The symbolism is deliciously ironic. With the arrival early in the week of Tropical Storm Isidore, which started strong and finally arrived on Thursday morning, the TV weather folks had a field day telling us of the three-pronged dangers of a hurricane.
First, it was the wind, then the rain, and finally, the storm surge.
If one does not get you, the other will.
So it was Saturday as the Tulane Green Wave appeared to withstand a Texas offense that wasn't clicking as expected. However, the defense drowned Crescent City guys, and finally, it was the storm surge — a tidal wave of special teams in a Louisiana Superdome that looked like a Burnt Orange sea — that led the way to an impressive 49-0 victory.
Head coach Mack Brown had said coming in that Tulane's defensive front four would be the toughest the Longhorns would play in their four non-conference games and he was right. In his pregame show on the radio, Tulane head coach Chris Scelfo said his team hoped to confuse the Texas offense and they didn't.
It is important to credit the Green Wave with a tremendous effort. Despite accounting for 202 first half yards, Texas scored on touchdown drives of 27 and 48 yards. The first Longhorns score came with 3:02 remaining in the first quarter after an interception by junior MLB Reed Boyd set up the short drive. Senior QB Chris Simms then connected with true freshman TE David Thomas with 44 seconds left in the first half to give UT a 14-0 halftime lead.
The Longhorns didn't score again until midway through the third quarter and the tenor of the game turned on one play that showed Texas' grit. When Simms was hit as he threw a long pass from his own 15-yard line, it was intercepted by Quentin Brown at the Green Wave 42. The play could have turned the momentum, which seemed fragile at that moment.
However, the Longhorns receivers decided to employ one of the team's mottos of "Whatever It Takes." Junior Sloan Thomas tackled Brown and junior B.J. Johnson came in from the back side and stripped the ball and senior Kyle Shanahan recovered. It turned out to be a game-changing play, only not the way that was expected. The receivers' effort underscored a major premise — find a way to win. Texas drove the 44 yards in five plays, and in the final 25 minutes of the game, Texas scored 35 more points.
The points came from every area. True freshman RB Selvin Young returned a punt 71 yards to make it 28-0, junior DT Marcus Tubbs blocked a field goal and redshirt freshman Cedric Griffin returned it 56 yards for another. On the kickoff following the Griffin score, senior Michael Ungar forced a fumble and junior Tien Van Nguyen recovered at the Tulane 13, leading to another score. In the space of a little more than seven minutes, the special teams had been directly responsible for 21 points and a 42-0 lead.
When it was over, the balance Brown has sought with his offense was evident. The official statistics reflected 176 yards rushing and 193 passing, but were it not for some lost yardage on a muffed pitch, it could have been dead even. The defense allowed only 215 yards and had four takeaways, including the one by the the receivers who became defenders at a critical moment in the game.
Most impressive was the depth, and the youth, which Texas employed. Playing without junior WR Roy Williams on offense and junior CB Nathan Vasher on defense, Texas took 77 players on the trip and played all but those who may redshirt.
For Brown and his team, perhaps the coolest thing about the Longhorns storm that hit the Superdome was the pro-Texas crowd. The Longhorns fans who took advantage of the trip to New Orleans turned the Big Easy into a home game. For that day, at least, the famed stadium was Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium East.
When the NCAA allowed the scheduling of a 12th game, Butch Worley, UT's senior associate athletics director who is in charge of scheduling, found good reception with the idea of a home-and-home series with Tulane.
Texas was looking for an opponent that represented a quality educational institution, with a good program, and a place where Texas fans would enjoy traveling. It seemed that everything fit.
Tulane, now 2-3, will be competitive in the Conference USA portion of its schedule. After the game, coaches and players pointed to early missed opportunities that could have made it a different ballgame. To them, it was a missed chance. To Texas, it was stepping up to make a play.
In their non-conference competition, the Longhorns won convincingly, and with each game, they seemed to solve some problems.
The Tulane game was far from perfect offensively, which gives the coaches and the players something to work on. however, the one missing ingredient in the first three games was staying hooked up for a full game. Lulls in the second half that may have come early in the season were replaced Saturday by a determined defense, a steady offense and a spectacular showing by the special teams.
The three combined for a pretty impressive storm on Saturday afternoon.