The outcome was: One indication your team played a near-flawless game is when the instant reactions center on whether or not Texas accumulated enough Style Points to impress voters. More on the excellent performance below, but let's talk about the outcome in that stylistic context.
You have to tip your cap to Mack Brown, whose gollygeewillickers hyper-attention to "the kids" and "the integrity of the game" and "sportsmanship" can--at the wrong moments--grate a little bit. Talk about the competition on the field already! But the thing is: It's not disingenuous. And he's unwavering--totally consistent.
Before 2005, those qualities sometimes worked against him, as he was perceived as a nice guy who developed nice players in a nice country club... all of whom were destined to be eaten alive when competing against cold, ruthless, blood-hungry teams led by fierce Machiavellian types like Bob Stoops.
Even after 2005, Mack had to deal with a smattering of "Yeah, but Vince Young" skepticism, but with this magical season, it's all coming together for Mack, and those qualities which once fueled skepticism about him are being viewed as strengths which make him one of the very best--if not the best--college football coaches in America. After Texas waxed Oklahoma and Missouri in successive weeks, SI's Joe Posnanski called Mack the best coach in America. And last night CBS' Dennis Dodd heaped praise on Mack Brown for calling off the dogs in Lawrence, urging voters to evaluate fairly Texas' 28-point victory over KU--defined by style points of a different kind: Mack Brown's class.
Does this have anything to do with whether or not Texas is better than anyone else? Of course not, but as far as the conversation about "style points" goes, Texas got everything it needed on Saturday:
- The Longhorns' 28-point road win spanks Oklahoma's 14-point home win over Kansas.
- Mack Brown's fundamental nice guy philosophy is now viewed as a strength instead of weakness, with the narrative setters prone to reward Texas for playing subs and not gunning for 70 points.
It's taken a while, and Mack Brown couldn't have gotten here if he were disinengenuous or inconsistent along the way, but with Texas' unexpected 10-1 season in 2008, Mack Brown now sits comfortably atop the mountain, viewed as one of the best in America, defined as much by his consistency and integrity as anything else. Whatever one thinks about the importance of those things, they're only going to help in the theater of the absurd.
The Offensive MVP was: Colt McCoy Maybe no single factor was as important to Saturday's offensive efficiency as was Colt McCoy gutting out one tough run after another, subjecting himself for one more battering of blows to punish the defense with his legs. With Texas' non-Colt rushing game stuck in neutral, Colt got back to running the ball himself, making plays in the open field and running QB draws to help provide some offensive balance for the Longhorns. He was also excellent in the pocket--patient with his reads, not bailing too soon--allowing some receivers to break free while his O-Line more or less dominated the Kansas front four. He rushed 15 times for 80 yards, passed for 255, and accounted for 3 touchdowns--2 through the air, 1 on his feet. He's a gutty, brilliant quarterback, and Mangino was right when he (perhaps understatedly) complimented McCoy on Friday by saying that he's come incredibly far since last year.
The Defensive MVP was: The most complete team defensive effort on the season? I think so, readily apparent from the opening series, when Eddie Jones--filling in for the injured Brian Orakpo--not once but twice snuffed out Kansas by perfectly playing outside contain. Everyone played exceptionally solid football:
- Blake Gideon: Before getting knocked out, Texas' strong safety was having arguably his best game as a Longhorn, forcing a fumble, tackling hard, and playing perfect positional defense.
- Earl Thomas: He gets it now. Smart and athletic and instinctual. Scary.
- Henry Melton: From team disappointment to unsung hero on the line. Melton was again exceptionally solid Saturday, and he's quietly had an outstanding year.
- Miller & Houston: The anchors inside make it impossible to run on Texas between the tackles.
- LBs: Outside a boneheaded play by Norton where he was caught leaning the wrong way on a pass, then chased down the receiver seven yards out of bounds for a penalty, it was a solid day for the LBs. They were active, well positioned, and didn't do anything to hurt the 'Horns. Bobino still can't shed a block, but I'm nitpicking.
- CBs: Deon Beasley occasionally looked bad trying to cover Briscoe (what a player, by the way), but that's not too bad a sin. More impressive was the number of times Reesing found himself stuck in the pocket, looking downfield with nowhere to go. The only thing our guys need to do better is play the football in the air.
The offensive Offensive LVP was: The running game. This week sent six feet under the myth that all we needed was Fozzy Whittaker to cure our rushing woes. To an extent, I bought into this myself, insofar as I thought Fozzy had enough lateral quickness and ability to make guys miss to find more yards in a mostly shoddy blocking scheme. Turns out he's not Barry Sanders. Damn.
In fact, the two nicest runs of the day came from the more deliberate Vondrell McGee and Chris Ogbonnaya, who each scored on pretty counter plays in which they planted and accelerated uphill, breaking an arm tackle or two on the way to six. I was going to devote a lot more copy to this, but Scipio Tex just posted an entire essay on the subject, so I'll ship you over there for an excellent break down of the issue.
The offensive Defensive LVP: N/A. Nuh-uh. Not when Kansas managed 4.1 yards per play and our second- and third-team defenders shut out the Jayhawks for an eternity on the goal line in the 4th quarter. A hat tip to everyone.
Emerging Stars Watch: Christian Scott, Malcolm Williams, Brandon Collins Let's start with Scott, who replaced Gideon and immediately played the best half of football any Texas safety has all season. I don't think that's an exaggeration. On his first play from scrimmage, he smacked Quigley like he was wielding a freaking folding chair. He subsequently forced a fumble, nearly made an interception, and flew around the field like he was Michael Huff. If that's a foretaste of the feast to come, there'll be no choice but to start him.
Malcolm Williams wasn't the recipient of much on the receiving end, but he continues to block well and play special teams with the kind of starving desire that I love to see in a young player. He's going to be an unstoppable force on the field real soon. Finally, Brandon Collins is, with experience, coming into his own; with an offseason of weight training and confidence-building, he'll be Quan Cosby 2 next year.
Cerberus Watch: 13-15-1.2, 0 TD, 5 receptions, 42 yards. The schizophrenic segment of the fanbase is now wailing for more Vondrell McGee, but that's why we call them the schizophrenic segment of the fanbase. The fact is Fozzy did a nice job in everything he was asked to do--except find rushing yards amongst broken blocking schemes. Fozzy picked up the blitz, was a nice receiving option for Colt, and played like someone who could be counted on to fill his role in this offense. He'd better start holding on to the ball, however, or he'll be on the sidelines for good.
Kudos to McGee and OG, who both were excellent in their limited usage. The trio presents a good logjam of options for Texas to have.
My only question: Why no Cojo from inside the five yard line? Is Cody hurt?
A&M Fear Factor: (5) is the baseline. (-5) for this.
Heading into next week I feel: Deeply satisfieed. 10-1 people. 10 and freaking 1. If you saw this coming, I tip my cap to you, because for the rest of us, this looked very much like a season that could be a little bit bumpy as the experience lagged behind the talent. Thanks to Colt McCoy's superhuman leap forward, an underrated pass protecting unit up front, and a defense that's not getting enough credit from a sizable portion of the fanbase, the Longhorns are way ahead of where I thought it was fair to assume they could be. Though I found myself saying repeatedly before the season that Texas would be a team you didn't want to play by December, I expected 2-4 losses along the way.
But here we are. We've posted a 10-1 mark in the clubhouse, and now the Burnt Orange Nation turns its attention to Norman next Saturday, to see whether a Big 12 championship may be possible yet. And possibly much more: Texas is likely to find itself ranked #3 in the BCS once again when the standings are announced in a couple of hours.
What a season. Now let's sit back and see if we get some of the help that we need.