Archive for the ‘2012’ Category

Pre-Game Baylor

Questions

I have some questions.

1. Why was this year’s OU loss the tipping point for so many of Mack Brown’s most ardent supporters? I’m fascinated by this. I’ve been ambivalent about Brown since 2010. I think his job security is bullet proof and I’m not calling for his firing or resignation. Not that anyone should care what my opinion is. So I open the forum to the question, if you’ve been a die-hard Mack fan until now, why was this the loss that made you lose faith?

2. For those of you who have lost faith in Brown would a 9-3 or better regular season restore it? I think 9-3 is very possible. If I were a gambling man I’d bet that Texas wins their next two games against Baylor and Kansas. If they do that means they only have to win three of the last their last four to finish 9-3.

3. There are several credible reports on the street that Mack Brown is calling the shots this year not Brian Harsin and Manny Diaz.  The reports say that it’s Brown who is responsible for the conservative play calling and that he has insisted on a “dumbed down” plan on defense. Why has Brown climbed down from his CEO perch and become a micro manager?

4. During the West Virginia game, I think it was in the first half, during a time out all the Texas players started exuberantly jumping up and down. All the players. It was weird. For a second I thought maybe they were doing some kind of team motivational ritual. My 25 year old son who was sitting with me informed me that they were jumping up and down to the song being played over the P.A. system, “Jump Around” by The House of Pain.  Maybe I’m an old fuddy duddy but I thought this showed a pretty major lack of discipline and focus. The game against West Virginia, the #8 team in the country and a conference foe, wasn’t enough to hold their attention and not to react like they were the Sig Eps in 1978 and the band was playing “Never Been any Reason? ”  Did anyone else think this was out of place?  By the way West Virginia wasn’t “jumping around.”

 

5. Since the first two games of the season, which made clear that our 2012 Longhorns weren’t nearly as good as the hype machine had made them out to be, I’ve been feeling like Barry Manilow in his song “Tryin’ to get the Feeling.”  I’m almost as angst ridden as Barry was. I’ve been doing some soul searching wondering why I’m not “feeling it” this year.  I guess it’s because there’s something phony about the program and the team right now.  Has anyone else lost the feeling?

6. Does anybody really know what time it is?

7. Why have the Longhorns regressed since the end of last season in the midst of what was supposed to be a rebuilding.?

8. Does anybody really care?

9. Did you know Texas is 7-13 in their last 20 Big 12 Games?

10. Do you know without Googling the name of the Longhorn who has the longest run from scrimmage in Texas Football History?

11. Did you know Mack Brown’s record in the games immediately following a loss to OU by 38 points or more is 2-1?

12. What do you think the atmosphere in Memorial Stadium will be like at the start of the Baylor Game Saturday night?

HooK eM,

W.E.

Over/Under Contest

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Post-Game Oklahoma

Mack and Re-Mack

There he goes again winning the coin toss and electing to put his worst unit on the field first to set the tone for the game.

There he goes again calling ultra conservative plays on offense to start the game even when you’re behind 13-2 and going 3 and out on his first four possessions.

There he goes again on the sideline yelling at referees but not at his players. Seems like there ought to be a rule that if you’re behind by more than 28 points you shouldn’t be allowed to yell at referees.

There he goes again suffering a humiliating, embarrassing blow out at the hands of Oklahoma. That’s number four but who’s counting?

And there he goes again attempting to shield players from criticism in the post game press conference. Remember Chris Simms? This time it was Alex Okafor and Kenny Vaccaro whom he said played their butts off?  WTF Mack?  He also said, “I thought we did make some better plays on defense than we have in the past, even though we still gave up a 95-yard run and a deep pass or two. But we did seem to tackle a little bit better at times. “

You can’t make this stuff up.

This is a good time to re-post a column I wrote before the start of the 2011 season. In the context of yesterday’s loss, two of  the last three paragraphs are very timely today.

The Unfinished Odyssey of Mack Brown

In 1996 the Astroturf which had applied countless world class strawberries to the Longhorns’ finest since 1969 was replaced by natural grass in Texas Memorial Stadium. Also in 96 the first generation of our beloved Jumbotron was installed.  The seating structure and amenities remained basically the same way they had been since the early seventies with a seating capacity of approximately 80,000. There was one other change to the stadium though 1996. It was re-christened Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. That’s quite a mouthful and leads me to wonder: the next time they rename the stadium how are they going to do it? I think I prefer Darrell-Mack Brown Royal-Memorial Stadium to Darrell K Royal Mack Brown-Texas Memorial Stadium but I’m open to suggestions.

The readers of these pages know that no one is about to nominate me for the presidency of the Mack Brown Fan Club. And in the wake of the unmitigated disaster of the 2010 season: a season where, if you add up all his comments during and after, you have to conclude that Mack Brown took the year off feeling sorry for himself, I have spent much time reflecting on Mac Brown’ s career at Texas.  And even after 2010, if you compare the accomplishments and the contributions of Darrell Royal and Mack Brown I have concluded that Brown should be held in as high a regard as Royal in the history of Texas Football.  Brown is to Royal as Lincoln is to Washington. Where as Lincoln preserved the Union, Brown not only preserved but resurrected and enhanced the glorious winning Hook Em tradition of Texas Football.

It seems so obvious now but it really was the unique genius of Mack Brown that—unlike Fred Akers and John Mackovic before him—he figured out the way to start re-building Texas football was to bathe himself, the players, alumni and fans in the rich glorious tradition of Darrell Royal’s Texas Football.  Mack reminded everyone of the great history and tradition of Texas Football and made the Texas faithful proud and excited about the Longhorns after a 4-7 season and before the first snap had been taken in 1998.  Where as Akers and Mackovic were compelled by ego to distance themselves from the Darrell Royal legacy, Brown saw Royal’s legacy as something to embrace, as shoulders he could stand on top off.  He recognized that the magic of Royal’s legacy could be leveraged for rebuilding the image of the program in the hearts and minds of the fans, the media and most importantly for recruiting.

Ricky William’s Heisman Trophy in 1998 was a sublime climax to the first year of Brown’s campaign to re-build Texas Football. I use the word campaign purposely as 1998 would showcase Mack Brown  as the best marketing and public relations professional in college football.  Ricky Williams certainly deserved to win the Heisman Trophy but it was Brown who convinced him to stay at Texas for a senior year when it was expected that he would go to the NFL and it was Brown who put the ball in his hands 30 times a game or more seven times in 98 including 44 times against A&M the last game before the final votes were in.  Most importantly it was Brown the charismatic salesman who was the front man and campaign manager for Ricky Williams the Heisman candidate and he was not the least bit coy about promoting Williams as the player most deserving the award. Brown’s skill in marketing and public relations is his greatest strength as a coach and he has used it to stock his football teams with top five talent for the past 10 years. It also landed Texas a controversial bid to the Rose Bowl in 2005 which was Brown’s and Texas’ first BCS Bowl bid and was a spring board to the school’s first National Championship in 35 years.

It wasn’t always a bead of roses for Brown between 1998 and the National Championship 2005 season.  The very first game of the 1999 season exposed some of Brown’s greatest weaknesses as coach.  North Carolinas St. blocked three Texas punts, returning two of them for touchdowns and upset a Texas in their home opener 23-20.  Special teams have always seemed like and after thought for Brown. Every year he’s been at Texas there has been glaring weaknesses in the kicking game.  Lack of a kicker who consistently produces touchbacks and terrible kick-off coverage have been a hallmarks of Brown’s Texas teams. Game planning and game day adjustments have also been average at best and it showed in that first game of 1999.  How could you not make adjustments to prevent more than one blocked punt in a game?

Then there was the Chris Simms era which highlighted Brown’s tendency to coddle players and earned Texas a reputation of having a country club atmosphere and for being a soft team.  Remember the infamous press conference where Brown curtly answered a question that was directed to Chris Simms.  This coddling reached a climax in the 2001 Big 12 Championship game when Brown didn’t yank Simms in favor of Major Applewhite until he had thrown 3 interceptions and fumbled once all in the first half digging to deep a hole for Texas to climb out of.  A win would have put Texas in the National Championship game. Then there was Brown’s phone call to the Texas season ticket holder rebuking him for publicly criticizing Brown in comments to a New York Times reporter revealing his over sensitivity to criticism.

Another thorny issue for Brown was a five game losing streak against Oklahoma with two especially humiliating losses, in 2000, 63-14 and in 2003, 65-13. Critics said the game plans were too conservative, unimaginative and looked like Brown was playing not lose instead of playing to win.  In 20001 freshmen Cedric Benson didn’t see the field in a game where Texas failed to score a touchdown. Evidently Brown thought the Oklahoma game was too big a stage for a freshman.  Benson started the next game and as they say the rest is history.  Amazingly Cedric Benson, Roy Williams and B.J. Johnson never scored a touchdown and never tasted victory in a Texas-OU game.

Entwined in all of Brown’s controversies at Texas was Greg Davis.  I think the calls for the firing of Greg Davis started all the way back in 2000.  I found it ironic to hear people screaming at Greg Davis during games in Memorial Stadium. I didn’t know who Greg Davis was until fans started calling for his head.  When I found fault with coaches I was thinking Mack Brown while most others were thinking Greg Davis.  I guess people just couldn’t bring themselves to be directly critical of the charismatic Mack Brown.  Brown was steadfast in defending Greg Davis no matter how many sideways passes were thrown time and time again calling Davis the best in the country.  Davis survived long enough to have Vince Young run his offense winning Texas a National Championship and an Offensive Coordinator of the year award for Davis in 2005.

Despite these issues the first six years of Brown’s tenure at Texas produced 60 wins and the beginning of streak of nine seasons with 10 or more wins unmatched by any other team in the country during that time span. During those first six years Brown laid the foundation for Texas to become one of the elite programs in college football in a class that only includes Florida, USC, Alabama, Oklahoma and LSU in my opinion. It’s getting boring and repetitive but I will mention that because of Brown’s football program Texas is number one in revenue generated by a college athletic program.  Voila the Longhorn Network.

How ironic for the Longhorn Network to premiere on the heels of a 5-7 season, Brown’s nadir at Texas.  I think the 2010 team was the perfect storm of all the weaknesses of Brown’s program. The team was soft, there was little accountability for players or coaches and the game plans were bland to say the least.  The first three offensive plays for Texas in the Oklahoma game encapsulated almost all of the criticisms heaped on Brown during his career at Texas.  First down, sideways pass completed for a loss of two yards. Second down, a sideways pass completed for a loss of 2 yards. Third down and 14 to go, a 7 yard completion to the tight end.  Soft, unimaginative, afraid and playing not to lose against Oklahoma.

Mack Brown cleaned house after the 2010 season and rightfully so. The house cleaning swept away Greg Davis, Browns running mate since his days at North Carolina, the lightning rod for criticism of the program and the man who Brown called the best offensive coordinator right up until the time he fired him.  Brown has never publicly said a word about the end of his coaching relationship with Greg Davis.

2011 is critical year not only for the Texas Football program but for Mack Brown’s career, his legacy at Texas and how he will be remembered. Will 2011 be the beginning of another run of 10 win seasons, BSC Bowls and possibly Brown’s second National Championship?  Or will it be the beginning of the last chapter of his career ending like Bobby Bowden’s at Florida St. where he stayed too long, ending sadly and without dignity.  There’s an old vaudeville expression. – A good performer knows when to leave the stage, satisfying them and then departing with them wanting just a little bit more.

Over/Under Results

In a first for Over/Under there was 4-way tie for first place.  Reed Ramlow, Jerry Smith, Mark Adams and John Scott posted sterling eights.  Mark Adams in two starts has finished first and tied for first. He’s obviously a gamer.  It was good to see my  Pledge Brother John Scott show up big for the OU Game.  Reed Ramlow has ventured to the top of the leader board in seasons past and it’s good to see him back.  Jerry Smith has been a Super Star Over/Under player from the get go and he, by a nostril hair–one point to be exact, nosed out Reed Ramlow in the tie breaker to win this week.  Jerry and Reed picked the winners of both games correctly and both were very accurate on total points scored and final point differentials.

HooK eM,

W.E

 

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Pre-Game OU

OU State of Mind

To be sung to the tune of New York State of Mind by Billy Joel

Some folks like games on TV
 Avoid the crowds enjoy it on HD
Recline on the couch or easy chair
Drink a lot of beer

But I’m taking a road trip
On the IH thirty-five
I’m in an OU state of mind

I’ve seen all the rich alums
In their fancy cars and their luxury suites
Been to the Rose Bowl, Columbus and old South Bend
But I know what I’m needing
And I don’t want to waste more time
I’m in an OU state of mind

It was so easy living day by day
Out of touch with the Orange and White
But now I need a little give and take
The State Fair Crush, The Cotton Bowl

It comes down to reality
And it’s fine with me ’cause I’ve let it slide
Don’t care if it’s Cardinal Puffs or on Greenville Ave
I don’t have any reasons
I’ve left them all behind
I’m in an OU State of Mind

See what I did there.

 

Make or Break for the Horns?

Years and years ago my brother Clayton related a story to the family about running into a group of Texas Football players on campus the evening after the 1967 U.T. loss to the Aggies. Clayton was a junior at U.T. at the time and was pretty bummed out about the loss. The players he ran across that evening were laughing it up and joking as they loaded a car for what looked like a hunting trip. The story was illuminating in that it revealed the players’ perspective on the game which was different from Clayton’s, and I’m sure, thousands of other Texas Fans. To the players football was a profession and a business and to do a professional job you have to remain calm and level headed. I’m not saying that the players didn’t care about losing to the Aggies but they couldn’t afford to live and die with every win or loss the way many fans do because that would hinder their efforts to play their best. So as Clayton was still in mourning, the players had already moved on.  I heard about this same players’ perspective from a U.T. running back who played during the early 70s, Lonnie Bennett, who I socialized with during my rounder days in the early 80s. Lonnie told me that Darrell Royal preached maintaining a level headed approach to the game avoiding extreme highs or lows about any one play or the results of any one game.

Having related all that, I have learned over the years that at least some Texas players and coaches have difficulty applying this approach to the Texas-OU Game.  Darrell Royal himself got pretty darn emotional about the OU game in 1976. In today’s Austin-American-Statesman Kirk Bohls wrote some great stuff about Royal and the 76 game.  I’ve also heard and read players descriptions of what it is like walking down the tunnel in Cotton Bowl before the game.  I myself might kill somebody to be able to experience that walk.

Texas-OU has been a difficult series for Mack Brown. He’s 6-8 against Oklahoma and three of those losses were embarrassing blowouts. In 2001 and 2004 the scores were 14-3 and 12-0 respectively but those games weren’t as close as the scores indicate.  During the five game losing streak from 2000-2004 Brown was accused of playing the game not to lose.  I believe the accusation is accurate.  Disturbingly, Brown’s second half game plan last Saturday versus West Virginia was way too conservative and reminiscent of the way he coached during the losing streak against Oklahoma.

On Monday of this week we heard explanations from Brian Harsin and Brown about why D.J. Monroe and Daje Johnson between them only touched the ball once from scrimmage against West Virginia.  The excuses were guised in coach speak and in my opinion were lame.  Texas isn’t going to beat Oklahoma this year if Brown and his assistants get lost in the fog of the game and forget to get the ball to their play makers.

Besides being Texas-OU this game is most likely a conference championship elimination game. In addition, if Texas loses it will be for the third loss in a row to Oklahoma. That would perilous territory for Mack Brown in the 4th quarter of his coaching career.

I have been to the Texas-OU Games when both teams were ranked in the top 5. Huge games indeed. This year both teams are ranked in the teens but in the grand scheme of things this is a very Big Texas-OU Game. The coaches as well as the players better stay, cool, calm and collected and bring their A game.

BEAT THE HELL OTTA OU

Hook eM,

W.E.

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Post-Game West Virginia

Fear of Failure

The inability to stop the run, poor tackling and breakdowns in kick-off coverage were major contributors to Texas’ loss to West Virginia.  Still, despite all that, Texas would have won the game if not for conservative, half-hearted play calling on two critical possessions in the second half.

Texas drove nicely down the field on their first possession of the second half burning 7:30 off the clock perfectly executing a game of keep away from West Virginia’s offense. But Texas ended up with only three points. On first down from WVU’s 17 Bergeron rushed for 2 yards. On second down Bergeron lost 3 yards. On third and 11 from the WVU 18, Ash threw a screen pass that lost 3 more yards. Why not throw the ball far enough down field for the first down if not a touchdown when you’re inside the 20?  It looks like Brown and Harsin are still afraid that Ash will make a mistake throwing down field.

Same deal on Texas’ critical possession after the defense recovered a Geno Smith fumble on West Virginia’s 12 yard line late in the game. After two Bergeron runs netted only four yards, Ash on third down almost let the play clock expire before Espinoza snapped the ball to a surprised Ash who couldn’t handle the snap resulting in a 16 yard loss. So with a first down on West Virginia’s 12 Texas didn’t once throw the ball into the end zone.  There’s an old saying that is apropos after two possessions in the red zone that netted a total of three points. I will paraphrase it here: no intestinal fortitude no blue chips.

Texas’ running game is a work in progress. It’s not the dominant power rushing attack that Mack Brown has yearned for since the loss to Alabama in the Rose Bowl. The strength of the offense is in the passing game with three deep threat receivers and a young strong armed quarterback who has done enough to earn the confidence of Mack Brown.  The Texas defense is a lost cause.  For Texas to win 10 or 11 games in the regular season the offense is going to have to score a lot of points. From here on out Brown and Harsin have to be willing to take risks with Ash and the passing game and they can’t forget to put the ball in D.J. Monroe’s hands at least half a dozen times a game.  He didn’t touch the ball once against West Virginia.  That’s ridiculous.

We’ve seen Mack Brown take too conservative an approach in the past particularly in Oklahoma games.  He can’t back Texas into a great season this year.

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A word from the chairman.

 

Over/Under Results

It was a crazy game of Over/Under as nine of ten correct answers were under and we had to go to the tiebreaker to determine the winner.  I could have used a mathematician or an economist or something to sort out that tiebreaker so I’m not sure the methodology I used to determine the winner was sound.

David Frink and legendary gamer and first time player Mark Adams tied with seven correct answers.  They both went 1-1 on their tiebreaker picks. Both were lousy with their score predictions even on the games where they picked the winner.  So I selected the winner based on the most accurate point differential prediction total of both games. Clear as mud right?

Anyway without further adieu Mark Adams in his very first game wins this week in a photo finish.  David Frink, after years of struggle, has emerged as the leading money winner season to date.

Beat OU.

HooK eM,

W.E.

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I’ve Got this One

So we’re feeling as good about the Longhorns as we have since 2009.  David Ash has the second highest quarterback rating in all of college football and now to his credit he has a big game saving performance on the road against a very good opponent.  The Horns have so many weapons on offense that even a Mexican Drug Lord would be scared of them.

Now we’re looking forward to the big game with West Virginia. It will be the biggest home game in several years. It’s a night game and it will have the kind of college football atmosphere that you hope to experience at least once a year if you’re lucky.

But, you say, the defense has been shaky and Geno Smith is the most prolific quarterback in college football on the third highest scoring team in the country. West Virginia just put up 70 on Baylor and we’re worried about how many Ash and company will have to score just to keep up let alone win.  So you wouldn’t say you’re confident about getting a win in this one.  No worries.

Shakespeare wrote, what’s passed is prologue. Yogi Berra said, “It’s déjà vu all over again.” Well I’m getting the feeling that I’ve seen this game before.  Texas hosts a team on a roll with a hyped up star that is supposed to come to Austin and teach the Longhorns a thing or three.  The 1990 game against Houston and David Klingler comes to mind. Texas pushed them around winning 45-24 and the game wasn’t as close the final score indicates.  So I had to reach back a couple of coaches and 22 years ago to come up with that but still the vibes I’ve got about this game are strong.

Smith and West Virginia will get their yards and the fans, one in particular who sits in section 30 comes to mind, will have to endure Texas’ rubber band defensive strategy that gives the West Virginia receivers plenty of cushion between the 20s. When WVU gets to the red zone, which will be often, Texas will stiffen and hold them to field goals and to 30 points or fewer.  David Ash will continue to impress and Jonathan Gray will have his coming out party gaining more than 150 yards with at least one run of more than 40 yards against a terrible WVU defense.  I see Texas winning by a score of something on the order of 45-30.

Willie Earl does not endorse, encourage or promote gambling and can’t be held responsible for any misguided souls that lose money based on his prognostications.

Noise in DKR

There has been lots of laments over the years about the lack of noise at games and big games in particular at DKR Texas Memorial Stadium (from now on in this space referred to as Memorial Stadium).  Let me say a few words about that.

First of all Memorial Stadium is not built for noise. With all the lavish upgrades the stadium is still open at one end and still built on its original bones which are relatively flat, expansive and not conducive to holding in crowd noise.

More importantly Austin isn’t Baton Rouge, Columbus or College Station. Thank God. In Austin we don’t burn couches or poison rival’s Oak trees. U.T. students don’t riot to show solidarity with a criminally negligent school official.  Austin is culture, high tech, music, arts and brainy college students.  Furthermore Texas is stoic, the strong silent type if you prefer.  Texans maybe a proud lot but they don’t make a lot of noise about it.

In this his Naturalized Texan’s opinion you can have the crazed, loud for the sake of being loud, one dimensional fans of the college football hotbeds in the southeast and other locales. I love Texas and Texans just the way it is and they are.

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I heard some where that “Take me Home Country Road” by the late great John Denver is played at West Virginia home games. Well my favorite John Denver song is a different one.  Enjoy

HooK eM,

W.E.

Over/Under Contest

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