Like many of you, I'll have to someday explain to my children what it was like to grow up in a world without the internet, e-mail, or cellular phones. I imagine they will find the conversation very amusing, especially as the world continues evolving, adapting, and relying on products and technology not even invented yet. But, as we've all watched as the internet has become the primary method of communication and social interaction for this generation, I think there is a nuance about the internet and e-mail that is easily forgotten--its ability to serve as a time capsule. And it is this aspect that I want to focus on for this post.
Just under two years ago, PB invited me to start contributing to BON. While I immediately embraced the opportunity, one of the biggest benefits of writing for BON was something that initially never crossed my mind. Even though I haven't written a lot for this site, I've put a lot of thought into each of the stories I've posted. And this is where the initially unforeseen benefit of writing for BON kicks in. Through a handful of simple mouse clicks, I can go back in time and re-read any story I've ever written. More importantly, by looking through old stories, I can understand and remember exactly how I felt at the time I clicked "post." Just as importantly, I can re-read the reactions, responses, and consensus of the BON community. As you probably know, by clicking on your own name, each of you can do something similar with all of your Fanposts, Fanshots, and recent comments. The results are often fascinating and insightful. More than anything, they remind me just how much we can forget, even about the most important things in our lives. As new memories overtake and sometimes supplant their predecessors, a lot of valuable thoughts and information can get lost in the process. But it doesnt have to be that way, especially with the ability of the internet to permanently store memories.
And, with that in mind, I want to invite each of you to join me in creating a post that outlines your favorite memories over the 2009-2010 seasons of the various UT teams. While most of us will always remember the major storylines and eventual heartbreaking losses of our Football, Basketball, and Baseball teams from this season, I want to try to preserve some of the stories and events that will likely be forgotten over the course of time.
As an initial clarification, for the purposes of this post, I'm only going to focus on the three major sports at UT--football, basketball, and baseball. While I encourage comments and feedback over each of our other sports, they simply reside outside the scope of my focus and attention. For each of the three primary sports, I'll list what I think will be permanently remembered by all the fans, then try to spotlight some other areas that I'll want to remember when I look back at the past year, yet remain afraid that I might eventually forget.
What I think Everyone Will Remember: Kindle concussing Taylor Potts, Aaron Williams sacking Sam Bradford, Colt's game-saving tackle against OU, Colt against Texas A&M, Earl Thomas against everyone, "The Roommates", Ndumakong Suh, The :01 replay controversy, Hunter Lawrence's heroics, Colt's Injury, Garrett Gilbert's trial-by-fire against Alabama, the Shovel Pass, and the Second Half Comeback
Some Other Things I WANT to Remember
1) DJ Monroe Introducing Himself in the Season Opener against Louisiana Monroe: If a picture is worth a thousand words, then YouTube clips are worth...more than that. Against ULM, DJ Monroe produced one of the best highlights of the season, which is something I'd like to remember more than his off-the-field problems.
Texas Longhorn D J Monroe debuts with an 89 Yard Kick-Off Return for a Touchdown! (via DBDVTV)
2) Entire first half of the Missouri game: Sandwiched in-between the games against pre-season powerhouses Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, the Missouri game in Columbia loomed as a potential trap game. Even though the Tigers had lost their first two conference games to Nebraska and Oklahoma State, Texas appeared far from invincible. As you may recall, the Longhorns struggled mightily against both Texas Tech and Oklahoma and were actually losing at halftime against Colorado. I dont think anyone really knew what to expect from Texas after the Oklahoma game. I thought the Missouri game would be a good barometer, as it was the first true road game of the season against a quality opponent, yet remained a game that Texas *should* dominate. And they did.
As you know, Texas completely outclassed Missouri during the first half, building up a 35-7 lead and silencing a record crowd hoping for an upset. This blowout demonstrated what Texas looked like when clicking on all cylinders and foreshadowed the similar string of beatdowns against OSU, UCF, Baylor, and Kansas.
3) Curtis Brown's 77-yard interception return against Oklahoma State: While the final score of 41-7 indicated a likely explosion by the Texas offense, it was actually the Texas defense that dominated the game against the Cowboys. Despite scoring 41 points, the Texas offense only gained 275 total yards, but was boosted by two of the trademark non-offensive touchdowns from the season. The prettiest one came on a great play by Curtis Brown, in a play that hasnt really gotten its due respect.
With 6:30 left in the first half in a 10-0 game, OSU was facing a 3rd-and-2 from inside Texas territory. On the next play, Brown--who was in single coverage--beat the OSU receiver to his spot, grabbed the ball, and followed some blockers down the sideline for a back-breaking touchdown. You can see the play at the 1:47 mark of this video.
Texas Vs Oklahoma St. Highlights 10/31/09 (via BruisingTaints)
4) Colt's 88-yard TD pass to Shipley against UCF: In a storybook season for both of "The Roommates," this was the biggest play of their best statistical day. Colt threw for a ridiculous 470 yards, with an equally ridiculous 273 of those going to Shipley, which set a school record. Unlike many of the short, quick passes between the two over their careers, this was an absolutely gorgeous vertical throw and route that showed off Shipley's speed. Catching the ball near the end of the midfield logo, Shipley shook off a tackle before outrunning the UCF defenders to the corner of the endzone. The video is at the :16 mark below.
2009 Texas Longhorns vs. UCF Knights Highlights (via EverythingLonghorns)
5) The Texas Defense Against Nebraska: As noted above, I think everyone will remember three things about the Big 12 Championship Game--Suh, the :01 controversy, and Hunter Lawrence. What I think people might eventually forget is the ridiculous amount of ass-kicking the UT defense did during the game. In a game their fans will forever claim they were "screwed" out of winning, Nebraska got a grand total of FIVE first downs. Over 60 minutes, the Cornhuskers were only able to amass 106 yards of total offense, including a paltry 39 yards passing on 19 attempts. In fact, during the game, Nebraska had more punts (8) than completed passes (6). In another fun fact, Zac Lee completed half as many passes to Texas DB's (3) than his own receivers. Most importantly, the Texas defense held Nebraska to four field goals, when a single touchdown would have cost Texas the game.
6) How I felt at halftime of the National Championship: I dont know if I've ever admitted this on BON, but I was feeling pretty devastated at halftime of the NC game. Far from expecting the miraculous comeback that transpired, I actually told my family that "I just hope we dont get embarrassed in the second half." At the time, Garrett Gilbert was still being shackled by Greg Davis, the Alabama running game seemed to be coming alive, and I was worried about a 41-6 beatdown being displayed in the record books. I'm not proud of those thoughts, but I just want to someday remember the brilliance of the comebook in the context of the despair that preceded it. A lesser team, coach, or program would have folded, but we didnt. And that says a lot about why this team has been so successful over the last decade, regardless of whether or not Vince Young was running the show.
That night, in writing a post about coping with the loss to Alabama, one segment of the article provides the perfect segway to reflecting upon the basketball and baseball seasons. This quote accurately reflects my mindset on January 9th over our other two sports.
Time will try to heal all wounds, and we've had quite a few of them lately. The back-to-back-to-back championship losses in baseball, volleyball, and football loom large over the staggering success of our most popular sports. The nature of these losses only exacerbates the disappointment, as each title felt within reach before we collectively watched defeat get snatched from the jaws of victory. There's no magic salve to immediately fix these mental wounds, especially the ones caused by the football game. However, while the 2009-10 football season may be solely remembered by Longhorns fans for what happened (and didnt happen) on Thursday evening, this year isn't over yet. Not by a long shot. In case you forgot, "We're Texas," and that extends past our success on the gridiron.
Football may be King in this school and at this state, but there are some Princes who deserve your immediate attention. While one magical team was decimated five offensive plays into a championship game, our other magical team is in the middle of an incredible season. A third highly-ranked (and potentially magical) team is still waiting for their season to start. We will never see Colt McCoy hoisting up a crystal trophy, but we might get to see Damion James cut down a piece of a net in Indianapolis. We will never see Earl Thomas intercept another pass or Sergio Kindle sack another quarterback, but we might get to see Taylor Jungmann toss his glove twenty feet in the air before being suffocated in a dogpile on the mound at Omaha. And we might see each of these things within the next few months.
What I think Everyone Will Remember: Damion and Dexter returning, the hyped freshmen quartet, the Rise to 17-0 and the #1 ranking, the two immediate losses after reaching #1, the 3 losses in one season to Baylor, and the collapse against Wake Forest.
Some Other Things I WANT to Remember
1) The Pre-Season Optimism: I spent several months hyping up the team, including dubbing the freshmen as the "Hyperizers" to the program. Everything seemed to fit together perfectly, and it was time to enjoy a magical season before the team took their shot at immortality in March. In our pre-season Roundball Roundtable, Wiggo provided a response over his expectation for the team that still--to this day--gives me chills. When I think back to this season, this quote is what I will remember the most.
Awiggo: On BON, we've talked about what it will take for the basketball team to move to the next level. The next level where the football program has lived, realistically or not, for a long time. The next level where good is not good enough and great is expected every season. Rick Barnes' arrival and subsequent recruiting successes have made this discussion possible. The alignment of young talent combined with the decisions of Dex and James to stick around for another season make this season the arrival of that level.
The season ticket holders may still stay home till conference season, the press may not pay attention until after Pasadena, and even most BON readers may not feel the passion, but this is the season. If moving to the next level means demanding and expecting a championship, then let me say that is what I expect. I know that March is crazy and anything can happen in a single elimination tournament. However, if this team is healthy in March, then I expect to cut down the nets in Indianapolis
2) Avery Bradley's Monster Dunk Against Western Carolina: Due to representing UT Law in a Mock Trial Competition, I missed our first game against UC Irvine. My first exposure to the team--and the freshmen--came in the game against Western Carolina. This dunk was how Avery Bradley welcomed me back to the Drum. In this one :13 highlight, you can see why he was ranked as the #1 HS player in the country.
Avery Bradley Tomahawk Dunk vs Western Carolina (via 0206King)
3) Back-to-Back Wins Over North Carolina and Michigan State: One of the common refrains from after the season was that Texas was a "fraud" and never deserved the #1 ranking. That's not entirely true. While it's true that Texas may never have actually been the best team in the country, they did--at one point--have the best resume of any team in the country. And a large part of that resume came from beating two members of College Basketball Royalty in back-to-back games. Even though North Carolina turned out to be really, really bad, the Michigan State Spartans wound up reaching the Final Four.
I cant speak from personal experience over the atmosphere at JerryWorld for the game with UNC, but the game against MSU turned out to be one of the Top Ten games in my seven years at Texas. The atmosphere was solid and became absolutely electric following Gary Johnson's back-to-back steals of Korie Lucious to ice the game. Even though Texas collapsed in the second half of the season, the Michigan State win remains a bright spot in what became an otherwise dark season.
4) Avery Bradley Explodes Against Colorado: Similar to Kevin Durant's explosion against the Buffaloes, Avery Bradley delivered a monster performance in his first-ever conference game. In fact, his performance against Colorado might have been the best individual performance of any player during the entire season. Pouring in 29 points (on 12-14 shooting), grabbing 9 rebounds, and dishing 3 assists, Bradley did a little bit of everything. Sadly, due to his late season slump, this performance seems largely forgotten.
5) The Environment for the KU Game (Before, you know, they went on that little 22-0 Run): Usually, even with big games, it takes until the second half for the Erwin Center to really get rocking. The KU game was a pleasant exception to this general rule. I dont think I've ever experienced an Erwin Center crowd get as hot as it was at the beginning of the game, which pitted the #14 Longhorns against the top-ranked Jayhawks. Despite the final score, most people have forgotten that Texas was dominant early. When Damion James scored to put Texas up 14-8 at the 14:00 mark, I thought my eardrums were going to burst. It was loud, it was rocking, and we were kicking ass. In short, it was perfect.
Then, as you all know, everything fell apart. Kansas scored the next 22 points to go up 30-14, murdering the crowd, and spoiling my visions of the matchup becoming the "Game of the Decade" at the Erwin Center. But, while that didnt happen, I'll always be able to remember those first six minutes.
6) Senior Night for Damion James, Dexter Pittman, and Justin Mason: For the first time in several years, Texas was able to have a meaningful Senior Night for players that passed up the NBA for a chance to improve their draft stock and cut down the nets. My words from an earlier post capture my thoughts over its significance.
While our disappointments over this team have led to outbursts of anger, none of us can even begin to fathom the psychological and physical toll this season has taken on Damion James, Dexter Pittman, and Justin Mason. Each of these three seniors have poured out blood, sweat, tears, and shed at least 90 pounds for this program. While each of them has their own limitations and have been disappointing in their own ways, none of them have ever quit on this program. For four years, each of them have been model players for a model program, and, as a fan, I'm grateful for all of their sacrifices.
For four years, each of our seniors have been picked apart for what they're not. Most notably, they're not Kevin Durant, and they're not DJ Augustin. But they're also not Mike Williams, Dion Dowell, CJ Miles, PJ Tucker, Daniel Gibson, or Harrison Smith. They've been here, they've stayed here, and they'll each walk away with their degrees after the season. And tomorrow night, for the final time, they'll walk out onto the floor of the Erwin Center. They deserve to receive a thunderous ovation commensurate with their sacrifices for the program. Sadly, I'm not sure they'll get it, and that pisses me off. It's an understatement to say this season hasn't gone according to plan, but, when it comes to honoring the departing seniors--especially these seniors--that shouldn't matter.
To be honest, the environment for their ceremony was a bit of a letdown, but I wont forget the moment.
What I think Everyone Will Remember: Green/Jungmann/Workman, Chance Ruffin's season, the Winning Streaks (21 straight and 28 of 29), and the loss to TCU
Some Other Things I WANT to Remember: To be honest, I only watched about 12-15 games this year and followed the team primarily through box scores and BON. I'll have to leave it to the BON community to add to the list below.
1) The Pictures from InDKR'sShadow's Post and their Significance: In looking through the pictures from the post from InDRK'sShadow, I was struck by the emotions demonstrated by some of the elder leaders on the team. Now, obviously, I didnt expect them to be happy, but it was touching to see the reactions of Keyes/Rupp/Moldy as they left the field for the last time in their collegiate careers. But it also makes sense. Texas Baseball players expect to win championships, and this group of Juniors and Seniors simply came up short in each of their years on the Forty Acres. Which, as of now, can also be said for every single member of the football, basketball, and baseball teams from the last four years.
As referenced in the last paragraph, Texas has not won a National Championship in a major sport since Vince Young defeated the "0-13" USC Trojans in the greatest college football game of my lifetime. To be honest, that's a little jarring. Despite the sustained run of success in each of our three major sports, Texas has simply come up a little bit short each and every time, sometimes in truly heartbreaking fashion. This year alone, each of the three sports appeared to have teams containing the personnel to win a championship, yet it simply wasnt meant to be. And, for any real fan, that's hard to take.
In a few hours, days, or weeks, we'll know whether or not Texas will be joining the PAC-16. That's a really, really big deal. In fact, Hopkins Horn is probably writing another post about realignment right now. But, before we all close the book on 2009-2010 and look to our future, I wanted to provide everyone one last chance to capture and preserve the memories of the past season. For, despite all the disappointing losses, there were still a ton of silver linings and special moments from each of the three major sports. And, when I look back at this post in the future, those will be the things I want to remember. Or, more accurately, those will be the things that I simply dont want to forget.