Bill Little commentary: To the rescue
It is one of the common themes of weekly television dramas: things will be going along normally when one of the shows' heroes suddenly seems in dire peril.
Logic tells us somehow, some way, he or she will escape the bad guys. Emotion stirs us to be concerned. So it was on Saturday night in Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.
The week had provided the perfect trap for the Texas Longhorns. Some would call it a post-Oklahoma game hang over. Win or lose, that is a hard game to follow. There are almost always injuries, but this year was particularly physical for both teams.
All week, the Texas coaches had cautioned that Baylor was much improved from the teams the Longhorns had pasted the past several seasons. The team knew that. Mack Brown had cautioned them that they probably would be behind at some point in the game. He didn't expect it to be on Bears' first play from scrimmage, however. And that's what happened with a 69-yard scoring pass.
When it was 7-0, then 10-0, and Baylor seemed destined to keep the Longhorns pinned deep in their own territory, there was some rustling among the Texas faithful, which had just returned from a triumphant trip from the Cotton Bowl in Dallas and the victory over Oklahoma.
In fact, with 6:08 left in the first quarter, Baylor had scored on each of its two possessions, and Texas had run seven plays and had only one first down. Then, the Cavalry arrived.
Over the next five Baylor possessions, the Bears ran 15 plays for a net gain of minus-two yards, lost two fumbles and had an interception returned for a touchdown and Texas had scored 28 unanswered points to lead, 28-10.
The bruises and more significant injuries which came from the Oklahoma game yielded to three new defensive starters, and one of them - safety Matt Melton - turned an interception into a 34-yard touchdown that gave Texas a 21-10 lead.
Not only did the defense come storming back, the offense put on a record-setting show. Held to just three first downs and 44 total yards in the first quarter, the Longhorns amassed almost 400 yards over the next three periods. For the second game in a row, the running back combination of Jamaal Charles and Selvin Young collaborated for over 100 yards rushing.
A fake field goal turned into a 15-yard run for a first down at the Bear seven and set up a fourth UT score just before the half, the Longhorns had a 28-10 lead and the game was, for all practical purposes, out of reach. And as the evening unfolded, Colt McCoy was emerging like a six-gun toting sheriff from an old western movie. In fact, six was the perfect number. By the time the final score of 63-31 was achieved, McCoy had set a Texas school record with six touchdown passes in a single game. He had connected with nine different receivers, hitting 21-of-32 passes for 275 yards. At the end of the first quarter, he had completed two of six passes for only seven yards.
Every game Texas plays, Brown cautions his team to "withstand the surge," and to not panic when they fall behind. It is clear that the approach has worked. In years past, a Texas team that had to fight hard to hold the opponent to a field goal on its second possession just to keep from falling behind by two touchdowns might have been destined to fall.
It was a weekend, as Brown pointed out as he looked at scores from around the country, when that could have happened. In retrospect, the coaches agreed with what they had seen on video - Baylor was a lot better than it had been, and the Bears were much more talented than some of the opponents Texas has beaten this year already.
The Longhorns had focused on the Baylor game as the first game of a new season, ending the first six games on the schedule with the Oklahoma game. But in an era where the NCAA now allows 12 games, what the Baylor game did was allow Texas to survive a solid effort by a capable opponent, an effort that came in a game that fit into a twilight zone.
With no open date until the week before the Texas A&M game in November, the Longhorns have to be prepared for eleven straight Saturdays. That means if there are bumps and bruises that keep a player out, somebody has to step up. While Baylor did pick on a Longhorn defense that was both short-handed and sore, Brown immediately urged the media to give credit to the much-improved Bears for their effort.
It is often easy to look at what you didn't do, rather than credit the opponent with what it did.
So the game really was like one of those TV dramas. It was scary at times, but somehow, you just knew the heroes would be rescued.
In the good shows, with a series of stars, you get to guess which one will step up and save the other.
Saturday night in DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium, Texas had an answer for Baylor's Bear trap.
They simply went out and rescued themselves.