Culpepper's Commentary: Texas-A&M

Big time, the Texas Longhorns needed this kind of football game! They needed to understand that there never has been and never will be a football team that can't be beaten. If you miss tackles, don't meet blockers squarely and commit turnovers on offense, anybody can go down.

Here was a Texas A&M football team with nothing to lose and everything to gain. Their fans were the most dispirited group of Aggies I have ever seen as I walked past their tailgaters before the game. They knew they were going to get beaten, the question was, "how badly?"

For a week and a half the Aggies worked on a slick assortment of option plays with various motions out of differing formations.

Coach Dennis Franchione and Reggie McNeal played possum in the week prior to the game as to McNeal's ability to play. Before the kickoff, McNeal came out in street clothes with his jersey on. It would be redshirt freshman Stephen McGee all the way and he proved to be up to the role and then some.

McGee is not as fast as McNeal or nearly as good a passer but never question his toughness. Using the brute power of running back Jorvorskie Lane and McGee's ability to handle the zone read keeper, the speed option and the counter option, the Longhorn defense was on its heels for dangerous amounts of time during the ball game.

Defensive coordinator Gene Chizik decided early to force McGee to make the pitch. That usually discourages the option in today's football -- but early on McGee was like an old-fashioned wishbone quarterback. Every pitch was good and he got up after every hit for more. As long as Courtney Lewis was on the receiving end of McGee's option pitches -- the Longhorn defense was in deep trouble. Lewis' injury was huge in this game.

Credit Rodrique Wright, Rashad Bobino and Robert Killebrew with big plays on defense. It was Wright who charged through and dislodged the football from McGee on one of the big defensive plays of the afternoon.

For the first time in 11 games, the Texas offensive line broke down inside on running plays and allowed an opponent to put severe pressure on Vince Young in pass protection.

The Texas quarterback had his worst game of the season. If any Heisman voters were watching, their ballots went to Reggie Bush.

Perhaps everyone from the Aggies to the thousands of Texas fans that were in the corners of Kyle Field and even sprinkled among the Big Money Aggies on the press box side expected a blow out. The Texas players and coach Mack Brown talked a good game before it started about single-minded focus but for the first time all season a team with less talent took it to the Longhorns physically and hammered out 280 yards rushing and dominated the time of possession, 35:17 to 24:43.

Never the less, before Inside Texas turns into a Maroon publication, it should be mentioned that the Aggies best game of the year ended in a 40-29 loss while the Longhorns worst game of the year ended in a 40-29 victory.

I was sitting in the North end zone, section 521, 37 rows high (which is as close to heaven as one can get in Aggieland) and I could see the problems the Longhorns were having with my binoculars. What I particularly didn't like was Jorvorskie Lane running over Longhorns and numerous missed tackles in the secondary.

Let me put it this way, if the Longhorns make it to Pasadena and play defense in this manner, USC will put another 55-19 score on a Big 12 team, and this time the dominate color of the vanquished will be Burnt Orange!

So stop all the talk about "Is this the greatest Texas team ever" because it is exactly what Oklahoma got stuck on before its game against USC. The Longhorn national championship teams were built around great defense, tough running backs and running quarterbacks.

The 2005 Longhorns have two games to play and the jury went back behind closed doors.

Let's see:

1. Jamaal Charles is playing like a normal freshman since his brilliant performances versus Ohio State and Oklahoma. The youngster is hurt or not mentally tough enough as yet to rank with the Longhorns' great backs.

2. Henry Melton deserves a chance to play more. He has gained confidence and on his three carries ran like, well, Jorvorskie Lane.

3. Ramonce Taylor continues to improve as a running back and his 102 yards rushing were the brightest light of the Texas offensive efforts.

All Texas fans should appreciate the Aggies' special teams coach for using the wide gap formation which allowed the Longhorns to rush Frank Okam and Kasey Studdard through the opening and get a six-yard running start at stationary Aggie blockers. The resulting collisions caused two short punts and finally a blocked punt by Michael Griffin which was picked up and run in for a game-changing touchdown by Cedric Griffin.

Texas now gets Colorado, which despite consecutive ugly losses gets in the game because Iowa State lost. The Buffs don't deserve to beat Texas, but the Horns must still earn it on the field.

The last time Texas and Colorado met in the Big 12 Championship Game the Longhorn staff was carrying the Applewhite-Simms quarterback baggage and it was a disaster.

Mack Brown has never won a conference championship. This Texas team owes it to him to play a great football game.

Was the A&M game a "wake-up" call or have weaknesses been uncovered that will not be addressed?

We will find out some answers Saturday at none -- high noon! I think Texas will kick Colorado's _ _ _ 55-3.

Oh, and this is not the Longhorns' greatest team if anybody asks. They have two games to play, then we can talk.

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.


Horns Digest Top Stories