Former Longhorn standout Pat Culpepper gives his thoughts on the Horns’ bounce-back win over Baylor, including several bounce-back players, and the tough road to a possible title for Texas, beginning this weekend in Lawrence.
Colt McCoy threw two interceptions and had two more passes tipped by Baylor linebackers that could have been INTs. What Texas Tech did on the defensive side of the ball will be copied by the rest of the Longhorns’ opponents.
If you don’t believe Quan Cosby’s absence was a factor against the Red Raiders, eight catches and 111 yards against Baylor should change your mind. He was the Horns’ best, most consistent offensive player a year ago and with Jordan Shipley formed a triangle of offensive firepower with quarterback McCoy. He was definitely missed in Lubbock.Another Texas player to welcome back is Jared Norton. He makes a different with his speed and hitting ability when he is on the field. Against Tech, he was a spectator.Sergio Kindle and Henry Melton handled the defensive end chores Saturday, which was a smart move by coach Will Muschamp with Brian Orakpo sidelined. I’m not sure any of the great Texas defensive linemen during the Mack Brown era can match the intensity, the all-out effort to make the play as Roy Miller. I love to watch him at work! If you bring your binoculars to the game, focus on Miller. It is a treat to see what a really outstanding football player does down after down.I’m also not sure Baylor could beat Rice or Florida Atlantic. McCoy’s interceptions kept the Bears in the game for a while. Robert Griffin does remind me of the young – a very young – Vince Young, but his supporting cast is a long way from what the Longhorn signal caller had surrounding him.Safety Earl Thomas absolutely blew the coverage on Michael Crabtree on the last-second touchdown pass a week ago. Crabtree was in fact double-covered, which I saw on the replay on ABC’s warm-up show for the Tech-Oklahoma State game by Curtis Brown underneath and Thomas on top, but Thomas didn’t get there. His angle was wrong and allowed Crabtree to escape to the end zone. But Thomas redeemed himself with his play Saturday against Baylor. What Thomas did Saturday is what a real competitor does: play with a passion to beat the next team on the schedule. He made several impressive plays Saturday and one was right in front of me when he sprinted from his right safety position to make a classic tackle on a bubble screen that was well blocked.And senior Ryan Palmer took matters into his own hands with a key interception return for a touchdown that broke a 14-14 tie and solid coverage of Bear receivers. This is the time of the year when seniors have to step to the plate and Palmer played his very best ball game for the Longhorns.Texas is trying to run the football — Foswhitt Whittaker and Vondrell McGee both turned upfield for significant yardage against Baylor, whose front wall could not match the Red Raider front, which penetrated the zone blocking schemes of the Longhorns — but let’s face it, Texas is a passing team, like it or not. All of us gloried in the great victories over Oklahoma and Missouri thinking the Horns were the best thing going since sliced bread. Unstoppable. Colt McCoy to Cosby and Shipley looked like the ultimate weapons. Lose one of them, though, and Texas got beat in Lubbock. Now that Cosby and Shipley are back on the field, I expect Texas will ride that combination to its fate in the BCS rankings.Tech’s rout of Oklahoma State and Oklahoma’s slaughter of A&M at Kyle Field were significant. Should OU beat the Red Raiders in Norman in two weeks, those huge wins this last weekend might well figure into the Nov. 30th BCS rankings which determine a three-way tie winner of the Big 12 South.So the Horns must dominate both Kansas and A&M to retain that No. 3 BCS ranking. The wins over Oklahoma and Missouri were important to them holding on to the No. 4 spot last week, so that when Penn State lost to Iowa the Horns moved up a notch. Texas Tech is a burning gasoline fire on offense and it will be difficult to stop the Red Raiders in Norman or in Alaska. (If Baylor coach Art Briles thinks Texas holds in the offensive line, wait until he goes to Lubbock and watch the wrestling that keeps anybody from getting to Graham Harrell!) Could Oklahoma State beat OU in Stillwater? Such is the life in college football’s toughest conference.What is for sure is an 11-1 Texas team would make a great BCS bowl choice and that is the target the Longhorns can realistically shoot for.But what Texas has to do is not easy. I was in Lawrence, Kansas in 2004 when Vince Young pulled off a miracle win in the closing seconds of the game. The team was flat until Vince caught fire.Before the season started I thought OU, Tech and Kansas were games the Longhorns might lose, but at this time even a dinged up Texas is playing better football than the Jayhawks. Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing is a winner and will try to duplicate Graham Harrell, but the Jayhawks’ defense is not equal to Texas Tech’s. Coach Muschamp will have yet another chance to stop a Big 12 spread offense. It should be fun to watch. And the Horns should be ready to play this time in Lawrence. Texas 42, Kansas 21.