By Cam Huffman
The 1985 Chicago Bears. The 1972 Miami Dolphins. The 1971 Nebraska Cornhuskers. The 1945 Army Black Knights. The 2012 West Virginia Mountaineers.
How is the last team on the list different than the others? If you listen to Texas head coach Mack Brown, not much.
Brown has had nothing but praise, and plenty of it, for WVU this week as his 11th-ranked Longhorns (4-0) prepare to take on No. 8 WVU (4-0) Saturday at 7 p.m. on FOX.
“They’ve got absolutely no weaknesses,” said Brown, who has won two Big 12 championships and one BCS National Championship in 15 years at Texas. “They’re similar with their production to what we were doing in ‘05 with Vince Young (a team that won the BCS championship) and what USC was doing (that same year) with the two Heisman Trophy candidates (Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart). That’s the kind of offense they are. They can put up huge numbers easy and fast.”
According to Brown, it all starts with senior quarterback Geno Smith, whom he mentioned in the same breath as some of the greats.
“As good as our quarterbacks have been, he’s playing as good or better than any quarterback we’ve ever had,” said Brown, who coached both Vince Young (the 2005 Manning Award winner and a two-time NFL Pro Bowler) and Colt McCoy (the 2008 Heisman Trophy runner-up). “It’s just unbelievable. He hasn’t made a mistake, and there’s a tremendous amount of pressure on him trying to handle the hype and all the Heisman stuff. We’ve been through that here with Vince, Ricky (Williams, the 1998 Heisman Trophy winner) and a lot of our guys. It’s a very difficult thing to do, and he seems unbothered by it. He plays the same each week, and he’s got three of the best receivers I’ve ever seen.
“Geno’s thrown 20 touchdowns and no interceptions,” he continued. “He’s probably ahead of the curve that (2011 Heisman Trophy winner) Robert Griffin set last year. He’s got to be a leader for the Heisman. He just makes no mistakes. He’s very confident. He’s very smart. Their receivers are unbelievable. They’ve got two good backs. They’ve got three seniors in a huge offensive line up front. I think they might be as good as any offense we’ve ever seen.”
So how do Brown and defensive coordinator Manny Diaz plan on putting the breaks on the Mountaineers’ jet-powered attack?
“I’ve been down there three times,” said Brown of trips to the offices of Texas’ defensive staff. “(Manny’s) got his door closed and he’s under the desk. It’s been hard to communicate with the defensive staff so far. I can’t find them. They’re just sick trying to figure out how to slow them down. You’re not going to stop them. You’ve just got to try to figure out how to slow them down.”
If there’s an advantage for Texas, it comes with just having faced Oklahoma State last week. WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen was the offensive coordinator for the Cowboys in 2010, and Brown, whose team was able to pull off a 41-36 come-from-behind win over OSU last Saturday, said there are still a lot of similarities in the Mountaineers’ and Cowboys’ offenses.
“We’ve seen Dana in this part of the country a whole lot,” said Brown of WVU’s second-year coach. “He was at Texas Tech for a long time with Mike Leach, then at Houston and then at Oklahoma State. We’ve watched him and watched that offense grow. They’re not exactly the same as Oklahoma State, but they’re very similar. We probably will have some advantages in having some of the same things we have to coach against two weeks in a row.
“They’ve got some advantages, because they’re very close to the Oklahoma State staff,” he added. “The Oklahoma State staff did a great job moving the ball against us. So I think it probably evens out.”
And even with a difficult challenge ahead of him, Brown said he’s looking forward to Saturday.
“We’re so excited about West Virginia being in the league,” he said. “We want to welcome all the West Virginia fans to Austin this weekend. They bring so much to the league, and they’re one of the great teams in America this year. This should be a fun game, and I think West Virginia fans will love the stadium and our environment.”
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