The loss, painful in the moment, will give way to memories of a special place, a special night, and remembrances of teammates, family and friends.
Nov. 20, 2011
Bill Little, Texas Media Relations
How can something that feels so good...hurt so bad?
That question is the essence of sport, and it has never been more manifested than Saturday night in Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. Everything was in place for a "feel good" kind of night. The weather was great, the crowd of over 100,000 was as involved and as vocal as any in recent UT history. The team played with heart, courage and passion. Only problem was, the wrong guys won.
There were heroic moments: beginning with a defense that limited Kansas State to only 121 yards, including only four yards rushing for their prolific quarterback, Collin Klein. Senior tight end Blaine Irby, in his final game in the stadium, caught a 36-yard touchdown pass from Case McCoy, who had come off the bench and turned in a valiant effort in trying to save the victory. Kicker Justin Tucker, who did not miss a placement kick in six home games in DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium this season, kicked field goals of 48 and 26 yards. Senior fullback Cody Johnson stepped in at running back and broke a 55-yard run to set up a field goal that put the Longhorns in a position to win the game late.
The defensive effort went beyond being called "amazing." In 2010, coordinator Manny Diaz had done the best job of throttling everybody's player of the year - Auburn's Cam Newton, when Diaz was at Mississippi State. In shutting down Kansas State using some of those same principles, Texas held Kansas State to negative yards on four of 13 possessions. On six others, the Wildcats netted 13, 2, 3, 7, 1 and 4 yards.
Klein was sacked five times, and Texas posted 16 tackles for a loss, including five by end Jackson Jeffcoat. Seniors Emmanuel Acho, Blake Gideon, Keenan Robinson and Kheeston Randall played with unparalleled fervor. For the game, Texas had 310 yards total offense to just 121 for Kansas State, 191 yards rushing to 38 for the visitors, and threw for 119 yards compared with 83 for K-State. Texas averaged gaining 4.2 yards on 74 plays, K-State just 2.2 on 56 plays.
Turnovers were costly; penalties were both critical and controversial - the latter evident by a chorus of boos which rained down on the officiating crew from the three minute mark of the second quarter through much of the third period. The crowd came early to honor the seniors, wore orange, stayed until it was over, and yelled mightily throughout, especially for the seniors and their injured spiritual leader, Fozzy Whitaker.
The two injured freshman running backs - Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron - saw limited action. With their injuries (turf toe and hamstring pull), plus the loss of Whittaker to a knee injury suffered in the Missouri game, the power running game which had manifested itself with over 400 yards rushing against Kansas and Texas Tech was a shell of its former self.
That left it to the two young quarterbacks, David Ash and McCoy, to try to generate some offense. A couple of Ash interceptions resulted in short fields for two of Kansas State's scores, as the Wildcats scored on a field goal drive of 13 yards and a touchdown drive of 37.
In the second half, McCoy took the Longhorns on a touchdown drive of 81 yards that ended with the pass to Irby, and a 78 yard drive that closed with Tucker's second field goal of the game and cut the score to the final of 17-13. The `Horns also drove 30 yards from their 20 to midfield before running out of time as the game ended.
So much to cheer about; so much to cry about; and so much more to do.
The loss put Texas' record at 6-4, with road games remaining at Texas A&M on Thanksgiving night and at Baylor on December 3. Texas is bowl eligible, and representatives from the Cotton, the Alamo, the Insight.com, and the Holiday Bowl attended the game. The move of the Baylor game from its scheduled place early in the season to December 3 was done to accommodate league television commitments after the Big 12 dropped its championship game which had been played on that date. The Longhorns and the Bears will play in Waco at 2:30 p. m., while Oklahoma will travel to Oklahoma State for an evening kick that same day.
With the victory, Kansas State actually thrust itself into position to secure a tie for the league title, pending the results of the OU-OSU game. The Wildcats have two league losses to Oklahoma (8-2) and Oklahoma State (10-1), and are 9-2 with a season ending game with Iowa State in Manhattan on December 3.
The job the Longhorn defense did drew praise from Wildcats' coach Bill Snyder.
"They just beat the tar out of us," he said. "Texas is a tremendously talented defensive team, and they played extremely well. They created problems for us in terms of some of the things they did and the blitzes they ran. So it was a combination of them playing very well and scheming us very well, and us not scheming them very well or playing very well."
Mack Brown is particularly fond of a quote from Will Rogers, which says, "Don't let yesterday take up too much of today," and never has that been more true. Starting with the 7 p.m. kickoff Saturday night against Kansas State, the Longhorns will play two games in five days, and follow that on December 3 with another. So there is no time to reflect or absorb. The team will begin preparing for Texas A&M on Sunday, and hit the practice field immediately.
In time, the good things that happened in Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on Senior Night, 2011, will last. The loss, painful in the moment, will give way to memories of a special place, a special night, and remembrances of teammates, family and friends.
That is, after all, the mantra of this team. It has always been about each other, and about trying to rebuild something extraordinary. When it is all said and done, it will not be a single play or a number on a scoreboard that will hang like pictures in the hallways of the mind. It will be an ever-changing montage that is a mosaic, blending the best of times and the worst of times, the hardest of moments with the exhilarating, because that is the only way we can understand the realities and the emotions of life. In the end, it will be the whole, and not the part of life that will matter.