Bill Little commentary: No need for ghosts
Sept. 21, 2008
Bill Little, Texas Media Relations
It is said that in one of the final grand moments of Yankee Stadium in New York, current star Derek Jeter spoke of an extra force that helped the home team.
"The ghosts will come out," he said.
And Saturday night in Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, Darrell Royal's former defensive guru, the late Mike Campbell, was smiling from a space beyond the sky. The ghosts were not needed; the defense had arrived.
Twelve times, beginning when Earl Thomas saved a touchdown by forcing star Rice receiver Jarrett Dillard out of bounds at the two, Texas defended the inner side of the final five yards of the south end of the turf of Joe Jamail Field.
With first and goal from the two, the Owls then snapped the ball eleven times, and never scored.
Campbell, who coached defense with Royal during his career at Texas from 1957 through 1976, believed in only one statistic defensively:
Once in 1970, when SMU's Chuck Hixson was leading the nation in passing under Hayden Fry, the Ponies came riding into Austin. Hixson set all kinds of records that day, records respectable even by today's standards. He threw 49 times, completed 32 of them, for 412 total yards.
And Texas won the game, 42-15.
"Bend, but don't break," Campbell always said.
It would be wrong to try to define the various parts of a football team by just one word, because each of them - the offense, the defense and the kicking game - fills their own role. You could certainly make a point that one of the strongest characteristics of a great defense lies in a simple representation of "attitude."
That is why when the `Horns saved a touchdown by stopping Dillard at the two, defensive leader Roddrick Muckelroy proclaimed to his teammates, "They're not getting in!"
Records do not reflect something like this. There is no chronicle for a team holding another for a dozen plays that ended, or commenced inside their own four-yard line.
It should be noted, too, that this was the first real test for the Longhorns' extra weapon, the respective new configurations of the north end and the south end of the stadium. While the north rises ominously in the Austin sky, the south features the raucous and ever supportive Texas Longhorn band and UT students. Their amped up spirit was obvious.
Coming into the Rice game, Mack Brown had told the media that the Longhorns were re-evaluating the way they judged their defense against a new world of pass-happy opponents. The formula would include the average yards per pass play, not just the total yards, and it would culminate with the standards Campbell asked all those years ago - "Did you win?" and "How many points did they score?"
A lot has changed in the days since Campbell took his World War II bomber pilot mentality onto the football field. "Bend but not break" is the hardest kind of defense to play today, because the offenses of today just keep coming at you. Where it used to be that a third-down stop would result in a certain punt, now more and more teams go for it on fourth down. Rice did that six times Saturday.
But nothing reflected the day more defensively than the numbers in the first half. Rice totaled 241 yards - and scored three points.
In a game where the Longhorns never punted, they relied on excellent kickoffs from freshman Justin Tucker to keep the Owls deep in their end of the field.
The game was a showcase for junior quarterback Colt McCoy, who continues what has been a stellar season through his first three games. McCoy rushed for 83 yards and was nearly perfect through the air, connecting on 19 of 23 passes for 329 yards and four touchdowns. The four TDs ran his touchdown scoring pass total to 62, setting a career record at Texas.
It was also a fun night for McCoy's roommate, Jordan Shipley. Shipley netted 155 yards on five catches, including two for touchdowns.
Rice, under second year David Bailiff, were as advertised. They came with uncommon talent in quarterback Chase Clement and receiver and all-purpose player James Casey offensively, and offered a one-man wrecking crew defensively in Andrew Sendejo, who had 17 total tackles in the game.
Mack Brown has often said that you can coach a team harder after a win than after a loss, and rest assured that the coaches began their second look at the Arkansas Razorbacks by using the Rice game video to both laud the good things, but stress the places where it could have played better. The team motto of, "You must be consistently good to be great," puts the emphasis on consistency.
That, in essence, is the underlying understanding of Mike Campbell's principle. It all has to do with who is in control of the game. It is important to bend when you want to, not when somebody makes you, and it is important to understand that breaks are defined two ways.
"Don't break" means you don't allow a score on a play that can be stopped.
"Breaks" are what you create when you take charge, and that my friends, is all about attitude.