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Longhorns say they're ready for Mariota, UO offense

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is good on his feet in passing situations, the Texas Longhorns say, and they want to make him uncomfortable in and out of the pocket when they play the Ducks on Monday at San Antonio, Texas.SAN ANTONIO, Texas — The Oregon offense against the Texas defense figures to be the key subplot in the Alamo Bowl, 3:45 p.m PT Monday (ESPN).

Can Ducks QB Marcus Mariota and crew generate offense to the tune of season averages of 46.8 points and 573 yards per game?

Or, will Longhorns defensive ends Jackson Jeffcoat and Cedric Reed spend all day making themselves Mariota sandwiches?

The Longhorns know they have their hands full with the UO spread option offense, especially with Mariota at full strength. They have to contend with the running game of Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner, the unpredictability of how De'Anthony Thomas might attack them and the receiving threats of Josh Huff and Bralon Addison. And, the Longhorns have to deal with UO's tempo.

Then again, defensive coordinator Greg Robinsonhad a funny response when asked which Oregon players kept him up at night: "I sleep well."

Calm or being cute? Robinson, a former NFL defensive coordinator who took over as Texas D-coordinator during the season, went on to praise the Ducks.

"They've got good players," he says. "They're the No. 2-ranked offense in the country, and there's a reason for it. It's not so much about them as it is about us. You've got to do your job, then give great effort. If you give the great effort, do your job to the best of your ability, I think good things are going to happen for us, too."

Jeffcoat says the most important things will be defenders running to the ball and tackling well in space. And Jeffcoat and Reed realize they have to contain the dual-threat Mariota.

"He's a talented guy," Jeffcoat says. "We're going to have to be in his face all night. That's the thing, we have to put pressure on him, get to him, make him uncomfortable in the pocket. If you let him sit back there, he's very comfortable in the pocket moving around. He's got good feet in there and will find a way to escape. We have to make sure we stay in our rush lanes."

Jeffcoat says he spent time with his father, former NFL player Jim Jeffcoat, a Colorado assistant coach, who told his son about the Ducks. Colorado challenged the Ducks, briefly, before falling 57-16 on Oct. 5.

"We watched (film) together," Jackson Jeffcoat says. "He says it's a very talented team, guys that will make you miss. Like coaches have preached to us all week and all year, run to the ball, swarm tackle, everybody get to the ball.

"He said these guys are fast. They have athletic offensive linemen, they can move. ... They run the stretch (play), everything like that. They're a quick offensive line. They pull fast. That's a little different. We have a lot bigger guys. They might not be as big, but they move well and are strong."

Reed says the Longhorns watched how Stanford harassed Mariota, and he says pressuring the Oregon QB will be the most important thing in the game.

Robinson says the Longhorn defenders are in good enough shape to play against the Ducks, even if the Ducks play their tempo throughout the game.

"We deal with tempo every day in practice," he says. "I'm not telling you it's not demanding."

Robinson describes his philosophy in trying to contain Oregon:

"I think our style has been multiple, a multiple defensive attack. We're going to be sound in the running game. Then you peck away at different things that you want to make sure you're taking care of. It always comes down to this: If you can start slowing down the run, then your focus has to be how are you going to disrupt that quarterback. Sometimes it's with coverage, Sometimes it's with pressure. In a game like this, you're going to have to have different styles of play to try to get them out of balance a little bit."

Says linebacker Quandre Diggs: "Their offense is similar to a Big 12 offense. We go up against this type of attack each and every week. They do some things that other guys in the Big 12 do. They also present some things that we haven't seen this year."

Offensively, Texas knows it faces a fast Oregon defense that excels at disguises in the secondary and on blitzes. QB Case McCoy knows the Oregon secondary will be tough to crack.

"Definitely, you can see when you watch them on film, they played a lot of ball together and they know what they're doing back there," McCoy says.

Running back Malcolm Brown says that with Oregon's 3-4 defense, "we can do a great job of running the ball right at them. Past teams have had a whole bunch of success in regular zones, powers, things like that. Just got to be more aggressive. I know our offensive line is going to do a great job."

Offensive lineman Mason Walters says the O-linemen also took note of Stanford's domination of the Ducks' defense.

"They're a physical front. Everyone sees that when they run that power down," he says, of Stanford. "It's something we've kind of tried to look at, really emulate that. One thing you see is they were able to extend drives just by being physical up front. That's something you have to do going up against a high-powered, explosive offense, make sure you keep the ball in your hands, control time of possession."

Adds O-lineman Trey Hopkins: "We're going to have to put our own spin on it. We're not Stanford. It might be similar, but I think we've got the people and the plays to get the job done."

Texas players, meanwhile, haven't shied away from talking about the game being the last for head coach Mack Brown.

"It's big to us. Coach Brown is very important to us," Jeffcoat says. "No matter what, we're going to play our butts off, regardless of what was going on. We're not going to go out there and play a mediocre game. We have to play our best."

Says Diggs: "Just the type of man Coach Brown is, he deserves to go out on top. I feel like we need to go out and win this game for him — not only for him, but for ourselves and the rest of the state. This is a chance for us to go out and put on a show against the No. 10 team in the nation. Big opponent, a team that was up for the national championship five or six weeks ago. When you get an opportunity like this, you have to capitalize on it."