Nov. 13, 2009
Bill Little, Texas Media Relations
WACO, Texas -– It is interesting that in the modern era of high tech and nanoseconds, the only way to get to where you want, if you are the Texas Longhorns, includes trips back in time.
The Big 12 was formed 14 seasons ago, and the last Southwest Conference game was played in 1995, but as the ever evolving college football season of 2009 continues, the next stop for Texas is at what for years was known as Baylor Stadium in Waco. Now remodeled and refurbished as Floyd Casey Stadium, the structure just off Valley Mills Road a hundred or so miles north of Austin is the Longhorns’ fourth away-from-home venue in their last five games.
These unbeaten Longhorns have carried their lofty national ranking to Dallas to play Oklahoma, and then to Columbia, Mo., and Stillwater, Okla., over the last four weeks. Each time, they have responded to the challenge. Now, with three games remaining in their regular season, the Horns take a step back into history.
While Texas holds a 72-22-4 edge over the Bears, historians point to a stunning 34-24 Baylor win in 1974 as the signature win for a young coach named Grant Teaff. That victory started one of the strangest phenomena in the series, as Baylor won nine of 12 games in Waco from 1974 through 1997. Former Longhorn head coach David McWilliams once referred to what he called a jinx as “The Waco-Bruceville-Eddy” Triangle – where weird things happen akin to the Bermuda Triangle.
One of the very positive things Mack Brown got from his one year as offensive coordinator for Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer in 1984 was the premise that you should never tell your favored team that,
“If you don’t watch out you are going to get beat.”
“Never,” Switzer had said, “tell your team that they might lose.”
With that philosophy, Brown and his teams have approached Waco with the attitude of a speeding Mac Truck. His Horns won 62-0 in 1999, 49-10 in 2001, 56-0 in 2003, 62-0 in 2005 and 31-10 in 2007.
In this week’s practice, Mack and their film studies have made it clear to the Longhorns that this 4-5 version of the Bears is not their older brother’s Baylor. With two NFL-caliber receivers and a talented young quarterback who has seized the moment after injury felled the sensational Robert Griffin, Baylor is coming into this game after a stunning 40-32 victory at Missouri. It had been duly noted, when the Longhorns played in Columbia several weeks ago, that the Tigers had one of the nation’s best home records in recent years.
The Longhorns of 2009 have followed a similar path to that of Texas in its National Championship campaign of 2005. And what they have learned in their approach to trying to win all the games is that the first thing you have to have to defeat your opponent is a respect for what they can do.
In their Thursday team meeting, Brown has his coordinators go over a quick film look at each week’s opponent. The thrust of these sessions follows his “positive power” approach. It is all about what the Longhorns need to do to be successful.
Football, perhaps as much as any sport, is a game of attitude. Each week, the Longhorns take a different approach – although in these troubled times, particularly following Mack’s trip to the Middle East with other coaches to visit U.S. Troops – there has been a decided military flavor. This weekend, Army Lt. Col. Greg Gadson will be joining the Longhorns on their trip. Gadson, who lost both his legs to an IED blast in Iraq in May of 2007, is a former football player at West Point. He became a national inspirational figure in sports when he was an honorary captain with the New York Giants in the 2008 Super Bowl.
The connection to the Longhorns is defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, whose brother knew Gadson when the two were at the U.S. Military Academy. Gadson will be the honorary captain for the Longhorns.
The Longhorns have stressed the theme of “all in” since NFL Hall of Famer “Mean” Joe Greene inspired them with it in a pre-season talk, and this week that has been converted to “All In For Ten,” as Texas goes on a quest to achieve its ninth 10-win season dating back to the season of 2001. Also at stake, of course, is the chance for quarterback Colt McCoy to tie the NCAA record as the winningest starting quarterback in history.
Most of all, Texas approaches the game as the second of their final third quadrant of restarting 2009. The staff and team divided the season in to three four-game stretches, and the final regular season run included last week’s non-conference game with Central Florida, as well as the final three league games.
When you reach this point in the season, the variables are heightened. There are a lot of “if this happens, then this could happen.” But for Texas, there is only one real standard. You play games for a lot of reasons, but when you are trying to win all the games, it goes without saying that you play each game – to win.
The history of the ancient road series against Baylor, and later against Texas A&M on Thanksgiving Night, certainly will bring back memories to a lot of Longhorns. Each generation has had their heroes and their heartbreaks. You can learn from the past, but you don’t play your games in it.
Lt. Col. Gadson said it best when he talked about the fact that you don’t get to pick your circumstances, you just make the best of what you are given.
The final three games for Texas cannot be discounted, or hurdled. The regular season is 12 games long. And while it is important to remember history, this 2009 team has to be focused on a mission of trying to make history of its own.