Archive for the ‘2012’ Category

Pre-Game Kansas St.

Turn Turn Turn

To everything – turn, turn, turn
There is a season – turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven -(Ecclesiastes 3:1)

For Longhorn Football it’s been drama week and if the Longhorns lose Saturday night the drama will only intensify.  Mack Brown looked and sounded defeated at his Monday press conference. The highlight for me was when Mack complained that punter Alex King is being pressed into duty as the back up quarterback because the NCAA doesn’t allow five years of playing eligibility; thereby not being able play one of the freshmen quarterbacks without burning a year of eligibility.  Quite a stretch and really whiny even for Mack.

We have also seen reports of shouting matches between coaches, between players and between coaches and players in the locker room during halftime and after the TCU game. Mack reportedly reacted to this turmoil with an incoherent rant in the locker room after the game.  Right now Mack Brown’s Texas Football looks like a dying star releasing huge amounts of energy with no purpose.

Isn’t it ironic that Darrell Royal’s passing and the celebration of his life and accomplishments comes at the time when the end game of Mack Brown’s coaching tenure at Texas has become perhaps the biggest issue for the program?  It has been widely reported that Mack wanted to step down after the 2009 season if it had ended with a victory over Alabama and his second national championship but the loss in that game derailed his plans to go out on top. In other words, Mack wants total control over the scenario under which he steps down as the Head Football Coach at U.T. This is not surprising. College Football Head Coaches are control freaks but it’s a fool’s errand to think you can control everything.  Most of us have learned that there is very little in life that we have control over. We can’t control our children, our spouses, our bosses, our clients and the list goes on. Maybe someone who has ascended to the very top of their profession has a harder time understanding the concept of control than we more ordinary folks do.

Mack Brown was a genius, in my opinion, to understand Darrell Royal’s importance to the traditions of Texas Football and to associate his program with those traditions.  Fred Akers and John Mackovic, mistakenly, seemed to want to distance themselves from Royal and the past.  Mack admires and has been inspired by Royal, and would be wise to draw further inspiration from Royal as he considers how he wants to end his coaching career at Texas.  When we celebrated Darrell Royal’ life a few weeks back and listened to the great stories from the people who knew Royal best we didn’t hear any regrets about Royal’s last season at Texas being his worst one. In fact we heard and remembered how wise Royal was to know when to say when. I’ll bet when Royal stepped down he wasn’t thinking about his legacy in regards to Texas Football.  Not a single one of us thinks any less of Darrell Royal because he didn’t go out at or near the top of his game.

Mack Brown needs to realize that he can exit the stage after this season regardless of how it ends with his reputation intact. The last three seasons will become inconsequential to his legacy to Texas Football.

It’s okay to leave now, Mack. Your work is done and you’ve done it as well as anybody ever has.

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Post-Game TCU

Quick Hitters

Could be worse, Auburn finished 3-9 and fired their coach just two years after winning the Natty. Former Auburn assistant Bobby Petrino is available. Incidentally Chizik’s four year record at Auburn is 33-19 overall and 15-17 in the SEC. Mack Brown’s record during the last four years is 34-16 overall and 19-14 in the Big 12. USC was ranked #1 in the pre-season and now they’re done at 7-5 with a second year head coach who seems kind of creepy. Texas A&M….uh never mind.

But seriously folks Texas’ home loss to TCU, their latest pratfall, shouldn’t be surprising. Texas is 4-4 in their last four conference home games. If they lose to Kansas St. this week they’ll be 9-9 in the Big 12 over the last two seasons.  Theoretically Texas is now the third best major college football program in Texas though they do have the biggest stadium and the largest jumbotron.

As Average as every day wash—a little Darrell Royal lingo for you—as Texas has been the last two seasons, if they manage to pull of the huge upset and beat Kansas St., this season will have been somewhat successful and will include the added bonus of a Cotton Bowl invitation to face the Aggies.  That would be lots of fun.

There was an iconic math teacher at Vestal High School in the 50s, 60s and 70s who taught Advanced Algebra, Trigonometry, Calculus and Statistics.  The worst sin in math, he told his students, was being “mechanical.” Being mechanical meant that you just memorized formulas and theorems without understanding how they were used or when to apply them. Ever since I took his class in Algebra II, Trigonometry I’ve looked at part of the world through Mr. Fanning’s prism of the mechanical versus the artful. I think Brian Harsin’s game planning and play calling is mechanical.  It seems as though he’s more focused on running a large variety plays, including his bag of trick plays, and putting the ball in as many different players’ hands as possible rather than putting together a cohesive game plan. He has terribly under utilized Dage Johnson who has the potential to be Texas’ version of Reggie Bush. Why in the world isn’t Harsin getting the ball to Johnson 15 times a game on the ground and with short passes? It doesn’t seem to me that he has an artist’s vision or feel for building an offense that has an identity and knows who it is game to game.

Whatever happens Saturday versus Kansas St and in the bowl game, Mack Brown will be back next season with a more experienced team and the best senior class he’s had since 2009.  There’s good reason to believe 2013 can be the break out season that Brown has been pointing to for the last couple of years.  What I think we’ll see is more of the same. More lackadaisical performances against under manned opponents, more mediocre blocking by the offensive line, more lack of attention to detail on special teams and in clock management and more colossal breakdowns on defense. The under achieving mold is cast for Mack Brown’s program and I don’t see it being broken as long as he’s in charge. In an article by Scipio Tex on the Barking Carnival blog after the TCU game he wrote, “….yet another Big 12 team rolled into Austin with purpose, kicked our asses, thoroughly out-coached us, and showed what a program looks like vs. a random assembly of athletes.”

What he said. 

HooK eM,

W.E.

Over/Under Results

Really stellar performances were turned in this week by Mike Frank and Helen Frink. Mike and Helen had 7 correct answers with the answer to one question, Texas’ BCS Ranking post game, impossible to get right unless you assumed that Texas would lose to TCU.  Helen wins in the tiebreaker because Mike Frank picked both Oklahoma St. and USC to win. Helen squeaked out the win by picking Notre Dame to win.

John Scott finished alone in third place with 6 correct answers.  Good to see these journeymen and women finishing in the top three.

W.E.

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Pre-Game TCU

Beware of the Four Game Win Streak

Long ago in a distant galaxy Texas was on a four game win streak. The players were jumping up and down and leading # 7 West Virginia going into the fourth quarter in the festive luxury of DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium.  Five quarters of football later Texas was 4-2 and the players and coaches were ducking and covering.

The Horns are now on another four game win streak and the players, press and fans alike are talking post season glamour bowl match ups.  Excuse me if I’m not making plans to be in Tempe or Dallas in early January.  I don’t trust this team and I don’t trust these coaches…yet.

My lack of trust aside and in Thanksgiving consideration of all the blessings The University of Texas has bestowed upon my flock, I have reason to believe the Longhorns will get their ninth victory of the season against TCU.  The current four game win streak started off meekly with squeakers against Baylor and Kansas but these were followed by solid wins over Texas Tech and Iowa St. with Texas firmly in control. The defense has shown signs of life and limited Iowa St. to only 277 yards of total offense. Jonathan Gray’s emergence as Texas’ leading rusher complimenting the passing attack of Ash and Davis gives the Longhorns their version of the Dallas Cowboys glory days gone by Triplets: Troy Aikman, Emitt Smith and Michael Irvin.

So why don’t I trust this team?  Because if the football bounces the wrong way for Texas a couple of times and they end up in dog fight with the outcome in doubt late, I’m not sure Mack Brown and his staff won’t pucker up like they did against West Virginia. If Mack hadn’t gone conservative on offense in that game Texas would only have one loss on the season and a conference championship and the Fiesta Bowl would be clearly in reach.

Going Out On a Limb But Not as Far as Usual

Texas beats TCU and Oklahoma St. beats Oklahoma giving Texas an opportunity to play for a 3-way tie for the Big 12 Championship next week.

Sorry all you Notre Dame haters but if you haven’t figured it out yet it’s their year and they easily defeat USC on Saturday to lock up a spot in the BCS Championship game.

I’ll leave it there. Go have a festive Thanksgiving.

HooK eM,

W.E.

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Post-Game Iowas St.

A Few Thoughts Before the Break

Mack Brown vowed to fix whatever was ailing the Longhorns after another humiliating defeat at the hands of Oklahoma.  Four straight wins later he’s made good on his vow, right?  Maybe. But there’s still an insidious doubt about the program that could allow a debacle like the Oklahoma game to happen in the first place.

Here I go again knit picking over nothing. That formation Texas lined up in on the first play had about as much resemblance to the Wishbone as I have to Robert Redford in his prime. Yeah there were three backs behind Ash arrayed in a far flung triangle, but the actual Wishbone had the fullback a mere two yards behind the quarterback with the halfbacks lined up so close to the fullback  they could all reach out and touch each other if they wanted to. I know, it’s the thought that counts.

If you’re a clear headed Texas fan the last thing you want is to play A&M in the Cotton Bowl. Now is not the time to play the Aggies again. I’m in the camp that says never consciously schedule A&M again. With the bowl alignments, including the Cotton Bowl this year, I guess it’s out of our hands.

Speaking of the Aggies, how about that big bad SEC having their big dog taken down and probably out of the National Championship Game by a Big 12 refugee?

With the risk of being nauseous one more thing about the Aggies, not a single Over/Under contestant predicted Johnny Manziel would gain more yards rushing than Jonathan Gray.  I love that.

What in the Wide Wide World of Sports gets into those coaches out there in Lubbock? First you had Mike Leach allegedly abusing his players. Then it was Tech Basketball Coach Billy Gillespie. And now this past Saturday there goes Tommy Tuberville on the sideline during the Kansas game, in full view of the United States and Texas, knocking the cap and headset off a Graduate Assistant Coach. Bizarre. Ex Texas Tech Basketball Coach Bobby Knight must have something to do with it.

One more Darrell Royal shake the hand that shook the hand story from an Ex Texas Football player I know. In the 1970s there was an honorary “Tote Off Table” in the player’s Jester Center Dining Hall that served special entrees for players who had knocked an opposing player out of the game. So when I heard about “Bounty Gate” I couldn’t believe it was that big a story.  As it turns out, it’s looking more and more like a politically correct NFL public relations campaign.

See you next week.

HooK eM,

W.E.

Over/Under Results

The grades were much higher this week with an average score of 6.6 out of a possible 10.  Six contestants finished with grades of six which was also the lowest grade posted by any contestant.  I won’t mention all the sixes here if you won’t. The grades would have been much higher if every single contestant hadn’t missed the same  two questions. Who would have the longest run from scrimmage for the Horns and who would have more yards rushing, Jonathan Gray or Johnny Manziel.

Tom Yoxall, John Scott and David Frink tied for second with sevens. Mike Frank and Mark Adams finished in a tie for first with eight correct answers. They both went 1-1 in the tiebreaker. So we had to go to who was closer on the total points scored in the two games and by a mere one point Mike Frank gets his first win in a very long time.  Mark who is a rookie this year has not yet  finished worse than tied for second.

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Remembering Darrell Royal

One Degree of Separation

I made my decision to go to The University of Texas when I was in the fifth grade. Unlike my earlier goals of becoming an astronaut and a United States Senator destined for the presidency, this ambition was realized.  At the first fraternity party I went to a few days before my first classes at U.T.,I was asked several times, why I came all the way from Reston, Virginia to attend The University of Texas.  My answer: because they have a good football team. I thought it was a pretty good line and people laughed that night every time I said it. It wasn’t a joke. It was the truth and Texas wouldn’t have had a good football team if not for Darrell Royal. To be totally honest the fact that my two older brothers had graduated from U.T. and lived in Austin also had a lot to do with my choice of a college.

During that fall semester in 1974 I watched the Texas-Texas Tech game, that some of us reminisced about last week, with my older brother David and his roommate Robert at their Riverside apartment. Robert was a graduate assistant football coach and former U.T. reserve quarterback.  During the first half of the game, Texas’ quarterback, Mike Presley, scrambled around on one play far behind the line of scrimmage and without purpose.  Eventually he was tackled for a big loss and Texas had to punt.  Robert told us that Presley would not be going back in the game after that because Coach Royal didn’t tolerate screwing around and making dumb plays the way Presley just had.  David and I were surprised to hear that Presley would be yanked for that one bad play and thought Robert’s prediction was a little hasty. Well what did we know?  Presley didn’t play again that day and lost his starting job for the rest of the season after that game.  Royal was demanding of his players and had little tolerance for sloppy play and mental errors.  Royal was a hard ass.

Over the next three and a half years I had the quiet thrill to meet and become acquainted with a handful of Texas Football Players who were fraternity brothers of mine.  A couple of them were starting linebackers. One of them was All Southwest Conference.  I would describe their feelings about Darrell Royal as somewhere between fear and loathing.  I never heard the term “nice guy” when they talked about Royal.  I don’t know this for a fact but I didn’t get the feeling that my football player fraternity brothers considered Royal a father figure. Nor do I believe that Royal told their parents that he would take care of them and treat them like family. I never got the sense that the program under Royal had a family atmosphere.

After my mother died and my father moved to assisted living my brothers and I sorted through and divided up furniture and their personal belongings.  Among the items that I kept was a treasure trove of letters that my brothers and I wrote my parents while we were in college.  Many of the letters included news about the football team.  One of the letters, from my brother David in November of 1971, mentioned that all the players hated Royal.

In the middle eighties I was in the convenience store business and my banker was a former Texas defensive back who was a starter in 1967 and 68.  Naturally we talked a fair amount about football. At the time the Texas Coach, Fred Akers, was under heavy fire for an 8-4 record in 1985.  In the context of one conversation about Akers and coaches my banker said, “Royal can kiss my ass. The only time he ever spoke to me was when I had a bad ankle and he asked me before a game if I was going to play.”  Remember he was a two year starter and not some bitter reserve player.

As I listened to former U.T greats Bill Bradley, Tommy Nobis and Ed Small talk about Royal this week on sports talk radio I heard them express genuine feelings of admiration and love for Darrell Royal.  They told great stories about playing for Royal. Some of the stories were funny and the funny ones usually had something to do with Royal’s reaction to a misstep or mistake on the field that they had made.  The bottom line was these guys never made the same mistake twice because they were afraid to face Royal if they did.  As players Royal was not their friend. They became friends after their playing days were over.

I’m not trying to tear the cover off the Darrell Royal that is being mourned and celebrated this week. Darrell Royal is probably my favorite of all Longhorns coaches and players alike.  The Darrell Royal that I learned about from the people that I knew who knew him and played for him is a man that I respected and admired.  It was fascinating to hear first-hand accounts about how one of the all-time great College Football Coaches led and motivated.  Royal’s style and methodology probably wouldn’t work in today’s world and to me that’s a shame.

Royal’s retirement from coaching at an early age was something else about him that I came to admire.   My father may not have been the first one to say it but he told me somewhere around 1975 that he thought perhaps Royal found it difficult to be hard on his players after his daughter was killed in an auto accident in 1973. I think what many people now admire about Royal is his growth into the person he became after football which was something much larger than just being a great football coach.

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I must bore you with a personal anecdote as it relates to Darrell Royal.  In the 1973 Cotton Bowl Texas defeated heavily favored #4 Alabama.  It was a thrilling win which wasn’t decided until Texas stopped Alabama on a dramatic fourth and one very late in the game.  The Frinks of Vestal, New York were jubilant.  A few days after the game my father and I couldn’t help but to continue to talk about our team’s great win. My father thought it was perhaps Royal’s finest coaching performance and admitted, that rightly or wrongly in the grand scheme of things, how much he appreciated the joy the win had given us.  I suggested we write Darrell Royal a Thank You note.  So together we sat down at the dining room table and collaborated on the letter that my father wrote out on a legal pad. If memory serves the letter ended up being two complete pages and part of a third.  In addition to talking about the team’s performance we introduced our family telling Coach Royal that David was a student,  Clayton was a U.T. graduate and that we were former neighbors and good friends with Dan and Corey Adams whose son Dan was a Texas player.

About 10 days later we got a short but warm reply from Darrell Royal.  That letter is another is another treasure that I inherited from my parents.

HooK eM,

W.E.

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