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Last year, Texas gave up 550 rushing yards to BYU, but senior defensive tackle Desmond Jackson and a revamped defense are ready to avenge that loss.

Photo Credit: Amy Zhang | Daily Texan Staff

If the Texas defensive linemen could erase one memory from their college football experiences, it would be their time in the locker room in Provo, Utah, last fall.  

“It was terrible and bewildering,” senior linebacker Jordan Hicks said. “We went into the game feeling ready, and it got handed to us.”

Last season, in embarrassing fashion, the Longhorns lost to an unranked BYU team as then-sophomore quarterback Taysom Hill trampled them for 259 yards and three touchdowns, gathering a program-record 550 rushing yards. 

“That’s the most embarrassed I’ve ever been in my life,” senior cornerback Quandre Diggs said. “[The film] was embarrassing then, and it’s embarrassing now. But it’s a new year, day, team and coaches.”

Much has changed since the Longhorns faced BYU. After then-head coach Mack Brown thought the defensive line needed new guidance, he replaced defensive coordinator Manny Diaz with Greg Robinson, who won the 2005 Rose Bowl with Texas. Vance Bedford has sinced replaced Robinson as defensive coordinator.

“He came in and tried to simplify things, with the terminology and the schemes,” Hicks said. “Now, we need to make sure that every player understands the game plan, is on the same page and is working toward the same goals to execute his job.”

Hicks believes creating that solid game plan is the key to reversing Texas’ luck against BYU. He said Texas’ downfall in the 2013 matchup was missed assignments that caused the team lost leverage. Now, the team stresses the need for accountability and gap integrity on the field, which it achieved in last week’s 38-7 victory against North Texas. 

After allowing just 94 yards of total offense against the Mean Green last Saturday and picking four balls, Texas experienced something that it never even considered in Provo — it had fun. 

“We don’t care what other people do or what the media says — we’re just going to do what we do and go out and have fun,” Diggs said. “You could see last week we had fun, getting the sideline going and the crowd going. It’s a big week for us, and we want people in the stands to get the game sold out.”

Although Diggs said the stadium energy factored into the enjoyment of last week’s game, the team’s desire to have fun dates back to weeks earlier. Strong and Bedford emphasize enjoying the game throughout practices and camps, introducing inter-team competitions and prizes to up players’ motivation. The defensive teams compete for the weekly “takeaway belt,” a bragging right the linebackers won first, but every squad has won at least once now. 

“If you emphasize stuff in practice and camp, it’ll carry over to the games,” Hicks said. “The habits become reality.”

Coming into the locker room Saturday, the Longhorns won’t dwell on the Provo postgame experience from last year. They’re ready to put the loss behind them and show fans the new defensive prowess. If the nerves start up, or memories of last year’s locker room scene do begin to surface, the players just need to look at the walls of their home locker room. A series of signs were posted up on the walls before the season opener, all reading the same word — “FUN.”

Junior quarterback David Ash was knocked down in the first half against BYU. The No. 15 Longhorns lost to the Cougars 40-21 in Provo, Utah on Saturday night.

Photo Credit: Joe Capraro | Daily Texan Staff

With a maximum capacity of nearly 101,000 people, Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium is the sixth-largest venue in college football.

This figures to give the Longhorns a considerable advantage every time they take the field in Austin, but over the past three years, Texas has fared far better in front of their opponent’s fans.

In the last three seasons, Texas compiled a 9-4 record in opposing stadiums while going a pedestrian 10-9 at home. The Longhorns face their first opportunity of 2013 to continue their road success this Saturday, when they travel to Provo, Utah to take on BYU.

Many of the players believe playing away from home goes a long way in unifying the team. This list includes junior quarterback David Ash, who led Texas to a 66-31 blowout of Ole Miss in Oxford and a come-from-behind 41-36 victory over Oklahoma State in Stillwater the following weekend.

“The road games are always cool because it’s you against the world,” junior quarterback David Ash said. “Just you and your teammates with a common goal.  You have to come together because there are a lot of things that are against you.  It will be cool to see how we come together.”

The Longhorns played particularly well on the road last season, when they won their first four games in opposing venues before dropping the regular season finale at Kansas State. Much of this success can be attributed to Texas’ roster being full of players that legitimately enjoy road affairs.

“I love going on the road,” junior defensive back Quandre Diggs said. “You get something different each and every weekend when you go on the road and go to another team’s stadium. It’s going to be a great atmosphere on Saturday, and I’ve been looking forward to it for a while.”

Another reason for the Longhorns’ confidence in road games is due to their experience. The Longhorns return 19 starters from the 2012 team, and head coach Mack Brown believes this experience makes the trip to Provo easier to prepare for.

“It’s so much better,” Brown said.  “I always enjoy the road.  The adversity is tougher.  The crowd is against you.  I just think it pulls your team together more when you’re traveling.  This team is experienced.  We’re going to be fine, just take care of the ball.  Last year, two years ago, it would have been very much different.”

While the Longhorns relish lining up in front of their home crowd, senior guard Trey Hopkins believes that the energy from the opposing crowds can be used as inspiration.

“It’s that underdog mentality,” Hopkins said. “It just kind of makes you a little bit more anxious to prove yourself when you’re on the road when everybody is going against you, especially going in to a great place like Provo.”

Beating BYU is no small feat, especially since the Cougars are 11-2 at home over the past two seasons. That said, it is hard to believe there is player in the Texas locker room not up for the challenge.

David Ash and the rest of the Longhorns trained in the offseason for the higher altitude in Provo. There, the air is thinner making it more difficult to breath. The team ran drills in silicone masks that restricted their airflow, simulating the effects at higher altitude. 

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

Four years ago, the Longhorns thrashed Wyoming 41-10 in their first road game of 2009. Despite the impressive score, head coach Mack Brown believes his team struggled to adjust to the higher altitude in Laramie. 

“We didn’t handle it well at Wyoming a couple years ago,” Brown said. “It got to us.”

Texas will face a similar issue this week when it travels to Provo, Utah to take on Brigham Young University. Although Provo’s elevation is considerably lower than Laramie’s, junior quarterback David Ash expects the thinner air to have a slight impact.

“I’m sure there will be an adjustment,” Ash said. “We played in Wyoming a few years ago at 7,000 feet. It was tough on some guys. This is half that, 4,000 feet. There will be an adjustment, but I think we’ve got plenty of depth and I think we’ll be okay.”

A number of Longhorns seconded Ash, stressing that the team’s depth allows it to filter productive reserves in throughout the game to keep the starters fresh. Because of this, junior linebacker Jordan Hicks doesn’t expect the change in elevation to affect the game.

“We don’t expect it to,” Hicks said. “We’re playing two deep everywhere, so we hope that gives an advantage. We’re not worried about the altitude; we’re just ready to go.”

Despite this, sophomore running back Johnathan Gray said the coaching staff has emphasized the importance of being in prime physical condition for the matchup against the Cougars. Thinner air makes it harder for oxygen to reach a person’s muscles, making strong conditioning a must in preparing for the increased elevation. 

“Coaches are just [stressing] hydrating and getting extra conditioning in,” Gray said. “We’re just doing things that help us prepare.”

Senior defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat is particularly unlikely to be affected by the altitude increase after spending the offseason training in Colorado. Jeffcoat was one of many Longhorns to wear a mask that reduced oxygen as a conditioning exercise over the summer, but he believes it’s hard to emulate the difference in air pressure without playing in it.

“[The masks] were really just to get in shape,” Jeffcoat said. “They were the kind of thing to just teach us how to breath with limited oxygen. It’s different when you are actually in [higher altitude]. They understand there’s going to be a difference in the air. The air is thinner.”

Brown is used to preparing for games in high elevation, as his Texas teams made regular trips to Colorado when the Buffaloes were in the Big 12. Although none of his current players ever made the trip to Boulder, Brown considers his team’s depth and preparation to be enough for the Longhorns to be ready for Saturday.

“We usually handled it well at Boulder,” Brown said. “We’ve been talking about this for a year. Provo isn’t as high as Boulder. I think we’re ready for it and depth should help us.”

SALT LAKE CITY — Google will take over a troubled municipal fiber-optic system and make Provo, Utah, the third city to get its high-speed Internet service via fiber-optic cables, the company
announced Wednesday.

Google Fiber was rolled out in Kansas City, Mo., last year. The Mountain View, Calif., company announced earlier this month it will make Austin, Texas, the second city to get ultra-fast Internet service.

The Provo deal is the first time Google plans to acquire an existing fiber-optic system. The city of 115,000 created the fiber-optic network, iProvo, in 2004. 

—Compiled from Associated Press reports