There are wins, and then there are wins. This was one for the ages, a dramatic exclamation point that perfectly encapsulated the dynamic between these two schools. The Aggies, roster loaded up for a BCS run, limp meekly away from the Big 12 after a pathetic 6-6 season, the final indignity a home loss to a rebuilding Texas squad with no offense to speak of.
And worst of all for A&M, the road to redemption no longer goes through Austin, but through Tuscaloosa, Baton Rouge, and Gainesville. Whoop! (Whoops?)
What. A. Win. It's as proud a day to be a Longhorn as it is dispiriting to be an Aggie. Our defense delivered an epic performance, and our offense and special teams came through with just enough to seal the deal. We needed every last bit of what we got from all three phases in the game, and I couldn't be more proud of this team for gutting out this win.
Texas A&M: The GTFO Tour is complete. Good luck in the SEC. /snicker
After the jump, a few late night thoughts on the performance of the good guys.
Defensive dominance. What can you say about the performance of our defense? Manny Diaz's crew held the Aggies to 4.0 yards per play across 82 plays and produced 3 turnovers. It was a complete effort with brilliant contributions from every unit on the field, so much so that the announcers couldn't help but wonder how this Longhorns unit compared to the country's top two units at LSU and Alabama. Our defensive line was a disruptive force, our linebackers cleaned up as Manny Diaz's defense ideally envisions, and our secondary was jaw-droppingly great. If our offense were even halfway capable, we'd be 9-2 and one of the hottest teams in the country. Our defense has been that good the last month, and they peaked tonight.
Special teams makes a difference. As frustrating as it was to see us punt the ball 30-35 yards up the field over and over, our special teams was in every other regard essential to this victory. We picked up a huge turnover on a muffed punt, Diggs' monster return set up a field goal, and Justin Tucker more than made up for his punting with a nails field goal to win the game. It's amazing how much we've asked of Justin Tucker this year, and he earns his place alongside Dawson, Pino, and Lawrence in the legends book. As for Diggs, again I ask: is he really a true freshman? How far has he come this year? What an amazing talent.
The offense comes through when it counts. It's been a painful, frustrating year for this offense, in part because we've suffered some injuries, but mainly because of the poor play from our young quarterbacks. Tonight's performance was almost another frustrating coulda-shoulda-been, with limited rushing, mediocre quarterbacking, and disappointing play from our receivers. But when it counted most -- when there was nothing more our defense could do to win the game -- they pulled together for the one drive we had to have.
We've been awfully hard on both Ash and McCoy as they've struggled through this year, and had we fallen just short once again we'd have to spend another week talking about what these kids aren't able to do. But Case McCoy finally put those happy feet to productive use, ripping off the most important run of the football season and delivering us a win. For tonight, at least, that's all that matters. Tonight, Case McCoy, you are a Longhorn Legend, and we salute you. What a run. Next time please go down.
Texas has an identity. Without question, we still have a long way to go as a football team. We only managed 237 yards of total offense, after all, and let's be honest: while Case McCoy is the hero tonight, if that last drive doesn't produce point we're having the same conversation we've been having after the past two games.
But something important happened tonight. We won a tough game on the road in ways that confirm that we're on the right path forward. We got it done defensively with a dominant, game-defining performance. We won special teams decisively as a team with our limitations had to do. And our offensive coordinator manufactured just enough points to win with a young, rudderless group: All you need to know about the importance of that 41-yard TD on the double pass from Shipley to Irby is that we didn't have the straight-ahead firepower to punch in Diggs' punt return from the 8 yard line.
There are questions that remain unanswered after tonight's game and which will be critical to our maximizing our potential in 2012 and beyond, but tonight's victory confirmed that we have a new identity following last year's meltdown, and provide reason to be excited about our ability to figure it out. We need a quarterback, we need our line to continue to improve (and add depth), and we need our receivers to get a lot better.
How well we're able to address those issues will determine our ceiling going forward, but for now, the most important thing to appreciate is the way this group developed and fought this year. We weren't a great team this year, and we haven't had a great season. But we have every reason to feel good about Texas football again. After last year, that's something neither we, nor our coaching staff, should take for granted.
Onward and upward, and it's good-bye to A&M. Hook 'em, Horns.