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These Longhorns Have a Swagger, and Why Not?

Times Staff Writer

Some call them cocky.

The second-ranked Texas Longhorns do seem sure of themselves as they prepare for Wednesday night’s Rose Bowl showdown against top-ranked USC.

“If you’re in this game and you’re not confident, you’re in bad trouble,” Texas Coach Mack Brown said Friday. “This isn’t a week for a weak guy. You’d better walk with a swagger and you’d better feel good about yourself.

“The thing that I’ve learned about SC that I thought was there and I know about our team is, they’re not trying to be someone else here.

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“You are who you are, and what you’ve been able to do in the past got you here, so don’t try to change in a week. We’ve told our guys, ‘We want you to smile. We want you to show your personality.’ You can dance a little bit, you can have some fun

“These two teams have had an ability to focus when it’s time to play but also be kids when they walk off the field, and that’s OK. Sometimes that’s construed as cockiness, but we like to think that our bunch is confident and classy.”

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Like USC Coach Pete Carroll, Brown once longed for NFL success. Also like Carroll, the 54-year-old Brown said that he believes he has found his place.

“I did come to that realization,” he said. “I think all of us at some point look at the NFL when you’re a child and you’re supposed to start in high school, go to college, and then go to the NFL. You’re supposed to play for ... the Super Bowl, and then at some point you realize what your role is and what you’re best at, and I do feel like I’m best with young kids, and we can have more influence on them.... One of the hardest things about all of our lives is self-evaluation, and as you get a little bit older you can be more honest with yourself, you can say, ‘Maybe this is not me, maybe this is what I need to do.’ ”

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Vince Young wore oversized Mickey Mouse gloves Thursday at Disneyland, giving Carroll a thought.

“He should have a chance to play with those,” Carroll said.

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Turning serious, Carroll said of the Texas quarterback: “He’s so good that he draws all of your attention, and [his] team is loaded with talent.

“You can’t help but talk about him, watch him. It’s just a natural trap that you can overlook the power of the rest of the football team, particularly on the offensive side. You can’t see anything but him when you first look at the football team because he’s right in the middle of all the action.”

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Texas has blocked nine kicks in its last six games. Brown credited a long-ago 23-20 loss to North Carolina State for sparking a greater attention to special teams.

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“We lost the game to start the season in ’99 because of blocked kicks,” he said. “So it really was fortunate that it made us put more emphasis on it....

“The guys are seeing that it changes games and the ability to score points. This team has learned the value of field position, all of the things that you get from special teams. And we’ve probably done a better job of recognizing success in that area because we have blocked more kicks than anybody else since 2000.”


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