Greg Davis

Photo Credit: Sam Ortega | Daily Texan Staff

Greg Davis calls them “God winks”: Little connections in life that are too significant to be brushed off as mere coincidences. 

Davis quit his corporate job to chase these “God winks” on a year-long photography journey around the world and has gone from selling his prints out of a chicken coop to being a professional photographer for National Geographic.

In 2004, after working in Austin for nine years in technology marketing at Dell, COMPACT Technologies and Hewlett-Packard, Davis reached a low point in his life. 

“I was 35 years old, I was in technology and I just knew that it wasn’t for me,” Davis said. “Something was missing. My dad died. I had seven family members die in eight years. [I was] attacked by a gang. A lot of stuff hit me all at once and broke me down pretty good.”

Determined to clear his head and take some time for himself, Davis decided to sell all of his belongings and travel around the world for one year. Equipped with a $400 point-and-shoot camera and no formal photography training, he traveled to Turkey, India, Thailand, Australia and several other countries. 

A picture Davis took capturing the color-stained hands of a woman in Vietnam sparked his pursuit of a career in photography. In May 2010, National Geographic contacted him to establish a contract, and he is currently an active National Geographic creative photographer, one of 226 photographers worldwide selected to create a database of photos that the magazine can use or sell to print media, websites or branding campaigns. 

“I think one thing that you see in Greg’s work that you don’t see in a lot of other people’s is that he has the ability to capture the genuine spirit of humankind worldwide,” said Sarah Patton, who works in business representation for photographers. “You see glimpses into what a day in their life might be like. I think that touches people and it’s interesting. There’s an enormous amount of color [and] a robustness. It kind of draws you into the photos.”

Davis returned to India in February to document the world’s largest spiritual pilgrimage, Kumbh Mela, through photographs and film. The pictures and footage from the 18 days he spent living in a tent and witnessing millions of people flocking to the sacred grounds will be displayed in Midland, Texas at the Museum of the Southwest in November. 

Davis is also working on a book that will depict a photographic journey of hands around the world, a common motif in his work. His work now is almost enitrely focused on portraits.

“He’s open to the unexpected,” Davis’ studio partner Bill Stidham said. “He captures life and emotions and the soul of people.”

Davis has displayed his work in the vendor section of the Austin City Limits Music Festival for the past seven years. Roughly 6,000 people stopping by Davis’s booth each day and his work has been purchased by people from the U.S., Costa Rica, Mexico, Canada and Sweden.  

“People come by and I think [they are] drawn to that thing that I’m capturing, that spirituality, that connectedness that you see in my work,” Davis said. “If somebody gets it, and they resonate with it, and they walk away with the feeling they’ve either learned something or been inspired, they don’t need to give me money. I get equally the amount of satisfaction out of someone on a deep level appreciating what I do.”

Greg Davis (left), who coached at Texas for 13 seasons, is now the offensive coordinator at Iowa and will make his debut with the team on Saturday. He led the Texas offense to a national title in 2005. The team averaged averaged 50.2 points per game that season.[Daily Texan File Photo]

Photo Credit: Amanda Martin | Daily Texan Staff

Big Ten Media Days wrapped up July 27 with the overwhelming majority of attention directed toward the Penn State scandal. Football will go on, and many of the Big Ten teams have generated a lot of excitement.

One team with potential upside, the Iowa Hawkeyes, made some changes this offseason, most notably for Texas fans, hiring former offensive coordinator Greg Davis. Head coach, Kirk Ferentz, and quarterback James Vandenberg have nothing but respect and enthusiasm for the 61-year-old offensive coordinator.

“How much he knows and how excited he gets, he’ll run all the way down the field after a big play in practice,” Vandenberg said.

A second-year starter, Vandenberg knows how much experience Davis has, as far as coaching different skill sets.

“He handed it to Ricky Williams 40 times, ran the zone, read with Vince Young and threw it almost every play with Colt McCoy,” Vandenberg said at Big Ten Media Days in Chicago. “All three players are arguably the greatest offensive weapons in the history of Longhorn football and aren’t a bad trio to have on a coaching resume.”

Ferentz, coming into his 14th season as Iowa’s head coach, had no doubt about hiring Davis after his stint on the 40 Acres. With references from Miami Dolphins head coach, Joe Philbin, and former Indianapolis head coach, Jim Caldwell, Ferentz heard nothing but great things about Davis, who has garnered much respect from the coaching landscape.

Davis led the Longhorns offense from 1998 to 2010 and for a 9-year stretch (2000-2009) within that period had Texas averaging 39 points per game, ranking first nationally among BCS schools. During the national title run in 2005, the Longhorns offense racked up 652 points, an NCAA record at the time, averaging 50.2 points per game.

However, with all the accolades, one of the big criticisms of Davis in his time at Texas was that he was a buttoned-down play caller and did not utilize the immense talent available — the same criticisms directed toward Ken O’Keefe, the longtime Iowa offensive coordinator who resigned in February to take the wide receivers’ coaching job with the Dolphins.

When questioned about Davis’ play-calling, Ferentz pointed to his track record at Texas consisting of tremendous long-term success.

“The offensive coordinator position has become a lightning rod in football, and Greg knows that it comes with the territory,” Ferentz said, “If you look at Greg’s statistics, it’s almost laughable to question his coaching ability.”

Ferentz continued on to reemphasize his lightning rod analogy.

“If Vince Lombardi were alive today and were an offensive coordinator, he’d be getting ripped on Sundays the first time his team lost,” he said.

It goes without question that Davis was and still is a remarkable coach with incredible ability to develop quarterbacks and coach to certain players’ abilities. It might not have been so evident in his final season on the 40 Acres, during which the offense averaged 23.8 points per game, pairing together with a 5-7 season; but make no mistake, a Greg Davis-led offense can score points. Perhaps a fresh start is all that’s needed.

Printed on Friday, August 31, 2012 as: Davis to make coaching debut with Iowa

Iowa excited about its new offensive coordinator

CHICAGO -- For my summer internship in the Windy City, I was given the chance to cover the Big Ten media days Thursday and Friday at the Hyatt Regency downtown.


The overwhelming majority of attention was, of course, directed towards the Penn State scandal. However, when it got down to the subject at hand -- football -- I saw a conference looking forward to the future, with talented young teams ready to emerge.


One team with upside, the Iowa Hawkeyes, made some changes this offseason -- most notably for Texas fans, hiring former offensive coordinator Greg Davis. I sat down with head coach Kirk Ferentz and senior quarterback James Vandenberg to discuss their new play-caller.


Vandenberg, a second-year starter, knows how well Davis has adjusted his offense to particular skill sets in the past.

 

“He handed it to Ricky Williams forty times, ran the zone read with Vince Young, and threw it almost every play with Colt McCoy," said Vandenberg, who threw for 3,022 yards and 25 touchdowns as a junior. "He knows a lot."

 

Vandenberg is also impressed with Davis' fire.

 

“[I've noticed] how excited he gets, he’ll run all the way down the field after a big play in practice.”


Ferentz, coming into his fourteenth season at the helm of the Iowa program, had no doubt about hiring Davis after he took a year off. With references from Miami Dolphins head coach, Joe Philbin and former Indianapolis head coach, Jim Caldwell, Ferentz heard nothing but great things about the 61-year-old Davis and the respect he has garnered around the coaching landscape.


One of the big criticisms of Davis at Texas was being a buttoned-down play caller at times, and not utilizing the immense talent available, which just so happens to be the same criticisms directed towards Ken O’Keefe, the longtime Iowa offensive coordinator who resigned in February to take the wide receivers coaching job with the Dolphins.

 

Ferentz isn't having any of that, or the unfair fact that offensive coordinators scapegoats for a struggling football team.

 

“The offensive coordinator position has become a lightning rod in football, and Greg knows that it comes with the territory,” Ferentz said. "If you look at Greg’s statistics, it’s almost laughable to question his coaching ability. If Vince Lombardi were alive today and was an offensive coordinator, he’d be getting ripped on Sundays the first time his team lost.”


It goes without question that Davis was and still is a remarkable coach with incredible ability to develop quarterbacks and coach up to certain abilities. That touch might not have been so evident in 2010, his final year with the Longhorns, but as writer Robert Brault once said, “Time is a figure eight, at its center the city of Déjà vu.”
 

Originally posted on Jan. 2, 2012

The Longhorns welcomed six new coaches in 2011 and they helped bring a three-win improvement to the program: from 5-7 to 8-5. Texas played some of its best ball in California--a 49-20 win over UCLA on Sept. 17 and a 21-10 win in the Holiday Bowl against Cal on Wednesday--and with that in mind, our season review of the Longhorns' coaching additions comes with the flavor of a Hollywood movie review. All reviews are out of five stars.

Manny Diaz--defensive coordinator: 4 1/2 stars
Previous school: Mississippi State

Diaz was a blockbuster hit for Texas in his first season in Austin. He was the architect of the Big 12 Conference's No. 1 defense, getting the most out of a unit that failed to live up to expectations under Will Muschamp. Diaz integrated his new schemes quickly and garnered a lot of praise from head coach Mack Brown for his strong communication skills with the players. The Longhorns raved about Diaz and relished playing in his defense. Texas forced a season-high five turnovers in the Holiday Bowl to end the season in impressive fashion, and the defense will only improve as the Longhorns become more comfortable with Diaz's philosophies. He inherited a defense with an unproven secondary and a thin defensive line, but that didn't stop UT from ranking No. 11 nationally in total defense (315.33 yards per game) and No. 8 against the run (103.67 ypg). Still, the only thing holding Diaz back from a 5-star rating was his squad's penchant for giving up the big play (long scoring plays doomed the Longhorns in each of their five losses).

Bryan Harsin--offensive coordinator: 3 stars
Previous school: Boise State

Harsin resembled a big-budget, 3-D film: flashy, fun, but lacking in substance. The more you examined him, the more flaws you found. For every brilliant gadget play that resulted in a touchdown, there was a head-scratching call and a trend of going away from the running game too early. Granted, it's not easy for a team to fully grasp a new offensive scheme and playbook, and Harsin wasn't blessed with Vince Young or Colt McCoy under center. He made the most of what he inherited from Greg Davis for the most part, and UT put up a modest 404 yards per game. Still, Harsin abandoned the Longhorns No. 19 rushing attack (210.42 ypg) far too often. Injuries to Malcolm Brown, Joe Bergeron, Fozzy Whittaker and Jaxon Shipley limited his play calls, but when his playmakers were in the game they were often overlooked. The quarterback situation was a mess and Harsin never settled on David Ash or Case McCoy as the starter, though neither player ever separated himself and entered the season with one career pass attempt between them. But Harsin's trick plays were a joy to watch and his creativity was a welcome sight. He wasn't a box-office flop, but the sequel should yield better results as the Longhorns grow in his system.

Stacy Searels--offensive line: 3 1/2 stars
Previous school: Georgia

Searels was like a new director overseeing a successful movie franchise: putting his own twist on a formula that worked for years. Searels, though, toughened Texas in the trenches and brought a mean streak to the men up front. After years of zone blocking, the Longhorns reverted to a downhill blocking scheme similar to the unit's Searels coached with and against in the Southeaster Conference. He developed redshirt freshman Dominic Espinosa into a reliable starter and found a star in the making in rookie tackle Josh Cochran. Searles inherited a relatively soft line and morphed them into a mean bunch, though they didn't bring that mentality to all 13 games. It will take more than just one season to change the culture up front, but Searels has Texas headed in the right direction.

Darrell Wyatt--wide receivers: 3 stars
Previous school: Kansas

Wyatt compared to a low-budget, independent film in his first season with UT: trying to get the most out of an inexperienced group while trying to keep up with the high-powered passing attacks of the Big 12. Wyatt inherited a young receiving corps and didn't get a chance to work with junior Marquise Goodwin until after the season-opener. Shipley missed time with a knee injury and sophomore Mike Davis also vanished at times, though it wasn't because of injuries. The constant shuffling made it tougher on Wyatt and Texas never established a reliable passing game--you can blame poor QB play for that as well. While the receivers didn't have the best hands, they were an excellent blocking group and assisted the running game more than in previous years. Still, Wyatt couldn't get promising sophomore Darius White to the next level, and he left the program before the bowl game. If Wyatt can continue to get his players to block downfield, the passing game will come around with Austin High product Cayleb Jones coming next season.

Bo Davis--defensive tackles: 3 1/2 stars
Previous school: Auburn

Davis was a solid addition to the Texas staff in 2011, similar to a good movie that would be a good rental if you didn't catch it in theaters. Davis won't win any awards for his work, but the defensive line improved under him. He found reliable backups to Kheeston Randall in Calvin Howell and Ashton Dorsey: a pair that will only improve over the next few seasons. Davis' tackles were solid in the middle and controlled the line of scrimmage. He also did wonders with Chris Whaley, who moved to tackle after beginning his career as a running back. Davis' group was above average, though they were gashed for a few big runs. He has room to improve, but Davis proved to be a smart hire.

Bennie Wylie--strength and conditioning: 4 stars
Previous School: Tennessee

Wylie's first year on the 40 Acres was like a critically acclaimed foreign film: hard to judge by most, but impressive nonetheless. Wylie got the Longhorns back into shape after they slacked off in the 2010 offseason following a National Championship loss. Texas was stronger, faster and better conditioned this year, and Wylie was a player favorite. Fozzy Whittaker was in the best shape of his career before a knee injury ended his senior season, and Wylie played a big role in Whittaker's impressive season. He didn’t directly contribute to any wins, but Texas was a good fourth quarter team thanks to Wylie's offseason conditioning and weight training programs.

Seeking to add some punch to an offense that faltered badly last season, Texas coach Mack Brown hired Boise State offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin on Friday to handle the play-calling for the Longhorns.

Harsin will share the offensive coordinator title with former Texas quarterback Major Applewhite, who has been on staff the last three seasons as running backs coach.

"What a great opportunity to come to a place like Texas with its rich history and tradition," Harsin said. "We've had success at Boise State over the years, but you look at a Texas and it has been a championship program for a long, long time and it's just one of those places you want to be a part of."

Harsin replaces Greg Davis, who won a national championship with Texas in 2005 and played for another in 2009, but resigned after the Longhorns went 5-7 last season.

Harsin spent 10 seasons on the Boise State staff, the last five as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. He was a finalist for the 2009 Broyles Award given to the nation's top assistant coach.

Under Harsin, the Broncos had one of the nation's most potent offensive attacks. Boise State went 61-5 over the last five seasons. The Broncos ranked among the top scoring teams in the country under his play calling.

"Bryan and Major working together gives us two of the best, young offensive minds in the country," Brown said.

Hiring Harsin is the latest move in Texas coach Mack' Brown staff shake-up. On Thursday, Texas introduced new defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, who spent last season with Mississippi State. Five Texas assistants, including defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, who had been designated as Brown's successor, left the program to take other jobs or resigned or retired.

Muschamp left Texas to be the head coach at Florida.

Davis had been with Brown at Texas since 1997 and had led some of the most successful offenses in program history. But he was the frequent target of fan frustration when Texas lost, which reached a fever pitch in Texas' dismal 2010 season.

Head coach Mack Brown put an end to speculation Monday with an e-mailed statement announcing the resignation of embattled offensive coordinator Greg Davis and two other Texas coaches.

Davis came to Texas with Brown in 1998 and was part of the school’s record nine consecutive 10-win seasons from 2001 to 2009. He drew criticism this year for running an offense that finished No. 59 in the country in total yardage, good enough for a spot between Central Florida and Duke. Texas went 5-7, its only losing season under Brown and first since 1997, and will not appear in the postseason.

Offensive line coach Mac McWhorter and defensive line coach Mike Tolleson also announced their retirements from coaching.

McWhorter produced five current NFL players and two collegiate All-Americans during his nine years in Austin. Tolleson coached current pros Lamarr Houston and Roy Miller, plus four others, in his 13 years at Texas.

“They are not only great coaches but men who handled themselves with tremendous integrity, class and dignity on and off the field during their time here,” Brown said. “I want to say, ‘Thank you,’ and wish them well, because they will be missed.”

The outgoing coaches have experienced the highest of highs and lowest of lows while at Texas, from the BCS National Championship in 2005 to this year’s seven-loss season.

Davis was especially successful, as he led some of the most prolific offenses in school history. In 2005, the Texas offense scored a then-record 652 points in a single season, and he was given the Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant coach.

Davis also served as quarterbacks coach, where he presided over two runners-up for the Heisman Trophy — Vince Young in 2005 and Colt McCoy last year. He was coordinator when Ricky Williams won the award in 1998.

“It’s been a pleasure working with not only all of the great quarterbacks I’ve been fortunate enough to coach but all of the terrific young men on both sides of the ball,” Davis said. “I will miss all of the players, coaches and staff, but I will always have great memories of the success the players and the teams I was part of were able to achieve.”

Davis’ resignation does not take effect until Aug. 31, 2011, but Brown said the search for a replacement would begin immediately.

McWhorter, who has coached football for 37 years, is thankful for all of the memories he has had at Texas.

“I feel blessed to have worked with some of the best coaches and men in the profession,” McWhorter said. “Lastly, I have a deep love and appreciation for the players that I have coached and been associated with at Texas. They are a special group.”

Tolleson has been responsible for putting together and maintaining a rush defense that was ranked in the top six from 2006 to 2009, when the Longhorns allowed the fewest rushing yards in the nation.

“It’s been the ultimate for me as a football coach to be at a place like the University of Texas,” Tolleson said.
 

Nothing is for certain, but rumors are circulating about the fate of Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis.

The Texas Rivals website, Orangebloods.com, first reported last Thursday that head coach Mack Brown had fired Davis, but nothing official has been released from the athletic department since then.

Brown, who began his post-season evaluation of the disastrous 5-7 season last Monday, plans to take his time making serious decisions that will affect the future of the football program. Not to mention replacing Davis would be one of the hardest decisions of Brown’s career, as the two are close friends and have coached together for 16 years dating back to their days at Tulane and North Carolina.

But something is definitely going down — Greg Davis was even a nationally trending topic on Twitter for a few hours last week when the rumors first broke.

Sunday, the Austin American-Statesman reported that Davis told writer Kevin Robbins that he had not resigned, despite tips that a decision would be made by that afternoon. Davis said he and Brown will continue to evaluate the situation at hand on Wednesday after Brown returns from New York City, where he is attending the annual National Football Foundation scholar-athlete banquet and functions associated with the college football hall of fame.

It wouldn’t be surprising if Davis were fired. Though he molded Vince Young and Colt McCoy into some of college football’s all-time greats, rewrote the record books while helping Texas to a national championship in 2005 (the offense averaged 50.2 points per game that year) and coached in a second title game in ’09, he is considered the bad guy when Texas isn’t playing well.

From 2000-04, Texas lost five straight to Oklahoma and averaged less than 11 points per game in those contests. Much of the blame was put on Davis’ shoulders. A firing was also reported in 2003, but nothing ever came of it.

This season Davis was criticized for trying something new. With first-year starter Garrett Gilbert, who is not considered a dual-threat quarterback like Young or McCoy, Davis deviated from the successful spread offense and tried out pro-style with a balanced offensive attack.

That design didn’t quite fit the talent. Texas never was very balanced and finished the year as the 59th-ranked offense in the league. The group failed to score touchdowns and now Texas is home for the holidays instead of preparing for the post-season. It’s the first time the program has not made a bowl since 1997.

Texas expected a smooth transition from McCoy to Gilbert, but that did not happen as Gilbert threw 17 interceptions (two shy of the school record) and just nine touchdown passes.

The Monday before the Texas A&M game, Davis wasn’t worried about the state of his job.

“I’ve never felt like I was coaching for my job,” Davis said. “I got into this because I love the game and I can’t imagine doing anything else. When the alarm went off at this this morning, I jumped up excited to come to work.”

But changes must be made. A 5-7 record is atrocious and something the Texas football program cannot swallow.

If Davis were fired, it would cause a domino effect in the offensive staff. It’s unlikely Brown would hire a new offensive coordinator and keep the rest of his old staff, so if Davis goes, what does that mean for running backs coach Major Applewhite and tight ends coach Bruce Chambers? Chambers is one of the program’s best recruiters.

If Brown wants to keep the offensive duties inside the Texas family, maybe Applewhite will be promoted to coordinator. There’s also talk that defensive tackles coach/special teams coordinator Mike Tolleson and offensive line coach Mac McWhorter are going to retire and that receivers coach Bobby Kennedy is searching for a job out west.

There are a lot of variables in this equation, which is why Brown is taking his time re-evaluating. Don’t count on anything official being released until later this week — maybe after the team’s annual banquet on Friday night.

Now that the damage has been done, it’s time to sift through the ashes of Texas football to find where to go from here.

The most important thing about the disastrous 2010 season is looking forward to 2011. What changes need to be made to ensure that this was one fluke season and not a long-term fall from grace?

“I have a lot of work to do here,” said head coach Mack Brown. “There’s no time frame on it, no timetable.”

The first thing Brown will do is assess his coaching staff. He’s never been a fan of firing assistant coaches, but after his worst season since 1989, when The B-52’s ruled the world, he’s reached a boiling point. Heavy rumors have already started about coaches “resigning” or “retiring,” and that’s the first step in the right direction. Even Brown will tell you where most of the problems came from this year.

“I think it goes back on coaches, it’s not talent,” Brown said. “People have said it’s talent — it’s not.”

Only the Texas coaching staff could get so little production out of such a promising roster. Too many of the coaches are too outdated in their tactics and stubborn in their ways to be successful in this innovative age of college football. Watch any top 10 team play in their bowl games, and you’ll see an emphasis on execution, desire and creativity — three elements lacking with Texas’ 2010 offense.

The irony is the fact that Texas was ahead of the pack for years by fielding a dual-threat quarterback in the zone-read system. But for some reason, maybe as a ploy to attract better running back recruits, offensive coordinator Greg Davis slammed the brakes and reversed to 1997 when pro-style offenses were all the rage. Unfortunately, the Longhorns were also 4-7 that year, almost as bad as this year’s 5-7 end result.

Immediately following the Texas A&M game, Davis made his final plea with his usual Hank Hill can’t-love-him-but-you-have-to-hate-him demeanor and drawl.

“I think our program is in a solid foundation,” Davis said. “This is obviously a disappointing season, but these are some things that are correctable.”

No matter who’s controlling Texas’ offense next season, he should have plenty of promising weapons. The leading receiver, James Kirkendoll, will be gone, but the bright spots of 2010, freshman wide out Mike Davis and sophomore receiver Marquise Goodwin, will be back.

Also arriving on campus very soon is Jaxon Shipley, Jordan’s little brother. Be very excited about him. Half of this season’s struggles were a result of the loss of the big brother, but scouts say the younger is twice as ready for college football as his brother was. He’s got amazing route-running abilities and will make the acrobatic catch on wild throws and poorly placed balls.

Speaking of which, as bad as quarterback Garrett Gilbert was in his first year as Texas’ starting quarterback, he wasn’t that bad. Sure, he led the nation in interceptions and had one of the worst completion percentages, quarterback ratings and decision-making ability in the history of man, but count on that to make him stronger.

Colt McCoy threw more interceptions on fewer attempts in his sophomore year, but he used his struggles to come back with the most accurate season in college football history and a runner-up in the Heisman Trophy voting.

If Gilbert wants to change where his legacy now stands, it’s all up to him.

But if he’s going to improve as a quarterback, he’ll need some help from a running back. From the spring depth chart, one running back was academically ineligible, one was forced to retire, one was disappointing and the other showed glimpses. The last thing Texas was expecting was for the one-dimensional Gilbert to finish second on the team in rushing yards — that’s not good.

Next year, he’ll have five-star recruit Malcolm Brown, who can beat you with speed around the outside or bulldoze through the middle, a combination Texas has lacked for years.

No matter who it is, one thing is for sure — Texas needs a savior. 

With a bitter cold draft sweeping into Texas DKR Memorial Stadium, the Texas Longhorns witnessed the death of their disastrous 2010 season as rival Texas A&M triumphed 24-17.

Ending without bowl eligibility, the Longhorns (5-7, 2-6 Big 12) depart with a rare November exit after playing January bowl games the past two seasons. It marks the first time since head coach Mack Brown’s arrival in 1998 that the Longhorns fail to play in a bowl game.

“It’s not something you think about happening until it hits you,” said running back Fozzy Whittaker. “We really don’t even know what to do with ourselves right now – it was a really sad locker room.”

No. 17 Texas A&M (9-3, 6-2) entered the last of the traditional Thanksgiving matchups in the foreseeable future as the heavy favorite. The Aggies were led in the game by running back Cyrus Gray, who ran for 223 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries, including one monstrous 84-yard run in the second quarter that swung the momentum in the Aggies’ favor.

“They just made one more play than us,” said defensive end Sam Acho. “That’s the toughest part of all of this.”

But what really doomed Texas in the end was turnovers. The Longhorns had 359 yards – 140 rushing and 219 passing – just seven yards fewer than the Aggies’ 366, compiled from 128 passing and 238 rushing. But the four turnovers by Texas, two interceptions and two fumbles, cost the Longhorns in times when they seemed to be gaining momentum.

“They’re costly,” said offensive coordinator Greg Davis. “We all know how costly they are, and we put our defense in a bind.”

First-year quarterback Garrett Gilbert’s season finale epitomized his season – glimpses of greatness followed by epic collapses. Gilbert completed 20 of 37 passes for 219 yards and one touchdown but also threw two huge interceptions. With those turnovers, Gilbert ends his season as the nation’s leader in interceptions thrown.

“At this point, it’s tough to look back on the entire year,” Gilbert said. “No one in that locker room wants to feel what we’re feeling right now. The fumbles and interceptions just killed us.”

In shock and disbelief, most of the players were adamant in taking the blame after the loss.

“I can’t stand the taste in my mouth right now,” said safety Blake Gideon. “You couldn’t have paid me a million dollars to believe this would happen.”

But Brown expressed a different sentiment. Amid swirling rumors that he will shake up his coaching staff, Brown only fueled the speculation after the loss.

“It was obvious that our players were as good as theirs, but it goes back on our coaches,” Brown said. “There’s a lot of evaluation that needs to be done.”

Texas finishes with the most turnovers of the Brown era and the worst scoring year since 1991. The defense was the worst since the arrival of defensive coordinator Will Muschamp in 2008, but Texas’ coaching staff stood in defense of the current establishment.

“I think our program is in a solid foundation,” Davis said. “This is obviously a disappointing season, but these are some things that are correctable.”

Whether or not the same coaching staff returns, the seniors have played their final game in a Texas uniform. As the leader of the team, Acho sent a resounding message of what Texas’ worst season in 13 years means for the future.

“We learned as people what we could’ve done better,” Acho said. “I know that everything happens for a reason, and this team can come back with a fire and passion that Texas has ever seen before.”
 

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.”