Texas Longhorns 2008 Football Season Review

coltmccoyqbs2008 was a strange season for the Longhorns. It started out with relatively low expectations, with many experts picking the Longhorns to finish third in the Big 12 South. Other than Colt McCoy, Brian Orakpo and Roy Miller, the team didn’t have many big-name players like previous recent Longhorn teams, and McCoy was coming off an inconsistent sophomore slump 2007. The team had lost star RB Jamaal Charles and TE Jermichael Finley to early departures to the NFL, and those proved crucial losses. The running game struggled all 2008, and when Finley’s replacement Blaine Irby suffered a season-ending knee injury against Rice the Horns received virtually no significant receiving production from its TEs the rest of the season. So, let’s see: the offense played this year with a running back-by-committee of unspectacular runners and essentially no TE. Oh, and the secondary started two freshmen and a sophomore. Not exactly promising, especially with the Big 12 improving across the board.

Fortunately, someone forgot to tell the players all of this. As an avid Longhorn fan, I can sometimes be their harshest critic but I have nothing but the highest praise for how the team played this season. I think it all started back in November 2007. Let me back up a bit before I get into that.

I think it’s fair to say that in general the Longhorns under Mack Brown have had tremendously talented teams, but they have sometimes underachieved, whether it was because they occasionally lacked focus, killer instinct, or were overconfident or what. They certainly won their share of big games (including several in the Greatest Season Ever-2005 and of course the Greatest Game Ever with USC), but they also had sprinkled in some frustrating losses to teams they should have beaten. But when they lost to an inferior Texas A&M team in November 2007 for the second season in a row, I think something finally snapped in the team’s psyche. After that game, the team reportedly decided they were going to take every game more seriously and not just expect that they would win games because they should on paper. Before their Holiday Bowl matchup with Arizona State, the team adopted a boot camp-type preparation approach with a team-centered emphasis. And when the game transpired, their intense preparation was evident, because the team came out with a rarely-seen crispness and ferocity right from the start. Their performance and demeanor was so clearly improved from the lackadaisical style they previously displayed in games that season against teams like Texas A&M and Kansas State. The game wasn’t as close as the score indicated, and the Horns defense pummeled Rudy Carpenter like a piece of McRib in Andy Reid’s mouth.

I believe the Horns carried over their intensity of preparation and performance from the Holiday Bowl into 2008 because this season’s team exhibited the same style. Despite being in my opinion one of the least talented Longhorn teams of the past ten years, this team came within a whisker of going to the national championship. I think that was because this team displayed more heart, fight and character than any of Mack Brown’s previous teams. That’s not a slight on the other teams so much as a compliment on this one. We didn’t have a superstar like Ricky Williams, Roy Williams, Cedric Benson, etc to carry the burden; we had a team of hard-working overachievers like Chris Ogbonnaya, Quan Cosby and Jordan Shipley.

coltsignWe did, of course, develop one superstar though: Colt McCoy. McCoy was the perfect player to lead this year’s team because he epitomized it. He came to Texas relatively unknown, underdeveloped and, compared to his predecessor, physically unspectacular, but he has worked his way through maturity, hard work, leadership and competitiveness into a legend. The way he willed his team to victory after victory, leading the team in rushing and yet also shattering the NCAA completion percentage record–you couldn’t ask for more from a quarterback. He had the misfortune of having a phenomenal season in the same season as Bradford and Tebow did too. McCoy’s performance this season far surpassed that of some recent winners, such as Eric Crouch, Jason White, Troy Smith or even Tebow last year. And in the one game he did lose, Texas Tech, you certainly can’t blame him–he led his team back from 19 points down in a hostile environment, including a late-game drive to score the winning touchdown. If Blake Gideon holds on to an easy interception on the play before Michael Crabtree’s touchdown, the Heisman race is not even close: McCoy would have won easily with Bradford and Tebow battling it out for second (and probably Tebow getting the edge). Oh yeah, and Texas would have gotten the nod to play Florida in the BCS national championship.

Ah, the BCS. I don’t want to beat a dead horse on rehashing the blatant injustice of how Oklahoma was given the edge over Texas to play in the Big 12 Championship game and then the BCS title game. A lot of ink has already been spilled on that travesty. Any 5-year-old could tell you how ridiculous it was. I think all you need to know is the Big 12 is planning to revise its rules to fit the SEC and ACC tiebreaker clause so that three-way ties are broken by eliminating the lower ranked team and then looking at the head-to-head between the two higher ranked teams. That is essentially an impartial organization saying, “Look, we messed up royally. It was embarrassing on a national stage and we’re going to make it right.” The other telling sign was in the final week’s voting poll where a lot of voters who previously had Oklahoma ranked ahead of Texas switched because they realized the injustice of it all. Only the computers pushed Oklahoma over the top based on the Sooners’ ridiculous running-up-the-score in the later games. Meanwhile, classy Mack Brown is pulling Colt McCoy early in the fourth quarter of the Texas A&M game. I believe it is for decisions like that one, not to mention Texas’ gutsy play, that Mack was recognized as the Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year in 2008. There may be slicker or more innovative coaches out there, but I wouldn’t trade any of them for Mack Brown. He’s the kind of guy you want representing your team and university.

Will Muschamp will have some mighty big shoes to fill when he eventually takes over, which I hope is a long way off. There’s no doubt Muschamp has fire, passion and defensive savvy, but I worry he won’t have Mack’s character and composure. I could see him losing his cool after a tough loss, like Mike Gundy. We’ll see. Obviously, Mack Brown and DeLoss Dodds had to be pretty darn impressed with him to make him the coach-in-waiting offer after less than one full season. I also can’t help but wonder what longtime offensive coordinator and National Assistant Coach of the Year in 2005 Greg Davis had to be thinking when a newcomer, youngster Muschamp got that offer.

While the heartbreak of the Tech game and the injustice of the BCS fiasco left a bad taste in my mouth, overall this was a very exciting and satisfying season for Horns fans. Though the Horns fell just short of the ultimate prize, I think they succeeded in maximizing their potential and displaying a lot of heart and class in the process. I couldn’t be prouder of them.

Now the Dallas Cowboys on the other hand…well, I’d better save that for its own separate post.

~ by jonwbecker on January 27, 2009.

3 Responses to “Texas Longhorns 2008 Football Season Review”

  1. Jon, this should have been the post on the Sports Illustrated guys website- very concise, spirited and with the right amount of little jabs at other teams. Not being a sports fan myself, I have no idea what you are talking about but my sentiment is the same- GO HORNS!

  2. I like the phrase ” the Horns defense pummeled Rudy Carpenter like a piece of McRib in Andy Reid’s mouth”- talk about great analogies! Might be better than the Coke one…

  3. Joy, you’re right, Jon obviously got the analogy genes in the family!

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