Congratulations are in order for the Longhorns for the masterful job during the regular season, from the coaches and staff to Colt McCoy for demonstrating levels of football maturity and leadership and to this team for believing in itself without fail. And as a special achievement on the side, the Texas Longhorns became the second winningest football program in the history of NCAA football.
The worst times of the season was when the Horns showed the most heart. First was against the Sooners in Dallas, where they had the wherewithal to stay with the land thieves early, survived the body punching middle rounds, the Texas defense came up with the muscle to stop the OU running game (48 yards/26 carries) and Colt and the offense acted decisively in the end to win by a TKO. OU was still standing, but they were whipped - and they knew it. Just like they still know it now.They didn't have a glass jaw, but they did have a tin heart.
However, the finest moment came in the toughest combat, when the Horns were almost down for the count in Lubbock, backed into the corner, the crowd in their ears, with every reason in the world to give up...but they didn't. Colt pulled them together, Muschamp's defense blunted the Harraled attack and the Horn fought back well enough to take the lead...until the final heartbreaking moment.
The Longhorns whipped both OU (I heard it was 45-35) and aTm (49-9) and the herd is most content with accomplishing those pre-season goals. Things have been set right in the vastness of Texas. More than anything, this team achieved so much more than we anticipated back in the sticky days of August, when there were so many question marks that our expectations were reduced and talk of '09 seemed just as relevant as 2008. Little did we know...
I find myself more pleased with this team than many others because they exceeded all expectations, they handled their #1 ranking with grace and style and fought like a champions to preserve it, because most the elemental flaws of 2006 and 2007 have been turned around (except for the running game and run blocking; nothing is ever quite as perfect as you want).
What was seen as a set-up for the future suddenly manifested itself in the present; not just a sneak peek either, but a developmental gaze into what incredible growth this team has before it. And there is so much more to come. And best of all, we still have another game left, another chance to jump start the future.
I wonder what effect the change in the open week could have had, if the Horns had played Arkansas at the scheduled time and had had the open week before Colorado and the conference run. As it was, the Horns played two early games, beating FAU and UTEP while we watched the defense, sometimes playing peekaboo through our hands as things got ugly. We got the big BOOMs but there were many other mistakes and some worried they would last forever. Then the hurricane induced open week, followed by nine games in a row instead of seven. Rice and the Hogs went down easily enough as Colt shifted the offense into high gear.
Colorado was a good contest to start the Big XII, a way to push the D into run defense at a higher level. That would pay off the next week against OU and Muschamp got the kind of performance that made us all shake our heads, oh yeah, big smiles all around. The Horns earned number #1, every single bit of it.
Then the greatest four-game stretch of ranked teams in Texas history. Missouri, Oklahoma State and the final night full of maniacs in Lubbock. The Horns buried the earlier win but came to realize just how fine that line can be between winning and losing. On that night, Michael Crabtree owned that line, just ripped it from our hands. All four those were great football games, with OU and Tech classics.
Then the end of the stretch, with the local nasties, Baylor, Kansas and aTm. True, they weren't powerful enough to stop the Horns march grandioso, but they each fought hard in their own way. The Horns gave up 38 points in those three games as the Muschampions proved they were getting better every day. Colt and the offense took care of business.
So, here is where we stand: 11-1, tied for the Big XII South divisional title, waiting for greater things to come. The Horns are highly ranked and respected. I'm proud of this team. They did a hell of a job in every single game. Few teams can say that.
The Horns lost a game, yes, but it can also be said they gained a future head coach, they earned levels of respect that we didn't foresee early in the season, that our eyes have feasted on a young man that led this team in a way you always hope your quarterback will, and we have a powerful future ahead of us.
Perhaps it is time to stand back and appreciate this season for what it is. We can get so involved in the minutia and emotions of possible bowls we fail to fully comprehend just how much this team has matured this year, how well those steps after the '07 aTm game were implemented, how the additions of Muschamp and Major have powered this team and its psyche, and just how wonderful it is to win this much. We should be thankful during this holiday. For us old timers, it brings a tear to the eye for we know how rare such seasons are.