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Sunday, November 26, 2006

Texas Football: Reflections on 2006 

There are disappointing losses, depressing losses, and deflating losses. Ohio State was the first kind, Kansas State the second, and Texas A&M the third.

Losing to the Buckeyes was far from enjoyable, but they had a better team than Texas. They've since proven that with an undefeated season and berth in the BCS Championship game.

Kansas State, though a far inferior team, took advantage of turnovers and sloppy play, and ultimately derailed the national title game rematch aspirations of a team obviously looking too far ahead of themselves. That the Wildcats lost to Kansas the following week reinforced the fluke nature of their victory against Texas, but it didn't change the outcome.

The worst part about losing to Texas A&M wasn't the loss itself, nor was it the lost opportunity of defending the 2005 Big 12 title. What I found most deflating was that Texas had the chance to put a depressing loss behind them, and move on to salvage a very good season. Instead they played with such little intensity that I could hardly bring myself to feel much of anything afterward. As several of my friends and I commented, "Why should we care if the team obviously didn't?"

So as a Texas fan, that's where I am right now: not mad, or disappointed, or depressed. Just deflated.
I don't like to second guess coaches. The worst Division 1 football coach has forgotten more football then I will ever know. But I do wonder why the Texas coaching staff stuck with Colt McCoy on Friday. He had no zip on his passes, and his erratic play suggested that he was far from 100% healthy. Colt is a winner, and he'll live in Longhorn lore for years to come, but did he give us the best opportunity to win on Friday?
Was the Texas pass defense really as bad as it seemed this year? Injures in the secondary and lineacking corps played a role, but the Horns still had far too much talent to rank in the bottom quarter of pass defenses. The luster has begun to tarnish with Gene Chizik and Duane Akina, and now they have to rebuild the entire unit. Texas has an abundance of talented young DBs (Robert Joseph, Chykie Brown, Deon Beasley, etc.), but will they be able to step in and play at the level needed to keep this from being a weakness in 2007?
I'm not gong to play the "Would VY have made a difference?" game, but it was clear that in his void no one stepped up to take control when things went south.
Texas had no business losing to Kansas State or Texas A&M. Period. But they also proved that they were not among the elite teams in the country. In the end their record was about what it should have been (maybe 10-2), but that doesn't make losses to inferior teams easier to swallow.
My comment during the Spring Game that "Jamaal Charles will leave the 40 Acres no worse than the third-best RB to ever play here" seems laughable in retrospect. Neither Charles nor Selvin Young ever showed any explosiveness in 2006. For Jamaal's sake I hope he bounces back in 2007, because the Horns have a stable of potential stars at the position, and if Vondrell McGee can make it happen when Jamaal can't then so be it.
Some might say that the 2006 Horns took a step backward. But that's not necessarily true. The wins in Lincoln and Lubbock were exhilirating, if nothing else. Aaron Ross and Justin Blalock put together All-American seasons. And OU still sucks. Was 9-3 a great season? No. Not on the heels of a national title. But it was far from a poor season.
That said I have little confidence that this team will win a bowl game. The situation bears too strong a resemblance to 1999, which not coincidentally was the last time Texas lost consecutive games. Bowl games are glorified exhibitions, and when a team has nothing to play for they usually don't win. Show me what this team has to play for and maybe I'll think differently.


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