Notes and observations on a season half-played, while wondering how I got a sunburn in the Cotton Bowl and was running my truck heater two days later. God Bless Texas…
* After watching Texas lose to Oklahoma Saturday, it’s pretty apparent that Texas’ roller coaster of a season will continue, and my preseason prediction of 9-3 has been down-converted to 6-6. I see the Longhorns trading wins and losses each week the rest of the way, with Tom Herman’s team losing to Oklahoma State, beating Baylor, losing to TCU, beating Kansas, losing to West Virginia and beating Texas Tech in a must-win situation to qualify for a bowl game. As bad as I want to Texas to upset either OSU, TCU or West Virginia, I don’t see it happening. Why? Several reasons, the biggest of which is an offensive line that is young, inconsistent and unproven. Reason number two is an offense whose biggest rushing threat is the quarterback – that is a problem. Combine that with a defense that gives up big plays, an inconsistent field goal unit and a schedule that includes three Top 20 teams, and 6-6 is a pretty logical prediction.
* Speaking of the quarterback who is the main rushing threat, I go though the same emotional upheaval while watching Sam Ehlinger as I do when I’m dealing with my kids. Eighty percent of his decisions I love, and twenty percent of his decisions drive me crazy, and I accept that since he is still a teenager. And I’m not sure if there is anything taught in Coaching 101 class that explains how to keep your quarterback healthy when he’s constantly running for his life, but if so, hopefully Herman can teach that particular skill. Seeing Ehlinger prone on the sideline in Dallas does not bode well. The Longhorns MUST improve on the offensive line, Ehlinger MUST slice his rushing attempts in half and Texas MUST figure out a way to run the football when the QB’s only involvement is handing the ball to a running back. Ehlinger needs to be safe.
* I hadn’t been to the Cotton Bowl before Saturday since 1999, and I was quickly reminded of what a logistical nightmare the place is on Texas-OU game day. Parking is mostly impossible, and the few parking places available cost a fortune despite being a great distance from the stadium built when Franklin Roosevelt was just coming into prominence. Entering the fair, the gates are poorly marked and the lines are massive and plodding. Once inside, forget about grabbing a quick bottle of over-priced water until you stand in the coupon line that’s about 300 deep (you can’t pay for anything in cash). And even though our seats were in the renovated part of the Cotton Bowl, the aisles were so narrow that at halftime, you can forget about going to grab a drink. On our way out of the stadium, I swung by the bathroom and counted a half-dozen liquor bottles in the stall, and the narrow stairway from the upper deck meant we didn’t get to the exit gate of the stadium until 45 minutes after we left our seats. And this is AFTER renovation?
* One positive from the experience came when my son and I bumped into Inside Texas contributor and Texas legend Pat Culpepper outside the stadium. “We’re coming,” Pat said. “They’ve got a lot more experience than we do right now, but I like what I see. We’re coming.”
* Please, I’d like to go the rest of the year without hearing the word “culture.” When Mack was the coach, everybody said a culture change was needed. Charlie Strong was hired because it was determined that he was going to change the culture. He said he wanted to change the culture. Herman was hired so that Texas could get back to a winning culture; he says he’s in the process of changing the culture. The curmudgeon doesn’t really care about “culture”; I simply want Texas to block consistently, run the football with at least a little regularity, not let big, slow tight ends get so wide open that they can start their jog into the end zone at the 15 yard-line and stop having to go for it on 4th and 8.
Is that too much to ask?