Brown changes bowl philosophy

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. -- After back-to-back losses in the 1999 and 2000 seasons, Mack Brown knew he needed to make some changes in his bowl preparations.

The Longhorns were thrashed by Arkansas in the 2000 Cotton Bowl, 27-6. In the following season, Texas was shocked by a faster Oregon team that posted a 35-30 victory in the Holiday Bowl.

In order to change his thinking, Brown sent his assistants to places like Florida State and Wisconsin which had success during that period in bowl games. The Texas coaches picked the brains of Bobby Bowden, Barry Alvarez and their respective staffs to find out what had worked for them to get ready for bowl games.

"Both those teams had great runs [in bowl games]," Brown said. "We went to meet with them and asked what they were doing. We found out that they are really physical during their work here and let up a little once they got there."

The change in attitude seems to have helped. The Longhorns have won seven of their last eight bowl games, including a three-game winning streak in BCS games and a two-game winning streak at the Rose Bowl.

Brown has continued that strategy during its work in Austin as it prepared for Thursday's BCS National Championship Game against Alabama.

"You really just have to go back and work on fundamentals," Brown said. "We've had very, very physical practices. They've all been ones [first-stringers] against ones. They knocked each other around. They had fun."

And once the Longhorns arrived in California, Brown has moderated a little from how it prepared during the regular season.

"We'll do a little less conditioning out here for one thing," Brown said. "We really conditioned every day pretty hard back in Austin. We'll hit some [early in the week], but we back on the hitting as it comes closer to game time to make sure that we are fresh. One of the things we have learned is that when you have all of the bowl activities, they are out and standing and on their feet all of the time. They are excited and you work them hard. If you're not careful, you have a tired football team by Thursday."

Hitting so much before a bowl game is a calculated risk, but Brown believes his team is better prepared utilizing his current strategy.

"Another coach called and asked how we hit so much and not worry about injuries," Brown said. "I told him that you worry about injuries every day. That's what you do. But you hope you get lucky because you cannot take this much time off and not hit and then expect to be physical during this ballgame. This will be a very physical ballgame."