Former Longhorn standout Pat Culpepper sees three playmakers emerge and, for the first time in Boulder, defensive intensity from Texas that matches Will Muschamp’s great Auburn defenses. And he senses an upset in the Cotton Bowl Saturday.
My friend Louisiana Max should be a bookie and perhaps a football coach. After a beautiful flight in his Burnt Orange and White twin engine Cessna to Longmont, Colo., which is a short drive from Boulder, he let me in on his prediction.
“Texas will win by at least 21 and never look back.”
I disagreed because I hadn’t seen the Longhorns extended into the fourth quarter while Colorado had experienced two tough games – West Virginia (which they won) and Florida State (which they lost). What do I know? The Longhorns vindicated Max, playing their very best game of the year. Period.
This was the first time I can honestly say I saw the Texas defense play with the same intensity as the Auburn defense that Max and I flew to see against LSU in 2006. Interior defensive linemen like Roy Miller getting off a blocker and making a first contact tackle on a sweep; nothing but hustle, heart and demanding coaching cause that type of effort. Credit Roy Miller for such commitment and credit coach Mack Brown for hiring a firebrand coach like Will Muschamp, who was the DC for Auburn in that 7-3 win over LSU in 2006, and letting him coach in his old-fashioned style.
Cody Hawkins, the Buffs quarterback, never had a chance. Brian Orakpo, Miller and hybrid linebacker-defensive end Sergio Kindle chased, deflected passes and sacked the coach’s son until they left the game with the score Texas 25, Colorado 7.
And the Texas secondary played its best game since the 2006 Oklahoma game as far as coverage and tackling. Every black jerseyed receiver had a white Longhorn jerseyed defender close by and in the mix.
‘Coach Max’ has been a fan of Cody Johnson from game one of the season and after solid performances against Arkansas and Colorado, the steamroller from Waller has found a home in the Longhorn backfield.
Having said that, this game under the watchful eyes of Colorado’s first sellout (53,927) since 2005 saw the emergence of three playmakers that had their first real breakout game.
As the game wore on an avid Colorado fan sitting behind me asked, “Who in the hell is No. 99?” It’s Roy Miller, of course, who doesn’t necessarily need an introduction after his 40 tackles as a junior, but who is playing at another level this fall as a senior.
Number two playmaker was Roddrick Muckelroy. Butkus winner Derrick Johnson, now with the Kansas City Chiefs, never had a game at Texas this outstanding that I watched. Forty-nine yards rushing in 28 attempts was what the statistics showed for Colorado, but those are only cold numbers compared to the heat delivered by the Texas defense – front, linebackers and secondary – to Colorado ball carriers. Muckelroy was the hammer and his knockback licks were spectacular.
And last but not least in terms of playmakers, I never thought Chris Ogbonnaya would become a key player in the Longhorn backfield. He never seemed to accelerate like a big-time player but on Saturday in Boulder, the light went on for Chris. He had two brilliant game-changing plays, one after Colt McCoy, trapped in an effort to scramble for a first down, flipped a five-yard sidearm toss to Chris who took it 65 yards for the first Longhorn score. And in the third quarter, after Colorado made it 28-7, the 220-pound senior broke over the right side and raced deep into Colorado territory setting up the Horns to take a 35-7 lead. With Blaine Irby out, Ogbonnaya had become Colt McCoy’s best check down threat in the passing game.
So now it comes down to this: 5-0 Texas versus 5-0 and No. 1-ranked Oklahoma. It is my favorite sports day of the year. I got to play in three of them and the intensity is not forgotten deep down in my bones.
This I know and don’t need ‘Professor Max’ to correct me on: Texas is a much better team than a year ago when Oklahoma beat the Horns in the fourth quarter. The Sooners might not be quite as good on defense. Like Ben Crenshaw said before the memorable victory in the Ryder Cup at Brookline, “I have a feeling.” I sense an upset. Texas 35, Oklahoma 28.
Pat Culpepper played for The University from 1960-62 and graduated from UT with a B.A. degree with honors in history. He coached college football for 12 years as an assistant at Texas, Colorado, Tulane, Baylor and Memphis State and was head coach at Northern Illinois from 1976-79. He also spent 16 years as a high school coach in Texas at Midland, Lufkin, Galveston Ball, Westfield and his hometown of Cleburne. He was selected to the Longhorn Hall of Honor in 1991. His commentary appears regularly in the Inside Texas magazine and at InsideTexas.com.