As good as his name... He was the story this spring, the hope this summer, the standout this August, and now, following his exciting debut against UTEP, all the rave this week. Coming off a late-August knee injury which kept him out of the opener, Texas tailback Fozzy Whittaker didn't enter Saturday's contest until the second quarter, but his impact was immediately appreciated.
With Texas leading 14-6 early in his second quarter, Whittaker got his first touch on a 2nd and 5 after Vondrell McGee rushed on for five up the middle--one of his better rushes on the evening, ironically. His debut was a memorable one, the redshirt freshman picking up a first down on a 13 yard rush to the UTEP 17. He stayed in the game and immediately ran off back-to-back 8 yard carries to set up 1st and Goal from the 1. Cody Johnson punched it in on the next play, Texas led 21-6, and UTEP's Super Bowl was over.
There are two kinds of mistakes. If you're wondering when Greg Davis lost it and Texas blew its chance to hang 60 on the Miners, look no further than the the first three drives of the third quarter. Leading 28-13 on the second half's opening drive, Davis became enamored of his junior quarterback and called for passes on six of the 'Horns' eight plays, the last of which ended in interception. On Texas' next possession, the offense went three and out on a trio of pass plays. Finally, with 6:49 remaining in the quarter, Davis got back to Fozzy... but only momentarily. After Whittaker ran for 5, 13, and 4 yards in succession, Texas turned to McGee on consecutive plays, he picked up 4 of the needed 6 yards for a first down, and the 'Horns punted.
It's hard from the words alone to get the full context of those three drives, but if you peruse the BON game thread for a few minutes, you can see the frustration mount through these three drives, peaking with Texas_Fight's comment, "this is horrible....shades of '07".
And it was. The third quarter struggles on offense were enough to make me choose a gloomier lead theme for the Postgame React than my long-term contentedness and optimism might otherwise have dictated.
"What's your point, PB?" Only this: On any team or player's road to meeting its potential, mistakes, and even mediocrity, are not only acceptable, but inevitable. The only thing truly to fear is the same mediocrity from the same mistakes.
At least half the story. If I sound excessively focused on the offense's performance, it's for the reason cited above:Greg Davis' non-VY offenses have all hit the same wall in critical games against quality defense. Clearing that hurdle with the '08-'09 group will be vital if any title run is going to be more than just talk.
With that said, the Longhorns will also need the defense to develop into the dominant part most fans expect Will Muschamp can and will mold. Texas' young defense looked the part for the last two-thirds of the season opener, and, Muschamp says, throughout the majority of Saturday's game in El Paso:
"You take away the first series and the last series of the first half, and we played a pretty good football game."
There's some truth to that: The Miners' scored 10 points on those two drives, accumulating 143 yards on 21 snaps--6.9 per play. For the rest of the game (56 snaps) UTEP managed only 269 yards--just 4.8 yards per play. And for all the talk of Texas failing to generate any pressure, Trevor Vittatoe was sacked four times on the evening. The defensive line clearly missed Lamarr Houston, but on the whole turned in a good-enough performance.
As was the case for the defense as a unit. Texas' trip to El Paso likely won't be a game tape Will Muschamp shows off to his grandkids, but like the offense, there was enough good to live with the bad.
So long as there's improvement down the line.
Are you as turned on as I am by Fozzy? The El Paso-area police force united to form a strong presence at Saturday's highly anticipated game, forcing the local riff raff to the hills. Or so it appears.
It's a smaller story, but I know you're following it. While I have your attention, a word on talking Texas football: I both want to commend and encourage the continuation of the sanity and courtesy which has defined the discourse at this site so far this season. As this site has steadily grown over the years--from the 100 or so of us during VY's junior year to the 4,000 who now make up this community--my big fear has been that both the quality and hospitality of the community commenting would sink inversely with the number of visitors. I'm grateful and proud to say that hasn't been the case, even when opinions differ and disagreements are hashed out.
It's worth noting explicitly not to rally an impromptu round of Kumbaya, but because I think the communal effort to make this a pleasant online water cooler around which to hang out helps shape a healthy perspective about the game in general, and the Longhorn brand in particular: Texas football is neither as glorious as the Crusaders prevalent in other parts of the Longhorn Interwebs would cut your head off to have you believe, nor as plainly worthy of scorn as the Eternally Doubting suggest.
That fans of differing degrees of optimism and pessimism co-exist here so smoothly is, I think, a testament to a greater appreciation that talking success or failure in college football is best done with nuance, with Black and White minor characters in a theater of Gray.
From this editor's perspective, anyway, that's all one can ask for. May the trend continue indefinitely.