Bill Little commentary: Shake hands and go on
It was the state championship game between Austin Westlake and Midland Lee, and Lee had just captured the title.
Huston Street, who would go on to significant fame as a baseball pitcher, had made 17 tackles from his safety position for Westlake. Cedric Benson had scored five touchdowns for Lee.
Despondent, Street was talking to his father, James, the legendary former Texas Longhorns quarterback.
"Let me tell you something," James said to his son. "Ask yourself these questions. First, did you thoroughly prepare for this game? Were you as prepared as you possibly could have been?"
Huston's answer was a reluctant "Yes, sir."
"Now," said James, "did you play as hard as you possibly could?"
Again the response: "Yes, sir."
"Then," said James, "you did everything you could do. Hold your head high and go over there and shake that guy's hand, because today, they were the better team."
So it was on Saturday night in Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. It could have been closer, it could have been different. In games, sometimes in sports, you don't lose, the other team simply wins.
Never before in college football have No. 1 and No. 2 met so early in the season. The game had the hype of a National Championship game, and for much of the contest, it was a healthy battle. Throughout his tenure as the Longhorns' head football coach, Darrell Royal always predicted that big games would be decided by "turnovers and the kicking game."
Mack Brown's measure of a game is the turnover ratio and "explosive plays."
Saturday night, it couldn't have been more true. Two Texas turnovers led to Ohio State points and snatched away momentum, and a world-class punting performance by the Buckeyes kept young Colt McCoy and his offensive cohorts deep in their own territory.
It was, Brown said after the game, a case of Ohio State "finishing" better than the Longhorns. Texas had more first downs (20-17), trailed in total yardage by only 22 yards (348-326) and actually led in time of possession (30:26-29:34).
The setting, the atmosphere and the spirit was befitting a clash between two of the great powers of college football. A year ago, Texas had won in Columbus. The Buckeyes' victory in Austin evened the series, and until the two schools meet in a bowl game, it appears it will stay that way for the foreseeable future.
Texas' future schedule includes home-and-home match-ups with Arkansas and UCLA, but with the uncertainty of future NCAA decisions regarding playoffs, neither of the titans is anxious to repeat the showcase.
For the Buckeyes, the victory solidifies their No. 1 ranking, but they have a treacherous Big Ten schedule ahead of them. Few teams (Southern Cal last year was an exception) have been able to carry a No. 1 ranking all the way through an unbeaten season.
Despite the defeat, Texas comes out of the game with a number of positives. The run defense was outstanding. OSU quarterback Troy Smith was on target, and took advantage of some inexperience in the UT secondary, which was missing two starters for most of the game. Still, Smith was sacked three times.
While the Buckeyes' A. J. Trapasso pinned Texas with a 50.8 average, UT's Greg Johnson averaged 42.2 yards, and held the dangerous Ted Ginn Jr. to just five yards on three returns of six punts.
The defeat ended a 21-game winning streak, the second longest in school history. But the fact is, UT is still 31-3 since mid-October of 2003. The Longhorns' major goal each season is to win the Big 12 championship, and that is still intact. The Buckeyes last year actually provided the Longhorns with a role model of how to respond after an early defeat.
Ohio State recovered and went on to earn a BCS bid, defeating Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl. For Texas, all of its goals remain intact. Brown's teams have not lost back-to-back games since the 1999 season, and that was quickly the theme after Saturday's defeat.
Two major changes in NCAA football may well change the outcome of this season completely for a lot of teams. First, the addition of the 12th game will make the year long and without the break of an open date for many.
The second change, which is bound to be discussed throughout the season, is the new rule regarding the clock stoppage during the game. In an effort to "shorten" the game, the rules committee has completely changed the game. One of the most exciting things about the college game used to be the opportunity of comeback late in the contest.
Even with television time outs, Saturday night's game clocked in at three hours and six minutes. Last year's classic game took 3:28. More significantly, the two teams combined for 11 fewer plays -- almost a ten percent difference -- from the last year's game in Columbus.
Scores will be lower, and the team that falls behind by more than a touchdown entering the fourth quarter is going to have to be almost perfect to win. In the fourth quarter Saturday, Ohio State ran only 16 plays, and Texas had 17.
The clock rules are a fact of college football's life this year.
But the season for the Texas Longhorns is barely beginning. The advice was, shake the guy's hand, tell him he played a great game, and move on.
That's not the challenge for the Texas team.
It is the opportunity.