Bill Little commentary: A work in progress
In so many ways, the Texas Longhorns football team that defeated Arkansas State in its season opener on Saturday resembled the facility in which the game was played.
It is a work in progress.
It was a long way from perfect, a long way from being what everybody wants it to be. It was a bit ragged at times and sharp at others. It wasn't near where it will be when it is finished.
But it worked. With a lack of some normal conveniences, the stadium opened. And despite a determined effort from the ASU and some first-game missteps, Texas won.
Never, ever take that for granted.
History does not give style points for victories. The points that count in football, and in most team sports for that matter, are on the scoreboard.
The people building the north end of Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium have no plans of stopping with the unfinished work in the construction zone, and Mack Brown and his Longhorns are certainly not ready to sit back and gaze admiringly at a workman-type win.
Mack has always said you can coach a team harder after a win than you can after a loss, and as Texas prepares to host a good TCU team next Saturday, we can all rest assured this will be a week of hard work.
The fact is, the bar has been set high by the Longhorns. Some years ago, the coaches devised a grading system that included a phrase of "NOS," which means "not our standard." And the good news is, nobody knows when that enters the equation of a game better than the players and the coaches, themselves.
I remember a left-handed pitcher who was on the mound for the Longhorns in the Cliff Gustafson days and was throwing way too many pitches too high. Gustafson went to the mound to try to settle him down.
"Come on," said Cliff. "You've got to throw strikes."
"Just how to you suggest I do that?" said the frustrated pitcher.
"Okay," said Gustafson. "If you were throwing at a bird on a fence and you continually threw over its head, what would you do about it?"
"I'd aim lower," came the reply.
"Then," said Gustafson, "aim lower."
The construction process of a college football season takes a lot of different paths. Many will count Arkansas State's showing Saturday as a valiant effort, a near miss in a David vs. Goliath battle. Some other teams were razor sharp in their openers, boosting dreams of what might lie ahead.
Others, such as Appalachian State and Michigan, will be forever linked as players on a stage that produced what has been termed one of the biggest upsets in college football history.
For two weeks, Mack Brown tried to tell his team, the media and anybody who would listen that Arkansas State was an experienced team with some very good football players. Unfortunately, not enough people believed him.
Statistics may lie, but video reviews don't.
Arkansas State won the battle of the statistics. Texas won the game.
Now the coaches and the players will review the video and see every single step, every bounce, every almost and every what was. There are no excuses in the film room, and what you see is what you get.
Mack said Saturday night that the close call was the best thing that could have happened to the Longhorns, and his observation has a lot of merit.
The key now is to learn from this game. They say a team improves the most between its first and second game. This is a very young football team which is missing a lot of important veterans from last year's team. It is a growing process, and a learning process.
The north end of Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium will take time to finish, but if you've followed the webcam week after week, you could see a noticeable difference between the shell that began and the still incomplete concrete lower level at the north of the stadium.
In a sense, it has never been about the concrete that you see, but about the people who came together to build it.
So, too, is it with a football team. It's not about where you started, it is about how you build from there -- a construction zone that gets better each week.
And as for the opener, Texas had the 21 and the other guys the 13. The "1" goes in the "W" column. To use the building analogy, now you work hard and move on to the next level.