Texas-Baylor: Mission Accomplished

Done deal.

After a week of frustration and “what might have been”, the Texas Longhorns finally got to move on Saturday, courtesy of the Baylor Bears.
Sometimes when there is upheaval in your life, what you need is a return to normalcy, a re-alignment of the stars, a re-introduction to world order. “Normalcy” returned to Austin Saturday in the form of UT 45, Baylor 21. But though the score at first glance appears to be “same old, same old” for the Longhorns, believe this: these are not the Bears with which you are most familiar.

This one was tied 14-14 in the second quarter, and Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin was running free and easy, looking at least a little like another number 10 who used to run free at DKR. Slowly but surely though, the Longhorns regained control.

Thank you, Ryan Palmer, for your 22-yard spinning interception return in the second quarter to break up the monotony that was 14-14. The Longhorns were at least slightly reeling at that point, having seen Griffin drop a perfect 55-yard pass into the arms of Kendall Wright to tie the score.

When Wright crossed the goal line, DKR was quiet, almost resigned to the fact that Texas was once again sleep-walking against a team they should defeat handily. Perhaps the Longhorns were still reeling from losing last week’s heart-breaker to Texas Tech with only one second remaining. Maybe this was the beginning of the most recent home Kansas State loss.

Enter Palmer.

The defensive back made an assertive move on a deflected Griffin swing pass, caught the ball, spun to avoid a tackle and sprinted into the end zone. The heretofore sleepy crowd was suddenly alive and Texas added another touchdown before halftime to lead 28-14. All worries of a potential upset were for the most part subsided at that point.

Granted, the great majority believed Texas’ game Saturday against Baylor was a mere formality, especially when you consider the Bears’ dismal record in the Big 12 in general and against Texas in particular. But there was also a healthy dose of worry pertaining to the psyche of the Longhorns, who were knocked from their first-ranked perch by the Texas Tech Red Raiders seven days ago in Lubbock.

Mix in the fact that Baylor’s Griffin and head coach Art Briles had given the Bears new life, and many were at least slightly concerned that Baylor could pull a worm-eating upset over the Longhorns Saturday in Austin.

No worries.

Despite the Texas Tech loss, this Texas team is a mentally strong one, a team guided by a top-notch quarterback and a coaching staff that isn’t rattled by on-field adversity. And without question, this was a team anxious to wash from their mouths the taste of last week’s Panhandle disappointment.

In addition to Palmer, the catalyst Saturday was once again Colt McCoy, who merely passed for 300 yards and five touchdowns. McCoy bounced back from a sub-par (for him) game last week against Tech by hitting 26 of 37 passes. It wasn’t necessary for him to play the last dozen minutes of the game.

The Texas defense was once again solid, stopping the Bears on 10 of 11 third-down attempts. The Bears also managed to complete only 6 of 20 pass attempts for 71 yards; for the Longhorns, it was a nice change from the aerial assault from Texas Tech.

The most important name from Saturday’s game was this one: Fozzy Whittaker. He gained 77 yards on 15 carries (5.1 yards per carry), which bodes well for next week’s game at Kansas. Vondrell McGee added 55 yards on just 10 carries.

The main negative was this: McCoy spent much too much time on the turf. And that’s a big negative; you and everyone else knows what will happen if McCoy goes down.

But overall, this was expected and important. The Baylor Bears were just the tonic needed, just what the doctor ordered, the Alka-Seltzer for last week’s acid-reflux of a loss to the Red Raiders.