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Morning Coffee Survives Trip To the Llano Estacado

There and back again, a hobbit's tale of Lubbock. I think she meant it as some type of compliment. At the least, a simple observation unworthy of deep analysis. "You look like a hobbit," said the fellow partygoer, celebrating the graduation from Texas Tech of my girlfriend's godbrother. Perhaps it's my curly hair, coupled with a slightly oversized version of Elijah Wood's nose. Regardless, it was my first experience of Lubbock, one my girlfriend worked hard to convince me to experience.

Ultimately, since I have engaged in derogatory comments about the landscape of the South Plains, I felt that at some point I had to visit to see for myself. That, and not having traveled farther west in Texas than Fredericksburg and Johnson City. There is an untamable beauty in the country of the Llano Estacado, the Palisaded Plains, in the escarpments and mesas. Untamable, yes, and also unyielding, the type of place that forces perspective, the marginalization that humans seek to avoid with their endless manipulation of their environment.

While not as overwhelmingly strange as some places I have been, like Spanish Fork, Utah, the ultra-conservative stronghold of the Mormons, Lubbock still struck me as a slightly odd place. In cursory travel around the city, it appeared mostly semi-industrial, a collection of slightly run down and worn buildings, with few apparent neighborhoods in the areas through which we drove. It's also a town still in development around campus, with new apartment buildings and shopping area still under construction. In that sense, Lubbock feels like it is still striving to find it's place, seeking a slightly more sophisticated reputation.

I spent the greatest part of the graduation ceremony entertaining myself by looking at the home towns of every graduating senior, wondering what draws people to Texas Tech. As a native Hoosier, I found myself at UT because of everything that Austin has to offer, attributes that were apparent to me from the moment I set foot in central Texas. For Lubbock, those reasons still remain mysterious to me. Why a native of Los Angeles would matriculate at Cal-Berkeley and Harvard, then gain a doctorate at Texas Tech. Why a child of Snoqualmie, Washington, the beautiful mountain pass in the Cascades through which I have passed when traveling from visiting my brother in Seattle back to Montana, exchanged a rich and lush environment for the semi-arid plains.

My trip failed to truly elucidate my quest, but I do know that I appreciate Austin all the more for my experience. The music. Places of incredible natural beauty like Barton Springs, Hamilton Pool, and Mount Bonnell. The murals covering nearly every blank wall around campus. Most of all, for being a Longhorn and everything it represents. So, after applauding the culmination of the journey of bright young minds at Texas Tech, I still felt obliged to remain seated during the Tech fight song, holding my horns proudly in the air.

Gilbert stands tall above competition. After dominating the competition on his future home field at DKR, Gatorade National Player of the Year Garrett Gilbert and his army of Cavliers invaded Kyle Field. As it no doubt will be in the coming years there, Gilbert was once again physically superior to his opponents, this time an overmatched Friendswood squad that fell 56-22. Repeating a theme throughout the playoffs, the heir apparent to Colt McCoy threw efficiently (completing 23 of 30 passes for 253 yards and three touchdowns) and showed off his athleticism running the football, to the tune of 131 yards and three touchdowns on 14 carries, bringing his rushing total to over 700 yards for the season.

The best 4A high school football teams in Texas have found little success against Lake Travis, a team that has averaged 55 points in their five playoff wins, with an average margin of victory of 35 points--all despite being able to rest starters during most of the fourth quarters. Gilbert has risen to the level of his competition, gaining 477 of his 708 rushing yards during the playoffs on only 60 carries, an average of nearly eight yards per rush. The yards have also led to touchdowns--16 of them, in fact, roughly 75% of his 21 rushing touchdowns on the season.

For all those wondering why Longhorn fans predict such great future success for Gilbert, perhaps his performances in the playoffs will quell their disbelief. Perhaps watching the highlights from the Friendswood game will help. On display is Gilbert's accuracy and ability to throw on the run, attributes that feel almost over-commended by this point but cannot be since there are still doubters out there. The only flaw, besides elite running ability, is Gilbert's continued poor footwork throwing deep passes, often leaving them short of his receiver and susceptible to defenders beat on the play. Still don't believe in Gilbert, all you trolling haters? You surely won't even listen to Friendswood's Steve Van Meter, grizzled veteran coach of 28 years:

He's the best high school quarterback I've ever seen. He's a big, strong kid with a great feel for the game and he's going to be a great one (in college).

Gilbert and the Cavaliers will seek to conclude their second straight championship run and quest for an undefeated season next Saturday against Longview in another Big 12 stadium, this time Baylor's Floyd Casey Stadium, the field on which Lake Travis claimed their state championship a season ago.

As the world of McFarland turns. Good news and bad news ($) on the recruiting front in the continued battle between Texas and OU for the services of Jamarkus McFarland. Good news or bad news first? Bad news? Okay, the bad news is that McFarland's family wants their son to attend Oklahoma, going so far as to turn down a home visit by Texas coaches and forcing them to visit with the defensive tackle at his high school. The other bad news is that Bob Stoops will have a chance to visit in-home with McFarland his parents on Tuesday or Wednesday, making any potential OU commitment most likely to occur this week.

There is good news in all of this, as a source close to McFarland indicates that he has told Texas coaches of his desire to play at Texas, held up only by the tension created by pressure from his parents to head north of the Red River. This is a reversal from previous speculation that McFarland's mom was pushing heavily for Texas and bad news for the Texas coaches, who will likely not visit McFarland again unless he expresses interest in them doing so. Any announcement from McFarland this week would likely be a commitment to OU. If the process drags out past this week, Texas' chances go up a little bit every day.

Trojans make pitch to Kennard. For as much as he apparently enjoyed ($) his trip to USC this weekend, Devon Kennard didn't sound like he found out anything new about the Trojans and Pete Carroll on his visit. He spoke ($) about the now almost cliched attractions of USC: the boyish exuberance of its coach and the fun, relaxed, yet competitive attitude adopted by the team. Burgeoning friendships with other recruits like Matt Barkley and and TJ McDonald may help deliver Kennard to the West Coast, as might his comfort with the USC defensive scheme.

Of course, Texas will get the final word between the three schools still in major consideration (Cal and USC being the others), as Kennard visits Austin next weekend before likely making a decision in January.

Always good to know your rebound options...Any time a relationship starts going sour, one partner or the other always starts making mental lists of alternatives, preparing for the inevitable breakup. The Texas situation with Devon Kennard is not so hopeless as that, but the Texas coaches are developing a rebound option. A rebound option, in the person of Stony Point defensive end Tevin Mims. Every year, a group of high school seniors falls through the cracks of the giant recruiting machines driving major college football, generally the result of injuries during or after their junior seasons. Deep playoff runs in their senior seasons often attract notice, as the undervalued seniors show off their development against top competition. Think LBJ's DJ Grant, member of the 2008 Longhorn recruiting class.

Stony Point's run deep into the postseason (ended last week against Allen) attracted the notice of Longhorn coaches. For Mims, the injury limiting his exposure was a torn labrum in his right shoulder, requiring the same surgery performed on Drew Brees and Garrett Gilbert (although there hasn't been any indication of whether the injury was extreme, like Brees, or a more slight tear, like Gilbert). In any case, Mims has healed well, as the 6-4, 230-pounder self-reporting a 4.8 40 has registered 60 tackles on the season, including 15 sacks. Will Muschamp made the short trip out to Stony Point to visit with Mims, inviting him to take an official visit to the Texas campus. Mims could well receive an offer after the other targets in the class make their decisions, as their scholarship offers will remain until they accept or decline them. If Texas offers, Mims is likely to chose Texas over schools like Arizona, Iowa State, Louisiana Tech, Purdue, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and TCU, schools that are all likely dreading the offer of a Longhorn scholarship.

On that stupid trophy they give out every year. In a completely expected turn for Longhorn fans, the Heisman announcement on Saturday night left the Longhorns and Colt McCoy on the outside looking in. It was a historically close race, the closest since 2001, when Rex Grossman finished 62 points behind Eric Crouch, a year that also had the most narrow recent margin between first and third. Tebow received more first-place votes than either McCoy or Bradford, the first time since 1956 and only the third time that the winner did not receive the most first-place votes.

Before I continue, it's important to note that Sam Bradford is an extremely worthy Heisman winner, from all reports every bit the upstanding young man that Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy are (which probably explains his embarassment here), and possessing the absolutely gaudy numbers that make any statistics-phile want to pull a Gary Danielson-Tim Tebow impression and wildly fellate the kid. Even a cursory examination of Matt Hinton's chart comparing the numbers from the three finalists and previous winners (including Peyton Manning and Vince Young), reveals a group of candidates each more deserving than many of those previous winners.

With that said, and at the risk of sounding like a ::cough cough:: typical, whiny, little baby, bratty, arrogant, entitled, homerific (did I miss anything?) Longhorn fan, I have some bones to pick here. Check out the voting box on the ESPN page. Notice anything strange about it? Like the presence of players who don't deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as Bradford, Tebow, and McCoy? Three morons gave Pat White first-place votes. Seriously, his team lost to Little Hawk and his not-so-trusty sidekick, Little Right Rag Arm. How about Javon Ringer, who received 8 points, despite averaging fewer yards per carry than McCoy (4.3 to 4.5), even after the ridiculous practice by the NCAA of including sack yardage into the rushing total of a quarterback. Even Nate Davis received 10 points, a guy many casual college football observers likely don't know anything about. It's the same type of idiotic thinking that led Mel Kiper to declare Sam Bradford the most accurate quarterback in college football, despite trailing Colt McCoy by nearly 10 points in completion percentage and managing only one game above McCoy's season average, that in the blowout against the football team formerly known as Washington.

Besides that, what is with the continued infatuation with Tim Tebow, who has a ridiculous hypothesis on why he lost. Apparently, people still hate Florida because they thought Steve Spurrier was a prick, still holding the grudge years two coaches later, after Spurrier and all the players he recruited are long gone from the program.

The only thing I'm buying less than Tebow's explanation is Beergut's bumbling attempt at logic and argumentation. Spurred by the same demented thought process that keeps him from every capitalizing Texas, Beergut puts Colt McCoy third on his imagined Heisman ballot, citing his lack of impressive numbers to compete with Bradford and Tebow. For some reason, Beergut bases two of the five sentences in his argument for Bradford around OU scoring 35 points against Texas and how great that makes an offense, yet never mentions Texas averaging 43.9 points per game.

Arguing for Bradford over McCoy is generally beyond reproach (as obtuse as the logic may be), but McCoy over Tebow? That's the major egregious mistake many real voters made that just kills me about the Heisman voting. Let's look at the numbers, as Beergut purports to do. McCoy verus Tebow, just the numbers. Passing yards, McCoy (3.445 to 2.515). Passing touchdowns, McCoy (32 to 28). Quarterback rating, McCoy (179 to 176). Longest pass, McCoy (91 to 70). Passing yards per game, McCoy (287 to 193). Speaking of passing yards per game, how is 287 yards per game not acceptable when 193 is?

What about running, isn't Tebow the greatest collegiate running quarterback ever? McCoy again, in rushing yards (576 to 564), yards per carry (4.5 to 3.7), longest run (35 to 26), rushing yards per game (48 to 43), and trailing by only two in rushing touchdowns (12 to 10), despite the fact that the Longhorns actually have a short-yardage rusher in Cody Johnson, who scored 12 touchdowns. Still convinced Tebow is a better runner? Both teams had only one loss, with McCoy not responsible for the biggest play of the game, while Tebow found himself stopped attempting to execute his supposed forte, a short-yardage fourth down play.

Beergut makes an extraordinary rhetorical gambit by choosing to ignore a pretty important number. Attempting logic can sometimes fail, which means there is another "rhetorical strategy" that may perhaps work better. Ha! says Beergut, I know how to deal with McCoy's NCAA-record 77.6% completion percentage! I'll simply ignore it, while supposedly basing the decision "on the numbers." Oh wait, that's not a rhetorical strategy, it's a rhetorical fallacy, that of biased sample.

That's not the only rhetorical fallacy. Beergut also breaks out the ever-popular red herring, punishing McCoy for not averaging 300 yards passing per game and only reaching 100 yards once. How many times did Bradford reach 100 yards? Um, didn't even sniff it. Bradford's best running day was 23 yards against Beergut's own sorry ass Aggies. So if 100-yard performances are the criteria, that should eliminate Bradford. Unfortunately for Beergut's crumbling "argument," that also excuses Tebow from consideration, as he never reached 100 yards in a game, only twice exceeding 75 yards, a feat McCoy accomplished four times.

What about McCoy's pesky average of less than 300 yards? McCoy had five games of 300 or more yards, a feat Tebow accomplished only once, in the loss to Mississippi. Still don't have enough to eliminate Tebow? Consider that Tebow only once completed a higher percentage of passes than McCoy's season average, completing nine of 11 against Citadel, a performance that pales in comparison to McCoy's most efficient performance, against Missouri, a game in which he completed over 90% of his passes.

So yeah, the numbers argument does not favor Tebow. Perhaps Beergut is better served by antagonizing Longhorn fans, something he does much better than create convincing arguments.