Imposters Take Toll On Me and Mack Brown

You’ll recognize me at Mack Brown’s Monday morning press conference as the reporter sucking on his green pen trying to bring it back to life. Brown’s catchphrase for the week is “imposter,” and I sure felt like one as I wandered among the media regulars at Bellmont Hall. Imposters, Brown explained, are those monster plays early in a game that are a little too easy – like the first two touchdowns the Horns scored against supposedly lowly Arkansas State. “If you aren’t careful, they reach up and bite you,” Brown said.

The Indians, a run-oriented team, took a big chunk out of the Horns by throwing their normal gameplan out of the teepee and playing like they had nothing to lose. They didn’t, except a season opener to a much better team whose attention they clearly earned by the end of the 21-13 Longhorn victory. It could have been worse as Michigan learned in a loss to Brown’s former employer Appalachian State.

Meanwhile my goals for my very first UT gridiron press confab were simple: Find a place to park. Check. (An easy one on a holiday.) Discover the one unlocked door at Bellmont that would lead me up to the ninth-floor Centennial Room, a wood-grained expanse that best resembles a chic West Texas topless bar, but one that overlooks the UT practice field. Check. Try not to make an idiot of myself. The jury is still out on that one, though I should have added: bring two pens just in case one slowly goes into rigor mortis and only slightly revives from fervent mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Around me the reporting/editing crew from our major daily laid out its battle plans, as other reporters tried to act serious while hypnotized by their laptops. Athletics staff in white UT polo shirts and khaki pants roamed about. Reporters compared predictions for Brown’s reaction to the game that wasn’t supposed to be so interesting. “Just moving on,” one said in a fake drawl. “Preparing for TCU,” another offered. “It’s their Super Bowl,” the first replied.

The press conference follows a plan: television and radio have Brown’s ear for the first half, while the print guys get him second. In between and throughout, players wander around to tables of reporters much like one of those speed-dating operations. “It felt good to play healthy again,” defensive standout Frank Okam told his table. (Brown proclaimed Okam’s performance his best ever.) Receiver Limas Sweed, another bright spot for the Horns, from his table called the opener a “blessing in disguise,” adding that “in the game of football nobody is perfect.”

Brown gave kudos to the kicking team, which included a new facet, two pooch kicks from quarterback – and former high school kicker – Colt McCoy, which may help keep opponents on edge during fourth downs this season. But he bemoaned that Horns extended three of the Indians’ drives through penalties. Many of the Horns’ unanswered questions going into the season, such as defending the pass, remain, and Brown admits the biggest need at this point is for leaders to step forward and assert themselves. Okam added that his brethren need to finish their tackles.

Whatever the reasons, Brown recognizes that the Burnt Orange faithful have high expectations. “We do have fans that go on suicide watch after a win,” he said. “We needed to be humbled. We needed to be kicked in the face. It’s really hard to win, and you always have to give the other team respect even if no one else in the country does.”

I’ll save Brown’s comments on the next opponent, nationally ranked TCU, for later this week. For now I plan to cremate my dearly departed pen and spread its ashes among the stack of really cool minicorders my sports scribe brethren stack in front of the revered coach so as not to miss a word.

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