Former Longhorn standout Pat Culpepper gives his thoughts on Texas’ loss, the heart-breaking drop (one of many), the emotion of the game, where the Horns were outplayed and the few bright spots.
Saturday night in Lubbock, Texas Tech was the better team. 0:01 second better. But with eight seconds left on the game clock, 56,333 football fans on their feet and millions watching on ABC television, freshman safety Blake Gideon dropped a sure-fire, game-ending, Texas victory interception.
On the very next play Tech’s marvelous quarterback Graham Harrell threw for, who else, Michael Crabtree, who was running step for step with Curtis Brown. The ball was thrown to Crabtree’s back shoulder and the Biletnikoff winning wideout turned back, caught it and powered his way into the end zone in front of the 400-piece Texas band, unleashing the biggest celebration in Lubbock since the end of the prohibition.If you feel badly about this loss, just pause for a second and think about what Blake Gideon feels. He can’t get around it; it will haunt him at least until he lines up against Baylor next Saturday in Austin. That is the only way these demons are extinguished from one’s mind and heart. Thank goodness it wasn’t his last game at Texas.The Longhorns were outplayed, particularly by the Tech defense, in the first half in the same fashion that brought Texas victory in Austin a year ago. Tech had 17 first downs to Texas’ 5. Colt McCoy did not get the protection from the Texas offensive line he enjoyed for eight straight Saturdays and there were dropped passes that erased possible first downs, including one by Jordan Shipley that could well have made the score Texas 7, Tech 5. And for the first time somebody jammed up coverage on Shipley and it had its effect. The Longhorn defense stopped Tech on its first possession, but the Red Raiders hit a perfect punt nailing Texas on their own 2-yard line, Texas ran fullback Cody Johnson one way and Chris Ogbonnaya the other on its first offensive snap of the game. Nobody blocked Colby Whitlock, the Tech defensive tackle, and he hit Ogbonnaya a yard deep in the Texas end zone. A safety with less than 5 minutes off the game clock! I’m sure the next time Texas tries to hammer off its goal line, the Horns will lead their fullback to that side and perhaps put a helmet on any defensive lineman aligned in the area of attack. It was a rotten start in front of a crowd that makes a game in Aggieland feel like a kindergarten Easter egg hunt.Tech students had set up tents all week in front of the student gate entrance at Jones Stadium to get front row seats to bring the heat on the Longhorns. The stadium crowd was blacked out in the entire width and height of the student section.The celebration after the game – they had to clear the field of black-shirted students twice with a second on the clock – was equal to New Year’s Eve at Times Square, and it went on deep into Sunday morning. What would I have done differently in the game’s closing minutes? I would have taken some seconds off that play clock when Texas had first down from the Tech four-yard line and then called a time out. Texas had two left and took one home to Austin with them. That would have given Tech less than a minute to score.Once again the kickoff coverage team allowed a crucial return that reached the Tech 38 yard line and with a couple of Harrell completions and Gideon’s dropped interception setting up the thrilling (to Tech fans) catch, run and score by Crabtree.And Texas had a long list of injuries. Brian Orakpo could not (and can not) be replaced in the Longhorn defense as far as athletic intensity and ability. Jared Norton was missing at linebacker and his speed was needed to help against the Tech middle pass routes and quick draw runs. Quan Cosby played sparingly and it had an obvious effect on the Texas passing game.On the bright side, running back Foswhitt Whitaker showed the same spark he showed in El Paso against UTEP, which seems like years ago to me.Malcolm Williams, at 6-3, 225, provided two huge plays that got Texas back in the game. The bombs he caught from Colt McCoy where lighting strikes and energized the Texas team and fans.I admire Coach Mack Brown’s post-game comments concerning the hard schedule and the injuries: “That doesn’t matter; those are just excuses. The schedule is an excuse, the injuries are an excuse, we’ve just got to play hard.”Now, Texas Tech is the only undefeated team in the Big 12 and the Raiders’ next two opponents are Oklahoma State in Lubbock and, after a bye week, Oklahoma in Norman.It will take the same enthusiasm generated by the Tech student body and excellent play by the Raiders’ underrated defense to beat the Cowboys. I don’t think they will win in Norman.Here now is one of the two great lessons of sports: what do you do when you lose a heartbreaker? Baylor would like nothing more than to come to Austin and find the Longhorns sitting in the corner and sucking their thumb. It is decision time for Texas. They can get back off the floor like the champion they were, for fighting back to make the game 33-32 with 1:28 left to play, and put pressure on Tech by beating Baylor, Kansas and Texas A&M without players like Orakpo, or they can fade out of the picture like they did in 2006 at Manhattan, Kansas and in Austin versus Texas A&M. Same deal, similar circumstances. Tech has to lose twice for Texas to go to the Big 12 championship game or it could even be a three-way tie. No more Heisman and no more National Championship talk necessary, just three dangerous teams that Texas must face.We will find out what the Texas football team is made of in the next weeks. Tech will find out the Big 12 South is the toughest conference division in college football.This next Saturday morning I expect nothing but a hard playing Texas team. I call I Texas 42, Baylor 17.
Click here for a bit more from Pat on his trip to Lubbock.
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.