Bill Little commentary: In the end, it's about time
Every now and then, you have a perfectly perfect day. And that's what Saturday was in Darrell K Royal -Texas Memorial Stadium. All of systems, all of the karma, just seemed to come together.And you gotta love it when a plan works.
Two months and a few days before, Texas had opened its 2007 season.As the sun set Saturday, it seemed the days had fairly flown off the calendar. It was ending; it seemed it had only started.
Juxtaposed with that was the fact that it was Veterans' Appreciation Day - a time to say thank you to all of the veterans to whom the stadium is dedicated.
And the irony was the common purpose of the two - Senior Day and Veterans' Appreciation Day - was bonded together.
For it is in the military, in the essence of combat in battles for survival, that the importance of what happened Saturday is underscored.
Once, when he had risked his life against all odds to charge bravely against the Germans, World War I Medal of Honor winner Sgt. Alvin York was asked why he had done it.There were hundreds of the enemy, and at times he seemed to be all alone.
"Did you do it for the glory?" a cynic asked.
At the end of a team meeting on Thursday, Mack Brown had excused his seniors and kept his underclassmen in the room.
"Do not," he had said emphatically to the young men remaining in the room, "do not let them lose their last game in this stadium."
I thought about that when they loaded big Tony Hills onto the cart to take him out of the stadium with a leg injury that ended his day.In the communications booth, Curt Fludd, who directs the video shown on the world's largest television set in the stadium, had seen the cameras focused on Hills, and out of respect for the injured player, he had just told the TV truck to switch off its shot of him.
And then suddenly, Tony Hills pounded his chest and thrust his right hand toward that perfectly blue Texas sky with a "Hook `Em" sign.
The anchor of the offensive line was gone.A week before, the other senior starter, center Dallas Griffin, had seen his senior year end with injury.
It was the second quarter of the game, with lots of time remaining.But when the versatile Chris Hall slid over to Tony's spot, and Buck Burnette took over at center where Hall had been playing for Griffin, there was one overriding message:"Do Not Let Them Lose."
The seniors had been a part of a remarkable period of Texas history. They had played in, and won, the first two Rose Bowls in Longhorn history. They had won in the Horseshoe in a first-ever meeting with Ohio State. They had a league championship, a National Championship, and with last year's Alamo Bowl victory, three straight bowl wins.
So the Veterans' Day message from Sgt. York fit perfectly with Mack Brown's admonition.Teams and warriors fight, not for themselves, but for each other.
With that as a back drop, it is fitting to recall that sophomore Colt McCoy and junior Jamaal Charles would work behind a young, retooled offensive line to move past the Texas Tech Red Raiders on Saturday.
Even without Hills, the offensive line came together to account for 551 yards of total offense in a 59-43 victory over the Red Raiders. The victory stretched Texas' record on the season to 9-2, making the Longhorns the only team in the nation to win nine games in each of the last 10 seasons.
The defense had done its part as well, limiting the high-powered Texas Tech offense to just 294 yards and 20 points through three quarters when the game was still a viable contest.
Most of all, the story of the game would be about time. Texas would control the ball for 40 minutes. Tech would have it for only 20. Time and again, Texas would make plays when it had to have them.The start of the third quarter, when the Longhorns effectively stretched away, included an 86-yard, 17-play drive that took almost seven minutes. The Longhorns converted 12-of-18 third down attempts; 4-of-4 on fourth down.
McCoy played as complete a game as any Texas quarterback ever has. He threw for four touchdowns, ran for two more, completing 21-of-30 passes for 268 yards and rushing for 51 more, including a tough 22 yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
When the day ended, they had honored the Veterans and celebrated the seniors. For the ninth time in his 10 years at Texas, Brown's seniors had left their last game on Joe Jamail Field in Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium as victors.
The game provided memorable plays, and superlative moments...thrilling performances and poignant memories.
The nature of the college game is that players spend four or five years of their lives as part of a team, as representatives of their school. When that day, that senior day comes, it always seems that it comes too soon. The years of youth are special, and then they are gone.
We will remember Tony Hills and the others, for all that they have meant. We will look forward to the next games, which will be in College Station and then at other destinations. Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium will not look the same the next time folks gather there. A north end zone project which is due to be completed next year will rise into the northern sky, and the view from the tunnel entering the field will change dramatically.
But in our minds, we will still see Big Tony, pounding his chest and thrusting that big right arm up in determined defiance.
And we will remember the day when seniors and their teammates played the last home game of the 2007 season, determined to do it for each other.
They had come into the season with the motto of "Earn The Right."
And Saturday, they did.