Babers' blog: Sept. 7
Since last Saturday's opener, I have found myself in a most compromising position, answering questions about the Longhorns' performance against Arkansas State while realizing the difficulty of preparing and executing for a season-opening game. When the team doesn't play its best game, nobody wants to hear me say a win is a win, but that's the truth. That said, since I have been privileged enough to be considered a Longhorns spokesman by both my colleagues and fans, I thought that I would take this opportunity to ease the hearts and minds of all those Longhorns analysts out there. Many fans have become accustomed to seeing opening day blowouts during the Mack Brown era. As a player, especially a young one, that's a lot of pressure when you're taking the field for the first time in front of 80,000 fans and trying to do everything perfectly.
The first issue I would like to address is execution. Ask anyone who has ever played the game, and they'll tell you it's the difference between a two-yard gain and a 52-yard gain. Fans may consider the following statement odd, but entering week two against a ranked opponent such as TCU, most coaches would prefer a practice week of correctible mistakes, as opposed to the false confidence that naturally accompanies a season-opening blowout victory. Think about it from a coaching standpoint; the talent is undeniable. They just need experience. The ultimate key is execution so all of the weapons, especially on offense, have as many chances as possible to make plays. As a former player I can tell you from experience that execution will be the most notable difference from game one to game two. The coaches will be in a fine-tuning mode, focusing on details and technique; it's the small things that make the biggest difference on this level. Coach Vince Lombardi once said in regards to the power sweep; that it doesn't matter if they know what we are running, if we execute correctly, they shouldn't be able to stop it. That philosophy is quintessential to the mindset of coaches as successful Mack Brown and his staff. Another aspect to consider is the mind frame of the players at this point. These players will not only be out to prove to the general public that they deserve that high preseason ranking, they will be out to prove it to themselves. There will be no game heroes practicing this week, only teammates. This is the kind of adversity that helps a team find its identity.
Another thing I learned from all of my years is that football is a game of chess not checkers. It is a game of strategy. If I know Coach Davis at all, I'm sure he only called about 10-15 percent of the plays in his repertoire, in an attempt to save his aces for games against a ranked team like TCU. If football is like chess, we should consider special teams the front lines. The Longhorns' special teams will need to play a large role in this week's game if they are to come away with a victory. In the last seven seasons, UT has blocked more kicks than any program in the nation (57). Since the arrival of Coach Akina, who coaches the punt rush/return teams, the Longhorns have blocked 30 punts and returned eight punts for touchdowns. Those numbers are amazing and Coach Brown puts a lot of emphasis in that area, so you know he's really proud of them. You always hear about "Beamer Ball," for the quality of the special teams under Frank Beamer at Virginia Tech, but I'd put our special teams up against anyone. There's a lot of practice time focused on special teams and the coaches from Coach Brown down are really involved in that area. It's definitely paid off.
I've also heard some fans worrying about leadership on this team. You should know under Coach Brown that will never be the case. Coach Brown is the leader of this football team, and he is already one of the best in the very celebrated history of Texas football. One of his greatest attributes is developing players and establishing leadership in the program. So, rest easy on that. In addition to turning Texas back into one of the nation's most elite programs, he is currently second in wins among active coaches behind Bobby Bowden. His 17 consecutive winning seasons is second only to Bowden. That means he's been successful for a long, long time. He has won more games than any Big 12 school in the last six seasons and has managed to win at least 10 games in each of his last six seasons, more than any program in the nation. Along with at least nine wins in each of his last 11 seasons, he has managed to win 86 percent of his games at UT, and he has turned losing into a far off after thought for fans and players alike.
So if your faith falters in the players or the program, put your trust in Mack. He is a remarkable coach who has turned Texas Football into an undeniable powerhouse. He is the reason that everyone wants to be a Longhorn and everyone who can't be a Longhorn wants to beat them. That leadership will be on display as our Longhorns take on TCU on Saturday. See you there.