Curtis Brown

NFL Draft

Former Longhorn defensive lineman Sam Acho was selected in the fourth round of the NFL Draft on Saturday. Acho will likely be moved to outside linebacker with his new team.

Photo Credit: Derek Stout | Daily Texan Staff

Prior to the 2011 NFL Draft, Arizona was the last place Sam Acho imagined he would be playing football.


On Saturday, the Cardinals surprised Acho when they selected him in the fourth round. Arizona didn’t bring in the former defensive standout for any type of workout or visit and caught him off-guard when the phone rang.


“I couldn’t even imagine being picked by the Cardinals,” Acho said. “I haven’t heard anything from them all the last couple months, so it’s a complete shocker to me.”


Arizona runs a 3-4 defense, and coaches told Acho they envisioned him as an outside linebacker. The Dallas native was recruited to Texas at that position, but transitioned to defensive end after two years.
Acho doesn’t see any trouble adjusting to his new role.


“I can learn that position easily,” he said. “I’ve done it before and I have a good feel for it.”


The NFL reverted to a lockout over the weekend, leaving draft picks without the chance to pick up their playbooks. Instead, Acho will seek counsel from former Longhorn teammate Brian Orakpo.


“I know he can give me a lot of good advice and we’re going to be running a similar defense as the Redskins, so I can’t wait to be able to talk to him about everything,” Acho said.

Steelers add another Horn


Curtis Brown will see some familiar faces when he begins the Pittsburgh Steelers’
training camp.


Brown will join former Texas star Casey Hampton on the Pittsburgh defense, as he becomes the fifth Longhorn on the Steeler’s roster — receiver Limas Sweed, and offensive linemen Tony Hills and Jonathan Scott are the others.


Head coach Mike Tomlin saw Brown work out in person during the Texas Pro Day in March, so it came as no surprise that Pittsburgh drafted the defensive back on Friday with the 95th overall pick.


What did surprise Brown was the fact that his name was still on the board at the end of the third round.
“I was waiting all day. I thought I was going to go earlier, but it didn’t happen,” he said.


Now that the waiting game is over, the Gilmer native can’t wait to get on the gridiron where his expectations for his rookie year are simple.


“Just being a player they can depend on in any situation,” he said. “Special teams — I’m down for that. If I make my way onto the field early, I’m going to make it happen. I’m going to contribute in any way.”

The 12th man


Chykie Brown was the last Longhorn to hear his name called on draft weekend, becoming the 12th Texas defensive back drafted in the past decade.


Baltimore nabbed Brown in the fifth round on Saturday with the 164th overall pick. The Ravens told the Houston native he lasted until the third day because of concerns about a forearm injury that ended his senior season after nine games.


But Brown had all but given up on watching the draft on TV when the Ravens came calling.


“I went to my cousin’s house down the street and we just turned the draft off and we just talked about some things to get my mind off of it,” he said. “I was actually in the car on my way home when I got the phone call and my heart started beating and I got excited.”


Now that he knows he’s wanted in Baltimore, Brown says he’s ready to get to work.


“They’re a team known for the defense and they like bigger cornerbacks, so I think I’ll fit in their scheme very well,” he said. “I just want to go up there and be able to show them what I’m about.”

Curtis Brown had every right to be angry.

After his second muffed punt inside the 20-yard-line on Saturday, he threw down his helmet, kicked it to the sideline and screamed profanities. He felt like the Longhorns’ loss to Baylor was all his fault. Obviously it wasn’t as if a loss can’t be placed on one man’s shoulders, but it’s easy to understand why he let his frustrations get the best of him considering the kind of week he had.

Last Tuesday before the Baylor game, Brown received a phone call every parent dreads — his 1-year-old daughter, Alayah, was in the hospital in Houston with a deadly respiratory illness.

Brown had to get to Houston immediately.

But before he could leave Austin, Brown’s name randomly popped up on a mandatory NCAA drug test that was scheduled for that Wednesday morning. He was told missing the test would cost him the standard penalty — a one-year suspension, which would have meant the end of his college football career because he is a senior.

“Bless his heart,” said head coach Mack Brown. “He got up at 5 Wednesday morning, took the test at 6 and got in the car and left.”

Curtis Brown arrived back in Austin on Friday in time to meet the team at the hotel it stays at before home games.

“Like anybody else would be, he was pretty distraught over the situation,” said defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, who consoled his cornerback throughout the week. “It’s tough. We wear a lot of hats other than just being a football coach here at Texas. You’re an adviser, you’re a consultant, you’re a friend. You wear a lot of hats in order to help these young men work through adversity.”

In order to prevent conflicts like Curtis’ in the future, Mack Brown explained that the NCAA needs some flexibility in its drug-testing penalties.

“We need to look at ways that we can get an emergency appeal in that situation because that’s not right,” he said. “It’s not fair to put a young man in an awful position and he didn’t know what to do.”

Sometimes other things in life take priority over football, and in a time when the Longhorns are getting ripped by fans and the media for their inconsistency and 4-4 record, it’s easy to forget that.

All of the Texas players and coaches were aware of Curtis Brown’s situation and supported him during the week.

“We prayed for him and encouraged him,” said senior defensive end Sam Acho. “That goes back to something bigger than football. That goes back to life and we can all learn lessons from that.”

After Curtis Brown lost his composure in the fourth quarter because of his second dropped punt, Acho was there to give his teammate a lift.

“I told him, and he knows this, but I told him that football is a team sport,” Acho said. “It’s not like golf or tennis where it’s just one-on-one. It’s a team sport and we’re all in this together. And that’s been the message and will continue to be the message regardless of the outcome.”

With the way Texas’ season has unfolded, the players and coaches have learned how to pick each other up and forge forward. Though Brown’s situation is much more intense than losing a football game, missing a tackle or botching a punt, this group has learned how to face and handle adversity.

“It’s not just about what happens on Saturday afternoon,” Muschamp said.

The Longhorns’ stat sheet after every game has been misleading when it comes to red zone conversions this year. For example, last weekend against Baylor, Texas was 4 of 4 in the red zone, but that’s because kicker Justin Tucker made four field goals, not because the offense scored touchdowns.

Head coach Mack Brown said at this time last year, the team was 24 of 38 in the red zone and this year they are 15 of 36. The Longhorns are driving downfield and getting into scoring position, they just aren’t finishing with touchdowns.

“The lack of production in the red zone has been unbelievable,” Brown said. “That percentage is killing us.”

Brown told offensive coordinator Greg Davis that they need to be more aggressive if they want to score more points, and one way to do that is to have quarterback Garrett Gilbert run more.

“I told Greg to go back and turn it loose,” Brown said. “We gotta score and we gotta take more chances.”


<strong>Making changes</strong>

For the past few weeks, punt returners Aaron Williams and Curtis Brown have muffed quite a few punts. But when asked if he’ll make a change, Brown has been adamant that those two players are the best the team has and they’ll continue to play that role.

After Brown dropped two punts against Baylor inside the 20-yard-line, Mack Brown said this week they would try out new players.

“Punt block/return has been the best in the country for us for years, and it has been a real struggle to say the least,” Brown said.

Curtis Brown is ranked 13th in the country in punt returns and has averaged 14.9 yards per return this season. However, he’s really struggled in that position. Brown said that defensive backs Christian Scott and Adrian Phillips and receiver Mike Davis will get a shot at returning this week.

<strong>Out for the season</strong>

Senior Michael Huey has likely played his final snap as a Longhorn. The starting left guard is out 4-6 weeks with a right knee injury that he suffered in the first half of the Baylor game last Saturday.

The timetable, however, is really code for out for the season as team trainer Kenny Boyd told Brown that Huey will not be healthy in time for Texas A&M, the last game of the regular season. It is unknown at this point if Huey would be healthy enough to play in a potential postseason game. Huey is now the third offensive lineman to go down with an injury this season. The first was right guard Tray Allen, who broke a bone in his left foot in the spring and re-aggravated it during fall camp, and the second was backup left tackle Luke Poehlmann, who tore his ACL against Wyoming.

“It’s a huge blow that we’ve lost another starting offensive lineman,” Brown said. “Especially since Michael Huey has been playing great.”

Huey has been the most consistent, hard-working offensive lineman for the Longhorns all season and the coaches have raved about his progression and leadership on the field.

The new starting left guard will be Trey Hopkins. Davis says he has a lot of confidence in the true freshman that Rivals.com ranked as the No. 1 offensive lineman in the 2010 recruiting class.

“Trey is extremely athletic,” Davis said. “He’s got a great wingspan, is very bright and has never complained. He’ll get better and better as he works out in the weight room and gets more snaps.”

When the ranked Baylor Bears walk into Austin and casually thump a helplessly unranked Texas team 30-22, nothing else is surprising.

But this one got red-in-the-face, helmet-kicking and meltdown-tirade-having ugly.

Late in the game, with Texas trailing by eight, a punt soared far behind returner Curtis Brown, but for some reason, he tried to make a play. When he muffed it, as Texas’ punt returners tend to do half the time, Baylor seemed to recover the ball. Symbolizing the entire 2010 season, Brown threw his helmet, screamed profanities and kicked his helmet, drawing a penalty. Texas coach Mack Brown consoled him to prevent further chaos from erupting on the sideline.

But after review of the play, the Longhorns were granted another chance. First-year starting quarterback Garrett Gilbert finally had his moment to march his team down the field for a win that meant something. He completed a pass, missed the next one, got sacked, then found Marquise Goodwin with breakaway, game-tying potential.

Fumble. Just when Gilbert was having a solid 22-of-39, 231-yard passing, 83-yard rushing kind of night in front of his predecessor, Colt McCoy, his receivers did exactly what they had consistently done all night – let him down.

“It’s part of football,” Gilbert said with his head down. “Those things happen, and they’re going to continue to happen.”

Instead of removing the bitter taste left by last week’s loss to Big 12 bottom feeder, Iowa State, the Longhorns kept chugging the vinegar. Their first home loss to Baylor since 1991 sends Texas deeper into the downward spiral of 2010. Now 4-4 on the season and 2-3 in Big 12 play, Texas can’t seem to find a way to slow its own demise.

“This is definitely a time of adversity, but the great teams come together in times like these, and we are a great team,” defensive end Sam Acho said in the post-game news conference. “We’re going to keep fighting and never give up.”

When Acho later repeated that answer on a different question, a reporter said, “We’re hearing a lot of the same answers from you guys, this has got to hurt. Tell me how you feel about this right now?” Defensive coordinator Will Muschamp snapped.

“I can honestly tell you they don’t feel good,” Muschamp said, raising his voice. “These guys are working their butts off, you understand that? All right, then let’s understand that.”

The tension eased when commander-in-chief Brown took the stage. After last week’s loss, it was Brown who spoke loudly, but this week, he seemed eerily defeated, admitting this is his most frustrating season at Texas.

“Congratulations to Baylor,” Brown said. “They have a good team. It’s by far the best they’ve had since we’ve been here.”

It was hard to tell whether the game was decided by Baylor’s talent or Texas’ ineptitude. The Longhorns had a 12-10 lead at halftime, thanks entirely to kicker Justin Tucker and his four field goals. But after Gilbert’s brief glimpse of brilliance gave Texas a nine-point lead to open the second half, Baylor’s fifth-ranked offense took control of the game. The Bears scored 20 straight points and held the ever-struggling Longhorns to just one more Tucker field goal.

“A couple of times throughout the game, our football IQ just seems to drop,” running back Fozzy Whittaker said. “Having as many losses as wins is a tough deal and a hard pill to swallow.”
 

Though they were lights out against one of the nation’s top rushing attacks, the Longhorns’ defense took a beating in Lincoln as several starters were injured.

Junior linebacker Keenan Robinson and sophomore safety Kenny Vaccaro were forced to miss the entire second half because of head injuries. Senior cornerback Curtis Brown hurt his back on a punt return, but played despite his constant grimaces. Junior linebacker Emmanuel Acho was limping around late in the fourth quarter.

Rather than panic, head coach Mack Brown and defensive coordinator Will Muschamp dug into their depth chart and pulled out freshman linebacker Jordan Hicks and defensive back Adrian Phillips.

“Jordan was in the right spots and played very well. He’s a very mature young man,” Muschamp said. “We’ve had an awful lot of confidence in him all along. He practices well, plays well, and the same goes for Adrian.”

With a defense so stout and in sync, younger players find it hard to crack the lineup, but sometimes, one player’s misfortune is another’s opportunity.

“We always tell the guys, ‘You never know when your number is going to be called and you better be ready when it is,’” Muschamp said. “We have a certain standard we’re going to play to here, and at the end of the day, we’re not going to say, ‘Well, we had an injury.’”

Hicks tied cornerback Aaron Williams to lead the team with eight tackles. Phillips didn’t play as much as Hicks, but he did break up a potential game-changing pass in the end zone in the fourth quarter.

<strong>Sackless in Lincoln</strong>

A sound offensive line is the key to a productive offense. But lately, the Longhorns have had difficulties executing any sort of running game.

Against Nebraska, the line blocked the best they had all year and created creases and gaps for quarterback Garrett Gilbert and the running backs to sneak through and rack up 209 yards — a season best.

“They’re definitely growing,” offensive coordinator Greg Davis said of his linemen. “They were much more in tune with getting their feet moving.”

After allowing a combined five sacks against UCLA and Oklahoma Texas held Nebraska without a sack.

“Everything we’d been emphasizing decided to explode [in the Nebraska game],” said senior left guard Michael Huey. “Something just clicked.”

Huey earned the Boss Hog Award, which honors the Longhorns’ most productive offensive lineman, for his performance against Nebraska, in which he made about five pancake blocks.

“Actually, it felt like more than that. I think I counted eight,” he said. “But regardless, that’s a lot of pancakes.”

<strong>‘W’ stands for fun</strong>

At Texas, to have fun means to win and losing is never an option. But for the past three weeks, the Longhorns have been mired in losses because of poor performances against UCLA and Oklahoma.

Before the team was rejuvenated by its win over Nebraska, frustration and failure seemed to have gotten the best of the Texas players and coaches. They were in no mood to chat during the weekly press conferences, with words short and not so sweet.

But in the past two press conferences, the whole team was upbeat, and smiles stretched across their faces, because they were having fun again.

“It’s amazing how winning changes everything,” Brown said. “When you win, it picks everything in your life up.”

Brown has made the school’s football program synonymous with winning and hadn’t been used to the alternative in quite some time.

“I’m spoiled like everyone else is around here; I can’t stand to lose,” he said. “But [losing] was probably good for us.”

Commentary

En route to beating the Cornhuskers 20-13 on Saturday, the Longhorns avoided making the major mistakes that doomed them in their previous two games in which they combined for seven turnovers and 17 penalties.

After stopping the Nebraska offense on its first possession on three plays, cornerback Curtis Brown came out to return a punt.

Off of a booming punt from Nebraska’s Alex Henery, Brown mishandled the ball as it fell to the ground around the 23-yard line of Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium. Having crucial fumbles lost on punt returns in both of the Longhorns past two games — rare back-to-back losses to UCLA and Oklahoma — Longhorn fans were probably on the edge of throwing their remote controls through the television in frustration.­

But before Longhorn fans could rip all of their hair out, Brown was able to quickly pick the ball up and return it 24 yards — setting up solid field position for the Longhorns who, eight plays later, got three points off a Justin Tucker field goal, giving them a lead they would not give up.

Texas managed to not turn the ball over and only had four turnovers, enabling them to upset fifth-ranked Nebraska.

With the win, the Longhorns returned to both The Associated Press and USA Today Coach’s polls on Sunday after a two-week absence, ranking 22nd in both. They also placed 19th in the debut of this year’s BCS poll.

While the Longhorns managed to avoid losing its third straight game, they remain in the race for a Big 12 South title. They will need to win the remainder of their games and get some help from other teams to set up a possible rematch with the Cornhuskers.

Winning the rest of their games is easier said than done, though, and head coach Mack Brown is making sure to remind his team about that before the Longhorns take on Iowa State at home this Saturday.

“I told them this is a waste unless we go back and win next week,” Brown said after the win. “We’ve got to continue to get better because we are not at a point where we can play poorly and beat anybody, so we’re going to have to play well each week to win.”

It will definitely help for them to get better each game, but what is most important is that they don’t shoot themselves in the foot like they had against UCLA and Oklahoma. It almost happened again with Nebraska when they brought back a Texas punt 95 yards for a scoring, cutting the deficit to seven.

The Longhorns are capable of finishing the season undefeated. Five of the remaining six games are at home. And even though they may not win those games by blowing out the opponent, a win is a win.

It appears that Texas will need to rely on its defense to shut down other teams. They completely silenced the Cornhusker offense, which prior to their matchup with Texas, destroyed everything in sight. They stopped a Heisman Trophy contender that no one else could stop.

“We had the two losses the past two weeks and we wanted to get that taste out of our mouths, and thankfully we did this week,” said defensive end Sam Acho.

The taste of defeat is gone and winning is in the air. Texas is back on the right track and all is right in the world.