn’t very proud of his play, but in a closest-to-the-cup-style game, his score didn’t matter much.

“I was trying really hard to relax,” Gilbert said. “But I still wound up watching hours and hours of football all weekend.”

Cornerback Aaron Williams, whose muffed punt at the end of the Oklahoma game was heavily scrutinized, said he wanted to get as far away from Austin as possible. So he went one hour north to Florence for dove hunting and shot enough to make a meal out of it. His mother has a special recipe for dove that Williams can’t get enough of.

“She puts some jalapeno and cream cheese in there, and you can call it a day,” Williams said with a smile.

Defensive tackle Kheeston Randall went home to Beaumont for his mother’s cooking. She prepared shrimp alfredo and banana pudding, and he also got to attend his church in his hometown. But like many of his teammates, Randall just wound up watching football when he attended a game played by Lamar University.

“It was pretty cool to see my friends play, and I got to be a spectator for a change,” Randall said.

Practice dummy

Every Longhorn defensive player is well aware of the sensational game that Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez had Thursday night.

The dual-threat quarterback lit up Kansas State, passing for 128 yards on just seven attempts and rushing for 241 yards on 15 carries. On the season, he’s averaging a staggering 10.3 yards per pass, 10.8 yards per rush attempt and he also leads the country with 12 rushing touchdowns. With his ridiculous statistics, the Longhorns are already crediting him as a Heisman front-runner, and he’s drawing big comparisons.

“I don’t even remember Vince running for that many yards,” said head coach Mack Brown, forgetting about Young’s visit to Oklahoma State in 2005 when he rushed for 267 yards.

But to simulate Martinez’s abilities in practice, the coaches have utilized athletic scout team receiver Brock Fitzhenry, who played quarterback at Giddings High School. Fitzhenry has quite a resume — in 2008, as a senior at Giddings, he rushed for 9.2 yards per carry, and his 36 100-yard rushing games rank ninth in Texas high school football history.

“Brock does a good job for us, but it’s tough to simulate Martinez,” said defensive coordinator Will Muschamp. “He’s a great player who’s not only quick, but he’s very fast as well.”

Static depth chart

Despite losing consecutive games, the Texas coaches didn’t make many changes in the depth chart.

Freshman receiver Mike Davis, one of Texas’ most reliable playmakers early in the season, is probable for the game. Davis suffered a knee injury in the loss to UCLA and was unable to play against Oklahoma, but he’s listed as one of the either/or starters at flanker, along with seniors John Chiles and James Kirkendoll.

After a solid game against Oklahoma where he rushed for 53 yards on nine carries, junior Fozzy Whittaker is still the starter at running back.

On defense, sophomore Alex Okafor solidified his starting spot at defensive tackle on the inside with Randall. Muschamp praised Okafor’s progression and feels he gives the Longhorns the best chance to stop a Nebraska run game that averages 337.6 yards per game and ranks second in the nation.

“He’s improving every day,” Muschamp said. “He’s a guy who’s a really good athlete with a great attitude and work ethic, and he’s got a lot of potential for us in there.”

With the weekend off, the Longhorn players had a chance to get away from football.

“It was definitely a great time to relax and have a normal Saturday,” said safety Blake Gideon. “I’m not used to those weekends, but bye weeks can be pretty nice to rest up and get fresh.”

Quarterback Garrett Gilbert enjoyed a nice round of golwith his father, Gail, and several family friends. Gilbert wasn’t very proud of his play, but in a closest-to-the-cup-style game, his score didn’t matter much.

“I was trying really hard to relax,” Gilbert said. “But I still wound up watching hours and hours of football all weekend.”

Cornerback Aaron Williams, whose muffed punt at the end of the Oklahoma game was heavily scrutinized, said he wanted to get as far away from Austin as possible. So he went one hour north to Florence for dove hunting and shot enough to make a meal out of it. His mother has a special recipe for dove that Williams can’t get enough of.

“She puts some jalapeno and cream cheese in there, and you can call it a day,” Williams said with a smile.

Defensive tackle Kheeston Randall went home to Beaumont for his mother’s cooking. She prepared shrimp alfredo and banana pudding, and he also got to attend his church in his hometown. But like many of his teammates, Randall just wound up watching football when he attended a game played by Lamar University.

“It was pretty cool to see my friends play, and I got to be a spectator for a change,” Randall said.

Practice dummy

Every Longhorn defensive player is well aware of the sensational game that Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez had Thursday night.

The dual-threat quarterback lit up Kansas State, passing for 128 yards on just seven attempts and rushing for 241 yards on 15 carries. On the season, he’s averaging a staggering 10.3 yards per pass, 10.8 yards per rush attempt and he also leads the country with 12 rushing touchdowns. With his ridiculous statistics, the Longhorns are already crediting him as a Heisman front-runner, and he’s drawing big comparisons.

“I don’t even remember Vince running for that many yards,” said head coach Mack Brown, forgetting about Young’s visit to Oklahoma State in 2005 when he rushed for 267 yards.

But to simulate Martinez’s abilities in practice, the coaches have utilized athletic scout team receiver Brock Fitzhenry, who played quarterback at Giddings High School. Fitzhenry has quite a resume — in 2008, as a senior at Giddings, he rushed for 9.2 yards per carry, and his 36 100-yard rushing games rank ninth in Texas high school football history.

“Brock does a good job for us, but it’s tough to simulate Martinez,” said defensive coordinator Will Muschamp. “He’s a great player who’s not only quick, but he’s very fast as well.”

Static depth chart

Despite losing consecutive games, the Texas coaches didn’t make many changes in the depth chart.

Freshman receiver Mike Davis, one of Texas’ most reliable playmakers early in the season, is probable for the game. Davis suffered a knee injury in the loss to UCLA and was unable to play against Oklahoma, but he’s listed as one of the either/or starters at flanker, along with seniors John Chiles and James Kirkendoll.

After a solid game against Oklahoma where he rushed for 53 yards on nine carries, junior Fozzy Whittaker is still the starter at running back.

On defense, sophomore Alex Okafor solidified his starting spot at defensive tackle on the inside with Randall. Muschamp praised Okafor’s progression and feels he gives the Longhorns the best chance to stop a Nebraska run game that averages 337.6 yards per game and ranks second in the nation.

“He’s improving every day,” Muschamp said. “He’s a guy who’s a really good athlete with a great attitude and work ethic, and he’s got a lot of potential for us in there.”

Oklahoma beat Texas because of at least a dozen mistakes — Aaron Williams just so happened to commit the last one.

Saturday’s loss, the second consecutive for the once-mighty Longhorns, was another disaster that unfurled over the course of a warm, sunny afternoon in Dallas. With Texas deciding to scrap together a late comeback, Williams went to receive a punt that he couldn’t handle — it dropped from his hands and cost the Longhorns a chance to tie the 28-20 game.

Instantly devastated, Williams walked to the sideline in agony, but Texas head coach Mack Brown approached him with a simple message: “I made mistakes throughout the day, too,” Brown told him. “He did not lose the game for us. It’s never one kid’s fault when you lose a game that you play for four hours. He was one of the reasons we even had a chance.”

Brown was right about Williams’ play. He relentlessly shut down Oklahoma receiver Ryan Broyles, whose 482 yards entering the game ranked second in the nation. Williams was all over Broyles throughout the game and held him to just 36 yards. On one play that would’ve easily been a Top 10 play nominee, Williams was running full speed in coverage when he leapt backward and almost secured one of the most acrobatic interceptions in recent history.

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But just like the punt and the game’s ultimate decision, the interception bounced out of Williams’ hands. After the game, his teammates made sure they let a tearful Williams know how much the game wasn’t his fault.

“You just have to keep your head up, man,” running back Fozzy Whittaker told him. “This one was on all of us, not just you.”

When Williams emerged from the locker room to face the cacophony of the pesky post-game questions, his backfield teammate safety Blake Gideon stood beside him in his defense. Gideon even found a way to get Williams to crack a smile.

“You see, Aaron was just expecting me to block the punt,” Gideon said jokingly. “So after I wasn’t able to pull that off, it threw him off a bit. It’s really all my fault.”

It was the first step in forgetting the play that could have easily rocked Williams’ confidence for a long time if not for his supporting teammates like Gideon.

“He’s always there to pick me up whenever I’m down,” Williams said. “Through good times and through bad.”

Of all people, Gideon knows Williams’ pain. Two years ago, he let an easy interception slip through his fingers in a loss at Texas Tech that ultimately cost the Longhorns a shot at the national championship.

But Gideon got over that missed opportunity and Williams should, too. It’s downright silly to blame Williams for Saturday’s loss. Doing that assumes that Texas’ offense would’ve somehow been adept enough to march 50 yards down the field, score a touchdown then successfully pull off a two-point conversion in less than one minute.

Please.

This was the same offense that wouldn’t have scored a touchdown without two explosive plays from running backs D.J. Monroe and Cody Johnson. It was the same offense that couldn’t keep pace with how fast the once-heralded Texas defense was letting Oklahoma score. Not to mention, Texas had a chance to secure a fumble inside Oklahoma’s 10-yard line just two plays before the muffed punt, and penalties on the defense prolonged the Sooners’ drives on third downs all game long.

Put this one on anyone but Williams. To steal an old team adage, if the rest of the team would have been as consistently good as he was on Saturday, they would’ve been great.

“Something that we don’t do here at Texas is lose,” said defensive end Eddie Jones. “We have to find a way to go back and change these two losses and turn them into victories.”