Texas Football: Regular Season Wrap Part 1

A few final thoughts after one more disappointing weekend. More team-, player-, and performance-specific thoughts on the '08 season tomorrow.

Bullets? Bullets.

  • Time to move on.  I absolutely believe that the second best team from the South went to Kansas City, but there's no easy way to settle a three-way tiebreak when each team has a victory over one of the others. Whether or not the chosen tiebreak is the best one heading forward, there's no "clean" way to solve that kind of riddle. I'm pretty sure we've said everything we can possibly say about it, and now we move on. I'd love to see Texas aggressively prepare for and play against Ohio State; a lackluster effort would dampen an otherwise incredible season.
  • Keep the blame in-house.  The tiebreakers suck. The BCS sucks. No playoffs suck. The corrupt coaching clans suck. All true. For my money, though, accountability has to start at home, and I do think it's fair for Texas fans to say the team isn't in Miami because of one botched play. And no, asshole, not the Gideon play. The Longhorns lost on 1st and 10 in the first quarter, when Texas meekly ran a sore-ankled Chris Ogbonnaya from the I-formation five yards deep in its own end zone.

    The blame in Lubbock falls on Mack Brown and Greg Davis, who tip-toed through that first half like barefooted divas afraid because a single beer bottle had been broken somewhere on the Jones Field turf. The I-formation play (which we'd hardly seen all year); the pass into the flat to Greg Smith (wtf?); the first half shelving of the four-wide ambrosia which fueled the RRS win: Add it all up and any attempt to drop that loss on any player is a below-the-belt post-bell slug. Tech got everything they needed in the first half because our offensive approach was tepid.

    The buck stops with the coaching staff. On the bright side, our DC and HC-In-Waiting gets that:
    "I look at wins and losses and we didn't get it done in that particular game. It's easy to look back and say what you could've and what you should've done, and the most critical person of me, is myself. There are obviously things you'd like to have done a little differently. But, these kids have played hard and they've played with great effort and passion. I told them from the beginning that the effort is on them and the execution is on me. As long as they play hard, everything else is on my shoulders. If we don't execute well, then it's my fault."
  • Schedule like 'We're Texas'.  I applaud Texas' commitment not to schedule any 1-AA teams. But the point is practically lost by scheduling two Sun Belt teams (in addition to Rice). Though I'll be the first to tell you that part of scheduling just comes down luck, a team like Texas should at the least maximize that which it can control. My preference: Two BCS Conference teams, Rice (good for Houston presence for Texas alums and recruits alike), and one other non-BCS Conference foe. That's neither outrageously demanding nor a self-inflicted wound to the kneecap.
  • Quadrennial step forward?  Four years ago, a maddening 12-0 loss to Oklahoma was a big reason for Mack Brown's first big step forward (the VY elevation). Nearly four years later, the 2008 season has seemed to me a big step forward for Mack Brown, similarly catalyzed by a eye-opening loss (A&M '07). Though it's horribly painful that our '08 Cinderella story ended roadside in a broken down pumpkin, watching that stupid pony-wagon gallop past us, the parallels are both interesting and -- starting our look ahead -- exciting for 2009.

    Colt McCoy announced today he'll return for a run at -- you guessed it -- the Rose Bowl. The only shame in Penn State not getting a bid to Miami this year is the lost opportunity for Colt McCoy to tell Texas fans that "We'll be back." With McCoy back all the pieces are in place for the Longhorns to make the title run we started talking about early this summer. Replacing the dominant production Texas enjoyed from Roy Miller and Brian Orakpo looms as the only potential dark cloud on a roster loaded with talent and experience. I rather like the guy in charge of the defense, though.
  • Sunken treasure.  No coach lost more points in my style book this year than Texas Tech head pirate Mike Leach. My ability to look past the incessant whining about officiating and alleged Longhorns bias was heretofore offset by his quirky charisma and penchant for humiliating Aggies. But Leach's schtick this year devolved like a scene straight from Lord of the Flies.

    Lord_of_the_flies_medium
    So much for the conch shell being kind of cute...

The 2008 season has in my mind brought to unflattering light the ugly sides of Mike Leach's personality. From his voting in the coach's poll to the widely-reported rumors that he threw himself at Auburn's door (rebuked, according to sources), the Mike Leach song and dance has started to look to me like a junior high musical two acts too long. I'm out.

  • The battle for the Ann Landers Cup.  I've always cautioned fans from getting carried away overplaying the "class" card. Opposing fans storm the field? "Classless!" Opposing player jaws after a good play? "No class!" And on and on. Overwhelmingly, the card is played after the opposition does something that -- if we're being fair -- is a routine part of the game/competition. Fans are going to go berserk when they win. Players will mercilessly taunt their victims (Rudy Carpenter, anyone?). Big hits and exciting touchdown strikes will be celebrated with obnoxious animation. In my mind, they're not so much acts of classlessness as they are the routines of victory in a game as emotional and big-play oriented as football.

    With that said, I don't consider the environment an anarchistic free-for-all. Kellen Heard is a classless thug. And I think Doc Saturday is on the wrong side of the Kansas City run-up-the-score chatter:

    First, I should say that, unless you're Chattanooga or The Citadel, I think "running up the score" is a lame excuse for failing to play 60 minutes. It's weak. No one in a game between reasonably competitive teams should ever be expected to throttle down to spare the other sideline's feelings. I can't stand allegations of "whining," but I'll make one: "Running up the score" is whining. It's for fragile losers.

    To the extent Matt's making a similar point to what I disdain about overplaying the class card (too often just whining from sore losers), I absolutely agree. I even agree with Matt's reasoning and, applied generally, don't fault teams for dropping the hammer on their peers. The feelings of the opposition shouldn't much matter in how a team performs.

    Still, I diverge from Matt in thinking that the principle extends far enough to cover what we saw in Kansas City from Bob Stoops. Taken in the abstract, Matt's reasoning is sound, but in context this past Saturday night, it doesn't speak to what was animating Bob Stoops. The cover that the heat of battle ostensibly provides simply doesn't exist when you lead by five touchdowns with four minutes to go. He wasn't just competing to the final gun; he was being an asshole, consciously choosing to be a dick. This has nothing to do with Missouri's -- or even Texas' -- feelings. I'd just suggest that "All is fair in love and war" doesn't mean what you do can't result in your being revealed to be an A-grade asshole.

    It's a fine line, to be sure. But Big Game Bloodhound Bobby made very clear which side he's on. Here's to five-straight BCS defeats.

 

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