Game of firsts
This was the most obvious theme of Saturday's game. The Longhorns, in an attempt to beef up what had been a somewhat stagnant offense, gave sophomore Case McCoy his first career start at quarterback, and true freshman Malcolm Brown his first starting assignment at running back. The duo went on to put up multiple other firsts. McCoy tossed the first touchdown pass of his career when he found D.J. Grant for a 45-yard score in the first quarter. And Brown had both his first rushing touchdown and his first 100-yard game. That performance opened things up for players like Fozzy Whittaker, who enjoyed his best game of the year.
Rick Neuheisel is gone
The embattled Bruins coach had a chance to make a statement, and he did. But here's guessing that it wasn't the message he wanted to send. The Bruins were routinely out of place, committed inexcusable penalties — like the multiple offsides calls — and generally seemed poorly coached. After the game, Neuheisel blamed his team's defensive failings on the team trying to learn from a new coach, and said he expected the unit to improve. But while that's the kind of talk a fanbase might tolerate from a first-year coach, or even a second-year coach, it's not what they want to hear about a coach who's had his chances and is fighting to get a stay of execution. Further, the fact that the Rose Bowl was so empty for such a marquee match-up, and the fact that so many of the 54,000-plus were wearing burnt orange doesn't help. When you host a ranked team, your home stadium shouldn't be a de facto neutral site. But that's exactly what happened to the Bruins Saturday.
Bryan Harsin is still a tough grader
Of all the superlatives tossed around regarding McCoy, very few came from the Texas offensive coordinator, who said that he needed to look at the tape to see more about McCoy's performance before handing out proclamations. Harsin went on to say that while McCoy's scrambling created a few plays, McCoy needed to make sure that he wasn't taking off too early, and that it didn't become a habit. Harsin has a reputation around the college game as a molder of quarterbacks, and you can see why. He's never satisfied, and never misses an attempt to use something as a teaching point. That's a big part of the reason guys like McCoy and David Ash are lucky to have Harsin: he'll stretch every bit of their ability out and make them better quarterbacks.
Things went well
It's important to note, when viewing this game, that nearly everything seemed to go the Longhorns' way. Note the difference in tipped passes. When Blake Gideon tipped a pass, it fell into the arms of defensive back Adrian Phillips. But when UCLA defensive back Sheldon Price tipped a deep pass, it fell into the arms of Mike Davis for a huge gain. It was that kind of day for the Longhorns, who — despite a muffed punt and an unlucky fumble — generally played an 'A' game. And it helped that the Longhorns' game came against an undisciplined UCLA squad that couldn't seem to get out of its own way.
Having said that …
Even if the Longhorns did show an 'A' game, and even if it did come against a reeling opponent, the Longhorns flat-out took care of business, on the road, against a talented opponent. This Texas team has shown more than expected through three weeks. Most people, myself included, pegged this team as an eight-win squad this season. But after Saturday, I'm not sure that I didn't initially underestimate this group. The Longhorns will be favorites to enter the Oklahoma game undefeated, and at that point, who knows what will happen? But either way, I now think that this is a 10-win squad, and one capable of competing with anybody. It won't be easy with such a brutal conference schedule, but this year's Texas team comes equipped with something most Longhorn squads haven't necessarily had (or needed): a chip on the shoulder. And that could make a large difference.