Four days later, I guess I can finally step back off the edge of the cliff. After hours of avoiding ESPN, imagining the what-ifs and engaging in all that great sour grapes behavior that seemed to come so naturally, I finally managed to settle down and put things in perspective.
As heartbreaking as Thursday was, maybe it isn't the end of the world.
Two years ago, fresh off of an underwhelming season capped off by a drubbing of Rudy and the Arizona State Sun Devils in the Holiday Bowl, I remember thinking to myself that this Texas team was two years away from glory. I, like a lot of people, was ready to write off 2008 as another one of those '10-win rebuilding years'. Colt looked like he was struggling following his freshman campaign and needed another season to mature. We were losing guys like Frank Okam, Derek Lokey, Jamaal Charles, Jermichael Finley, Limas Sweed, Billy Pittman and Scott Derry (HAR HAR MADE YOU LOOK), so the talent pool looked to be shallower than normal until the young guys got up to speed. 2009, though, would be our chance before we lost another hunk of talent and spent the next few years building up for another run. This seemed reasonable, and I embraced it.
Then the next season rolled around. All of the sudden, Colt was a freakin superstar. The Great White Hype blossomed into greatness (I swear to God it feels like he was in school when I was a freshman in 02') and teamed up with Quan Cosby to make one of the most potent receiving duos in the nation. Will Muschamp turned our floundering Akina led defense into a well-oiled machine. All of the sudden, that write off season ended inches away from a national championship and a BCS bowl win. And that wasn't even supposed to be our good year.
Then, 2009 lived up to its billing until Colt's shoulder gave way just five plays in and crushed our dreams of another Rose Bowl triumph.
Yet, I can't look back at my projections after the Holiday Bowl and I can't help but smile. Yeah, Texas lost on Thursday. There's no way to sugarcoat that. But, the more I think about it and read what others think about it, there is more than enough to get excited about. Turns out, there's no need to compromise and write anything off as a 'rebuilding year'.
Item No. 1 -- Garrett Gilbert grew from a 19-year-old kid to a f'ing Mike Gundy-esque man right before our eyes. As pointed out in burnt in ny's eloquent analysis, this kid played beyond his years in a situation that was flat out impossible and came within three points of breaking the world record for most amount of poontang acquired by a college freshman in a 48 hour period. What we saw on Thursday night was something special -- the kind of stuff that goes down into Texas football lore. I still remember the first time I saw Vince play back when I was in school against New Mexico State. It was breathtaking the talent he brought on the field and you couldn't help but think the kid was going to be special. This, though, was way different. VY had his growing pains before be became a deity. Colt faced his trial by fire against Ohio State as a freshman in the friendly confines of DKR after working with the first team for months. Gilbert stepped into the national title game against a great defense with no first-team experience and performed better. Something tells me the pregame jitters for Rice next year aren't going to be that bad.
Item No. 2 -- Burnt in ny put this much more eloquently than I ever could, but I was actually impressed with Greg Davis and his handling the crisis on Thursday. I've joined in happily with the bashing over the past few years, but I'm starting to think he's turned a corner here. Instead of the conservative, scared play calling we've all grown to love there were a number of times during that game where he stepped up to the plate and made the aggressive-type decisions we've been clamoring for. If this carries over to next year, I feel very good.
Item No. 3 -- We've got an entire offseason to improve our running game with a stable of talented but raw backs. Ditto with the young receiving corps and their inconsistency. We've got Hix, Huey and Snow back (I think this is a positive, maybe?) along with Trey Allen to anchor what should be a strong o-line. Defensively, we lose Earl, Kindle, Houston and Muck. That sucks, but so what? We've got a slew of young talent still on the roster (The Acho bros, Aaron Williams, etc) along with one of the best defensive recruiting classes in the country coming in. That and, frankly, I've developed this hubris over the past two years and firmly believe that Coach Boom could put together a top 10 defense out of my middle school lineup.
Basically, what I'm trying to say here, is that even with the loss of so much there is absolutely no reason that Texas shouldn't be competing for another Big 12 title and a national championship next year. The biggest question mark to me was how we'd perform with an inexperienced Gilbert under center during his sophmore season. As far as I'm concerned, I'm not worried.
So chin-up, folks. This isn't the end of the world. We blew a shot, but not the shot. There will be others much, much sooner than you think.