The beautiful Sun Bowl Stadium surrounded by the Franklin mountain range was filled with a record crowd by kickoff. The NFL pales in comparison to the enthusiasm generated by college football. And you just knew UTEP would give Texas its best shot, the way it should be.
Two field goals later it was UTEP 6, Texas 0.
Thanks to Louisiana Max, our tickets were squarely on the 50-yard line seven rows up directly behind the Texas bench. Coach Will Muschamp and Mac McWhorter were at work early with dry erase boards and exhortations, with Muschamp stalking in front of his defensive front demanding more effort to get to UTEP’s passer. After five quarters of the 2008 season, there were still zero sacks recorded by Muschamp’s guys and the quick draws and passes by UTEP were moving the chains. The Texas defensive coordinator was not happy.
Offensively for Texas, the sideline passes weren’t working and UTEP had the whole defense within six yards of the line of scrimmage bringing blitzes from every angle. But Colt McCoy has seen it all and as Texas settled down in a hostile environment so did the Longhorn offense. The Texas offensive line was beginning to draw a beat on the Miners and their defensive maneuvers.
Unless I am mistaken by what I saw right in front of the Texas bench, the Longhorns just might have found a running back for their spread offense in El Paso. He is a 5-foot-9, 190-pound rocket from Pearland, Texas, none other than Foswhitt Whittaker. He turns the ball up-field faster than anybody else in Burnt Orange. Chris Ogbonnaya and Vondrell McGee have their places in the Texas offense, but No. 28 can be the MAN if he continues to improve. He disappears among the land of giants, then shoots out spurting straight ahead, gaining yards, moving the chains, and maybe most importantly taking pressure off of Colt McCoy. Time will tell, but it was undeniable that the Longhorn offense changed tempo and took control of the game when Whittaker began his running behind Irby, Hix, Dockery, Hall, Mitchell and Ulatoski.
In fact, the Horns stalled in the third quarter because they didn’t run the ball. By the time somebody came up with the idea of unleashing the rocket wearing No. 28 again, Texas had let UTEP hang around and stay competitive in the game deep into the second half.
Dan Buckner and Brandon Collins joined Quan Cosby, Jordan Shipley and Blaine Irby as dependable pass receivers for Colt McCoy’s traveling passing show.
Colt has never played better and been in more control of how to win games. I don’t believe Texas coaches or most fans would trade the Jim Ned flash for any other quarterback at this point in time. It is a credit to Greg Davis and the offensive staff to see how far he has come as well as the determination of the “no soft drinks since junior high” Texas signal caller.
At 3:35 left in the third quarter, Texas finally recorded its first official quarterback sack of an opponent’s first team quarterback. There was a short series when the Longhorns played man-to-man and blitzed freshman safety Blake Gideon, and they looked like a Muschamp LSU or Auburn unit.
The Texas defensive effort as a whole is improving and from where I sat, there were fewer missed tackles.
This weekend when Arkansas travels to Austin, the Hogs won’t be playing a Louisiana adjunct team but a long and hated rival. I suspect both sides will bring their A games. More from Culpepper’s trip to El Paso 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.