Enemy of the Nation McGee to possibly start. Games against A&M during Stephen McGee's career have been painful affears for Longhorn denizens. Any shot at a Heisman Trophy slipped out of an uncharacteristically subdued (by illness, Texas fans later learned) Vince Young's hands as McGee took on any Longhorn tackler in his vicinity on his way to 108 yards rushing (42.5% of his season total) and his only two rushing touchdowns on the season.
Hit by the Longhorn defense so hard the following year that he was throwing up, McGee and the Aggie triple option marched 88 yards in 16 plays and 8:56, with McGee finishing the drive himself from seven yards out. Of course, that set the stage for two McCoy interceptions and two hits by Aggie defenders that left McCoy unaware of his surroundings for quite some time. Spawning as well questions about McCoy's toughness and his derogatory nickname, Cart McCoy.
And yes, there is more. McGee hadn't yet gashed the Longhorns in the passing game, the talent that helped he and Jordan Shipley break Texas high school aerial records. McGee did so for 362 yards and three touchdowns on 69% accuracy. For McGee that season it was his highest completion percentage (only one other time did he crack 60%), most touchdowns, most yards, and most yards per attempt. This is the long way of saying that McGee performs well against the Longhorns...and anyway from mediocre to poor against everyone else. Despite his lost senior season to injuries and Jerrod Johnson's emergence as the future at quarterback for A&M, the fact that McGee is listed as co-starter against the Longhorns is enough to dredge up a lot of negative memories for UT fans.
Straight off the wire. Chip Brown's Orangebloods notes on the Wire ($) are always a premier place for Longhorn factoids. Among the news for this week:
- Chykie Brown is finally healthy since injuring his ankle against Oklahoma State. Chip Brown opines, and I agree, that having Chykie during the Texas Tech game may have tilted it in the Longhorns' favor. I personally believe Chykie would have made a play on the ball that Crabtree caught for the game-winning touchdown.
- More David Snow at center, as Chris Hall isn't healthy yet. I don't see this is as problem, since I believe Snow beat out an ineffective Buck Burnette for the backup center job and clearly is a talented kid to earn playing time so quickly on a deeply talented, if not always overly effective, offensive line. Let's just hope that he and Colt worked on the under-center exchange that resulted in the fumble against Kansas.
- Christian Scott will get some snaps against A&M an up-and-down performance against Kansas. He looked sensational on some plays, taking on Angus Quigley in the hole after Quigley injured Blake Gideon and forcing and recovering a fumble, along with several big hits. He looked like the physical presence the Longhorns haven't had for years in the secondary. He also dropped an easy interception and missed three tackles. The question about Scott is his ability to think the game and communicate with his teammates, but there is no doubt that he has the physical skills to excel. When Gideon beat him out, the need for repetitions for the true freshman from Leander kept Scott off the field for most of the season.
Basketball bullets? Basketball bullets.
- Damion James and AJ Abrams are adjusting to new roles. It may take them some time to understand them. The game against Oregon was encouraging, as DJ attacked the rim with an efficient performance and Abrams only took one three-pointer, which he made. James must improve his decision in transition, however, because Barnes is going to ask him to push the ball at times.
- The loss of J'Covan Brown is huge. After Abrams, there aren't any high-volume three-point threats on this team and that makes defending the line all that more important because the Longhorns can't trade threes. As efficiently as James and Atchley hit threes last season, they just aren't high-volume shooters. Could be the weakness that kills the Longhorns in March.
- Pittman has to stay out of foul trouble, which adds to the Shaq-lite talk. As hard as O'Neal is to officiate, so is Dexy. He needs to understand where his body is and avoid all the cheap fouls he accumulates. He's only managed to play 15 minutes once this season, against Tulane, committing 18 fouls in 49 minutes, or a foul every 2.7 minutes. Trips feels like he's out on a limb supporting the big fella, but he's not alone. Dexy takes up so much space and the kid has great hands, surviving a strong rake at the ball by an Oregon defender before slamming it home. Love the strength. I want Barnes to let him play through foul trouble, but Dexy gave up on really easy drive with foul trouble and that's not going to work on a team that needs consisten defensive effort and execution.
- Freshman Varez Ward is having similar problems, committing 11 fouls in 36 minutes--one every 3.3 minutes.
- Rick Barnes allows his players a lot of freedom offensively, but it places a lot of responsibility on the players. It will take some time for this team to mesh offensively, but they will be much better at the end of the season than they are now, as Ricky B said after the Notre Dame game. Watching McAlarney shoot the ball the last two days--that kid has a beautiful stroke and range out to about 27 feet it seems like. There's kinetic perfection in the way he squares, keeps his body silent and strokes the hell out of the ball. Wow, pure. He hit some deep ones against North Carolina that didn't come anywhere near hitting the loose rims in Maiu.
- Which brings me to Justin Mason, who has been great. He's giving consistently great effort on the defensive end, while playing well enough to claim primary ball-handling responsibility. He's an athletic kid who has improved his explosiveness under Todd Wright to the point that he can do this (how about the sensational crossover, great change of pace) and look comfortable finishing with his off hand. Even though the Longhorns are going to play more two-guard lineups, Barnes still needs to give Mason the freedom to crash the offensive glass, where he is as tenacious as he is at everything else on the floor. He steps up at big moments, even excelling as a weak side shot blocker, as he blocked a dunk attempt by an Oregon big. What a player; great feel for the game. Still can't really shoot, but he can hit a few jumpers when he's in rhythm.
- When he was coach of the Bulls, Scott Skiles used to say that Kirk Hinrich needed to make professional layups. Clint Chapman needs to learn to make collegiate layups. Including a missed dunk against St. Joseph's, Chapman probably missed five other layups in Maui. If he's not careful, he going to go the way of Matt Hill and never see any burn. For a kid with a decent-looking stroke, he misses way too many free throws, really struggling to hit any at all, going 1 of 8 on the season. Not good, Chappy.
Give it up for the senior class. As correct as PB may have been to look forward to 2009, if the 2008 season has done one thing, it's illuminated clearly the value to the team of the senior class. They are the last group of players to have contributed on the field to the 2005 champions and deserve plaudits for that.
Roy Miller, Brian Orakpo, and Henry Melton have been sensational on the defensive line. Each of them deserve their own posts recognizing their achievements this season, particulary Melton, who has been the contributor on defense Longhorn fans always wanted him to be on offense. I recall many of my own "Hank the Tank" calls in short-yardage situations, misled though they were. Miller and Orakpo surpass superlatives. Their achievements are obvious even to the most dim-witted observers.
On the offense, the incredible hands of Quan Cosby. Kid finallly failed to catch a couple balls when he was interfered with. Completely unacceptable. He will be missed greatly. OG. Those runs against Missouri and Oklahoma were sensational. All those catches, blitzes picked up. Cedric Dockery, who worked hard to rehab from his ACL tear.
If Texas fans have any respect, they will be on hand to honor the seniors before the game.
Calling out Longhorn fans, again. Honestly, Texas fans drive me crazy most of the time. They lack energy, passion, intensity. I went to the Hex Rally the other night for the first time and was pretty disappointed. The fans barely filled up South Mall before Intercampus Drive. There was little energy during the cheers, even with the two straight losses to the Aggies. Few cheers for the senior class and little enthusiasm around the players as they walked up underneath the Tower. Hell, the Tower never even lighted orange.
Texas fans show up late for games and leave early. Hey, I know it's hard to maintain your buzz throughout the game when you can't drink in the stadium. Bring a flask or something. It's not a social event where you stand and talk the whole time. That's for the tailgate. Which you need to leave more than 15 minutes before the game starts. I have a feeling there will be several thousand empty seats in the stadium on Thursday evening. Catatonic fans who ate too much turkey and failed to chug a Red Bull before the game. Frankly, I have no expectations, because that way a reasonably noisy crowd might make me happy. Pathetic. No wonder opposing fans consider the Burnt Orange faithful arrogant and entitled. Those fans are probably right. As easy as they are to make fun of, at least Aggie fans are impassioned.