Pace of practice dictates Longhorns' on-field performance

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Kenny Vaccaro and Mykkele Thompson jump in celebration after Thompson’s fumble recovery late in the third quarter against Baylor. Texas implemented a more physical practice schedule the week before facing the Bears and was able to force two turnovers.
Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

There’s nothing quite like two-a-days for a football player. It’s a signal the season is only weeks away and it’s the most difficult and physically challenging time of the year. Then when the season starts, the vigor in practice gets taken down a notch.

Normally the drop is not a problem, but it’s been an issue for the Longhorns. According to head coach Mack Brown, practice is the best indicator of how a team will perform, and during Texas’ two-game losing streak in which it gave up 111 points, the team practiced flat.

In order to remedy the issue the players kicked up the intensity leading into the Baylor game, and it paid off. Texas still allowed 50 points to the country’s No. 1 ranked offense, but it was the groups’ most emotional performance in weeks.

“The whole mood has kind of changed in the locker room and on the field,” safety Kenny Vaccaro said. “It’s a lot more physical across
the board.”

But the physical nature on the practice field can’t only last a week. It has to be a continuing mindset. If not, a team could lull into a false sense of security.

The Big 12 is too difficult of a test for a team to meander through practice and all of a sudden flip on the switch at kickoff. Every team in the conference, with the exception of Kansas, has a record of .500 or better, and without a fevered effort each week, Monday through Friday, Texas could get beat any given Saturday.

“We’ve got to continue to be that intense and we’ve got to do it every day,” Brown said. “We can’t afford to have a Saturday where we don’t play at high energy.”

When the energy drops, not only can the Longhorns lose — they can get destroyed.

Never was that more evident than in Texas’ 63-21 loss to Oklahoma two weeks ago. The Longhorns showed up to the Cotton Bowl flat and were clobbered as a result.

It was a game that stung and was the main source of the increased intensity level in practice leading up to Baylor.

But now Texas is coming off a win, and, once again, it will be up to the players to display the same level of emotional fire. It’s really easy to get ready for a rival like Baylor, but it will be a different test for Texas to find motivation against a lowly Kansas squad.

It won’t be easy, but the sting from the Oklahoma loss hasn’t ebbed quite yet.

“We need to keep the same mindset we had coming off of OU,” offensive lineman Trey Hopkins said. “We were an angry team. We had something to prove, and we practiced that way throughout the week. We had a chip on our shoulder. We can’t let this win soften us by making us feel comfortable.”

Former NBA All-Star Allen Iverson once mouthed off in a press conference “we’re sitting here talking about practice, not a game, not a game, not a
game, but we’re talking about practice.”

It made for one of the greatest sound bites of all-time, but if Texas hopes to blast through the remainder of the Big 12 schedule, Iverson’s advice is the last thing the team needs to follow. For Texas, it really is all about practice.

Printed on Friday, October 26, 2012 as: Change of pace in practice pays off for Horns