Culpepper's Commentary: Texas-Texas A&M

The Texas A&M fan to my left in the Kyle Field stands was disconsolate. He had been to one of Dennis Franchione's whistle stop booster meetings in the summer and had heard the current Aggie coach say that, from what he saw in spring practice, the A&M team that we were now watching get dismantled by Texas on its way to a 4-8 record had the talent to make a challenge in the Big 12 South this season.

He had also seen the comments by Franchione that sophomore quarterback Reggie McNeal was the perfect fit for his type of offense, an offense that finished in the bottom half of the Big 12 for the season.

He had been to every Aggie game, home and away, and his remarks hit home with me: "We (Aggies) haven't improved one damn bit. Our new coach is no better than John Mackovic."

Now if that doesn't put things in perspective an Orangeblood can understand…

The ‘03 Texas A&M team, stripped of the pride of its Wrecking Crew defensive tradition, broke all previous Aggie defensive marks for futility. The 465 points surrendered, capped off by UT's 46 on the day after Thanksgiving, cemented Franchione's first Aggie team in the record books as A&M's worst defensive team in school history. Not that we necessarily needed the statistics to make that determination.

Every top high school coach in Texas prepares for pass coverage versus an empty backfield (no running backs). But on UT's third offensive snap of the game, Texas used motion by Cedric Benson to empty the Longhorn formation and the Aggie linebacker assigned to cover David Thomas didn't move with the motion and was five yards inside of Thomas on the snap. Vince Young calmly and efficiently found the wide-open Texas tight end in the middle of the field for a 60-yard catch-and-run touchdown. In other words, it isn't all a talent problem at Texas A&M.

As the game progressed, one of R.C. Slocum's former defensive assistants came up to where I was sitting in the stands and, coming after one of Cedric Benson's slashing runs, said to me, "Mr. Clean (Franchione) told us the Wrecking Crew had been so bad last season he saw no reason to keep any of us." He was smiling as he added, "He has the worst tackling team in college football."

Slocum, of course, was a defensive-minded coach who held a 4-win, 2-loss advantage over the Longhorns and its decidedly non-defensive-minded, CEO head coach John Mackovic. You wonder, does A&M's defensive implosion really bother CEO head coach Franchione?

Regardless, what the Aggies ran into on that beautiful November afternoon in College Station was a Longhorn offensive line that battered the former Wrecking Crew into submission. Offensive coordinator Greg Davis turned the second half over to line coach Mac McWhorter, who was an offensive guard at Georgia for Vince Dooley, one of the SEC's all-time running game head coaches. McWhorter coaches physical and mental toughness and, when allowed to do so, can motivate his troops to take over a football game. Last Friday, they did just that.

Sixty times the white-jerseyed Longhorns ran the football at Texas A&M, averaging over 6.5 per pop. Benson carried it 35 times in Herschel Walker fashion. He would get the ball deep and cut back going downhill. What I really like is that Benson has apparently learned the value of three- and four-yard gains. Hopefully his short-stepping days are over because when his shoulders are facing the opponent's goalline at the end of the play, the chains are moving and The University of Texas is a top notch offensive team.

Nathan Vasher made the defensive play of the game with an over the shoulder interception when the Aggies had first and goal and the Longhorns only had a 13-point lead. The pick gave him 17 for his career, which tied Noble Doss's 62-year-old Texas record and Darrell Royal's Oklahoma record.

Although UT can not match the defenses of Oklahoma, LSU or USC, the Horns are a legitimate 10-2 football team and deserve a shot at a BCS game.

Oklahoma 35, Kansas State 17 should put the Longhorns in the Fiesta Bowl.

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 will appear regularly in the Inside Texas magazine and at InsideTexas.com.


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