Bill Little commentary: Achieving higher things
In the vehicle that the folks at Lockhart Motors are kind enough to provide as part of the Longhorn Big Wheels program, there is a display area over the rear view mirror that tells you all sorts of informative things. At the moment, it will tell you that "oil life" is 38 percent.
As the Texas Longhorns finished off the Rice Owls on Saturday to move to 3-0 on the 2005 football season, they closed out more than a quarter of their regular season. Now, it should be noted quickly that an 11-game season may be what the schedule reads, but with full intentions on the Big 12 Championship game, or at the very least, a bowl game, those numbers are a bit skewed. The plan is to play 13 games.
But the point is clear:with each week, the football season is like the glowing light gauge in the car. The life of the season shortens.
Mack Brown has made it clear to his team that most football seasons begin the day after the last game of the previous slate, and end with the final game of the year. That means, he says, that you work 352 days of the year to play 13 games. And now, three of those, the non-conference campaign of 2005, are in the book.
That means the magic number is 10.
As the Longhorns take advantage of an open date to prepare for their October 1st Big 12 opener against Missouri in Columbia, that is a number with double meaning.
In case you missed it, the Rice game was the 10th straight victory for the Longhorns. During the TCU-Utah game, the TV folks flashed a stat that noted the nation's longest active win streaks. Southern Cal, with its back-to-back perfect seasons, led with a string that is now at 23. Utah's 18-game streak went down to the Frogs.
The third streak on the screen belonged to the Texas Longhorns.
Now, No. 1 Southern Cal, and No. 2 Texas, own the longest win streaks in the country.
It is the longest string at Texas for Mack Brown, and it is also the longest streak for the Longhorns since 1983, when UT went 11-0 before losing in the Cotton Bowl to Georgia.
All of that means absolutely nothing, except that a measure of excellence has been achieved, and the nation has taken notice. But so have opponents. The problem with streaks is, the other folks try to end them.
That is why Brown was doubly hard on his team last week following the high profile 25-22 victory over Ohio State in Columbus. On paper, it would have appeared that Rice was not a factor for the Longhorns, but games are not played on paper. The Owls, if they are allowed to play their game, can chew up the clock and keep a game close.
Brown has always subscribed to the premise that "you play like you practice," and there were a couple of practices that didn't meet the standard of the No. 2 team in the country.
The 5 a. m. return to Austin after the night game had required recovery time, and obviously by game time, whatever Brown and his team did to adjust was successful. Texas dominated the Owls in the 51-10 victory.
The late Bill Ellington, who was a veteran of Darrell Royal's staff at Texas, used to have an expression when Thursday of game week rolled around that said, "Men, the hay's in the barn." What that meant to the farmers of West Texas was, the preparation is over. Now go play.
Thursday night after his team meeting, Brown took a break from football.
With his able football administrators Cleve Bryant and George Winn, he ate a quick hamburger with the team and then headed down to the Austin Convention Center, where over 900 evacuees from New Orleans remain in what has become Austin's biggest shelter.
Armed with orange tee shirts, the three men were escorted into the Center. In a hallway, they were met by a half dozen or so kids who immediately became brand new Longhorn fans. By the time the guys got to the large hall where hundreds of beds were set up, the tee shirt supply was running low.
Medium shirts were good enough for ladies, and one tiny little boy wore one that looked like a night shirt, clearing the floor by maybe an inch. The jolly lady wanted to know if they'd seen her dance on TV, and the two young athletic looking men in the cafeteria wanted Mack to be sure and "Tell Vince we enjoy watching him play."
Old men in wheelchairs, young kids working on computers, all paused to see the Texas coach and his colleagues.
As the three left, Brown, Bryant and Winn were planning how they could get hundreds of Longhorn caps down to the Convention Center. The citizens of Austin had opened their hearts to the people, and those who came with nothing now had a safe place, a clean place, and in the heat of September, a cool, dry place. Now, it is time for them to move forward.
It is interesting how life all comes together. Whatever has happened, good or bad, the challenge is to keep going.
Throughout the week, Brown reminded folks of a famous quote from President Kennedy. Kennedy was speaking at Rice Stadium in 1962, the year that the Owls stunned the No. 1 ranked Texas Longhorns, with a 14-14 tie.
He had asked the rhetorical question, "Why do we want to put a man on the moon?" And then he looked around at the stadium and said, "Why does Rice play Texas?"
And then he answered his own question: "To achieve higher things."
That was Brown's hope for the people when he left the Convention Center.
And it is also the goal of a football team that has won 10 straight games, and has 10 games remaining.
As Texas closed the non-conference campaign, there was one major premise that was abundantly clear: You can't win all of the games, unless you win the next one.
And that will be the reminder each week, as the "season life" light glows in the Longhorn express.