Bill Little commentary: The second half
Oct. 30, 2011
Bill Little, Texas Media Relations
It would be easy, on a night when the offense put up 590 yards and the defense held an opponent to fewer yards than any Texas team since World War II, to try and dissect what it all meant. So let me help you a little here.
The glass is half full if you bask in the success and the statistics. It is half empty if you choose to discount the evening's accomplishments based on the record of the opponent. Neither, really, catch the message of what happened Saturday night in the Longhorns' 43-0 victory over Kansas.
Winning is fun and losing is not, and that shall always be the case. So it shouldn't surprise you that the Longhorns were smiling as the clock ticked down on a perfect autumn night at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. Offensively and defensively, Texas had dominated. They had rushed the ball for an amazing 441 yards, and had allowed their opponent only 46 net yards total.
But as they had shucked the leaves of upsets past, they had continued a theme that has been evident from the very start with this crew: they really like each other. They stand as family. They have chosen to grow together. To do it right.
That was evident in the locker room after the game, when an emotional Mack Brown reminded the team of their commitment to loved ones whose lives had been touched by cancer. Each player had chosen to dedicate the game to someone so affected. And in the silence of the moment, they had a chance to give thanks for them, and for each other.
We had seen that when freshman running back Joe Bergeron powered his way for 35 yards for the game's final touchdown and quarterback Case McCoy raced to the end zone to join his teammates in celebrating. And then, we saw it when McCoy came to the sideline, to be greeted by fellow quarterbacks J.P. Floyd and David Ash. Week after week, day after day, practice after practice, those three have bonded together as three musketeers in co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin's workshop for excellence. Together, they have spent hours watching video, meeting and learning. They have thrown probably a hundred passes a day and measured their steps and executed their snaps and their plays. So like brothers, they had a chance to celebrate-not themselves-but their team.
On the next series, as the Jayhawks moved the ball to the Texas 40 for the first time in the game bringing a moderate threat toward the Longhorn goal line, linebacker Emmanuel Acho stood on the sidelines with the rest of the first team defense. "I'm going in," he said to fellow senior linebacker Keenan Robinson, "with or without you." Before the series was over, the first team defense had basically inserted itself back on the field, and the Longhorns' first shutout since the National Championship year of 2005 was preserved.
That is why we like this team, and it is why Mack Brown and his coaches believe in it. In the two weeks following the back to back losses to the excellent teams of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, this group has concentrated on one thing - getting better. It is a cliché to call them "A Band of Brothers," but that is what they are.
It is so fitting that they continue to embrace the theme coined last spring by the football staff of "Brick by Brick." It's fitting because despite setbacks and challenges, they are determined to continue building. And you get the sense that they build, not for you and me, but for each other.
Saturday's defensive effort was a showcase of what coordinator Manny Diaz and the other assistants have been looking for. It was a knock down, shut down of a team that had averaged 30 points a game in facing a tough schedule. The numbers were astounding. By the end of the third quarter, Kansas had two first downs (one by penalty) and a total of nine yards on just 25 offensive snaps. Texas had 28 first downs and had 446 yards on 75 snaps. In third down conversions, Texas was 10 of 13, Kansas 0-7.
A Jayhawk team which had led Texas Tech, 20-0, before fading, ran only 36 plays the whole game to 93 for the Longhorns, and UT held the ball for a little over 44 minutes in the 60 minute game.
Twenty three players, including special teams, were credited unofficially with defensive statistics. There were three sacks and eleven tackles for loss.
Offensively, Ash managed most of the first three quarters before turning it over to McCoy. The true freshman from Belton notched his first win as a starting quarterback by completing 14 of 18 passes for 145 yards. Bergeron (who finished with 13 carries and 136 yards) scored two touchdowns in a relief role to starter Malcolm Brown, who had 119 yards on 28 carries and two TDs. It was also another great night for senior inspirational leader Fozzy Whittaker, who rushed for 68 yards and caught passes for 44 more. Two-sport sensation Marquise Goodwin had his best statistical game with four pass receptions for 36 yards and five carries for 52. And Justin Tucker kicked two field goals, including a career long 52-yarder.
Thus, the first game of the second half of the regular season ended in a solid, dominating victory. The Longhorns are 5-2 on the year. But as Brown gathered his team in the dressing room after the game, the college football world seemed to be swirling out of control around them. Upsets, followed by upsets of the upsettors, seemed to be the order of the day in the middle of 2011. It was important, therefore, for Brown to remind his team that this isn't about the finished house, or the end of the season. It is about the next brick, now that the fifth is finally in place after a couple of scrap-that-and-replace games in the mythical construction business.
In Mack Brown's tenure at Texas, for 12 of the 13 years (last year being the obvious exception), his teams have gotten better week by week as the season turns into November.
"They will remember November," he often has said.
How they will remember it will depend on the laying of the bricks.
But after a year off the track, this team has brought something special to Texas football. We like this team because they like each other. The fun comes in the winning. But the joy comes in the playing these days.