It is one thing to see where you are and where you have been. It is another to survey the possibilities of what's out there to conquer.
Nov. 6, 2011
Bill Little, Texas Media Relations
The link between the U. S. military and the Texas Longhorn football program has been strong throughout the years of the Mack Brown era at UT, but perhaps never more evident than the events of Saturday in Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.
The paratroopers were perfect, the flyover impressive, the response from the crowd on Veterans Recognition Day was heart-warming. And in its own way, the Longhorn football team arrived ready for a battle.
In a team meeting Thursday, the members of the team were given camouflage tee-shirts to wear as they came into the stadium. Bennie Wylie, their football strength and conditioning coach, had talked that day about the mentality of the soldier. Wylie, whose twin best friends were Navy Seals, told them to forget what they had seen in the movies and on television about the military. And in that context, he took the “play to win” philosophy to a different level. Because he had worked at Texas Tech just two years ago, he also knew the opponent, and what it would take to win. He acknowledged that football is not war, but he made it clear that for those in the arena, it is a fight of its own kind.
It was Wylie who masterfully implemented the Longhorns’ theme of “brick by brick” to represent the rebuilding of a proud program, and it was to Wylie and honored World War II veteran Frank Denius that game balls were presented after the game. Denius, who chairs the Stadium’s Veterans Committee, has long been a fixture with the program. But it had been Wylie, during his grueling workouts in the off-season, who had the players run to the top of the west side upper deck. There, as they towered high above the field (and the campus for that matter), Wylie told them to envision themselves playing in the arena far below. It was, for them, “our house,” which was slowly being rebuilt - brick by brick.
Mack Brown has often said his program is built on “communication, trust, and respect.” And the respect aspect jumped to the front Saturday. First, there was respect - a respect that transcends into love - for Wylie and all that he has meant to them. Second, there was respect for their opponent, the Texas Tech Red Raiders.
Texas Tech had left its calling card of impressions in Norman, Oklahoma, where the Raiders had stunned No. 3 ranked OU. Despite a surprise loss to Iowa State, that is the team that showed up in Austin on Saturday. The Red Raiders opened on fire, with a 16-play drive that consumed over seven minutes of the first quarter. In a strange series that included 12 plays within the shadow of the Texas goal line, Tech had taken a 3-0 lead.
This day, however, would be a retro game for long-time Texas fans. Long known for defenses that “bend but don’t break,” that’s what Manny Diaz and his crowd were in the process of doing. On the flip side of the ball, the offense had taken its cue from a military operation. They had gone in “hot,” prepared, not to defeat, but to crush, their opponent.
It was 3-3 with 4:24 left in the first quarter. Over the next 20 minutes of the half, Texas would score 28 unanswered points to lead at intermission, 31-6. From a suite on the west side of the stadium, Darrell Royal smiled, and summoned the memory (on this Veterans Recognition Day) of his famous defensive guru and World War II pilot Mike Campbell. Texas Tech in the first half ran 45 offensive plays, including a glittering 23 of 31 passes for 219 yards. And had two field goals to show for it. Texas had rushed for 237 yards on 24 carries (that’s almost ten yards per play) and was dominating the game.
By the end of the third quarter, Texas Tech had 306 total yards and 13 points. Texas had 466 and 38. It was, plain and simple, exactly what the Longhorns had come to do. They were invested, not only in winning, but dominating.
The defense had done it by protecting their goal line and destroying Tech’s running game (the Raiders had 30 net yards on 27 carries), and the offense had rushed for 439 yards and amassed 595 total yards as the ‘Horns steamrolled to a 52-20 win. Texas never punted, and the only drives on which it failed to score were when they let the clock run out at the end of the first and second halves.
Not lost on the team in its locker room celebration was the fact that the victory was UT’s sixth of the season (against two losses), which made the ‘Horns bowl-eligible for the 13th time in Brown’s tenure at Texas. After missing out on a bowl trip last year, it was another brick in the wall of goals which had now been achieved.
The passing game was limited, but effective, despite the fact that leading receiver Jaxon Shipley missed the game with an injury - as did leading rusher Malcolm Brown. Freshman Joe Bergeron (191 yards) and veteran Fozzy Whitaker (83 yards) led the running game, and quarterbacks David Ash and Case McCoy were both impressive in guiding a turnover-free team through the 60 minutes of the game.
For Tech, the yardage numbers were impressive, but the results were not. Seth Doege was 40 of 55 for 381 yards, but the Raiders failed to score a touchdown until just a little over three minutes remained in the third quarter. The 52 points posted by Texas is made all the more impressive by the fact that all of the scoring drives were self-generated, without the aid of a turnover to help field position.
With the victory over the Raiders behind them, Texas now faces the challenge of finishing their schedule with three road trips (to Missouri, Texas A&M and Baylor) in their final four games. The lone home appearance is November 19, when they host Kansas State.
But the second straight game with over 400 yards rushing clearly has established an identity for this Longhorn team of 2011. Power and strength, rewards from their work with Bennie Wylie over the summer and off-season work, characterize the rapidly improving team. Most important, it is clear they are not satisfied with what they have achieved. You do not build your house and forget to finish it.
So, it would seem, Bennie Wylie’s trip with the players to the top of the stadium was significant in more than one way. It taught them to look down, to Joe Jamail Field far below, and envision playing before 100,000 people there, but it also taught them to look out in all directions. It is one thing to see where you are and where you have been. It is another to survey what lies beyond, and the possibilities of what’s out there to conquer.