All the good things about University of Texas football came to the front. The traditions, the relationship of Darrell Royal and Mack Brown, Vince Young and his incomparable leadership during the game, etc. I loved it all.
Saturday night, Sept. 9 at about 10:15 p.m., Texas football went back to square one.
Earlier in the week, for some ridiculous reason, ex-Longhorn linebacker Aaron Harris included junior safety Tyrell Gatewood and senior cornerback Tarell Brown in a joy ride with marijuana and a loaded weapon. The exact time of arrest of this trio was 2:48 a.m. Monday morning according to the police report. So much for in-season curfews.
It was a bad start to what should have been a memorable week for Longhorn football.
As expected, Mack Brown stepped up to the plate and suspended the two players for the Ohio State game. Gatewood did not figure into the game plan, but Tarell Brown's absence would turn out to be huge for the Texas defense.
Now, it's time to forget the "reload" talk; Texas has three weeks to rebuild this football team.
Let's start with the Texas defense, which was confused by Ohio State's pre-snap shifting receivers, by an unbalanced line pitch sweep and, with but 16 seconds left on the clock before halftime, by a 29-yard touchdown bomb to Ted Ginn that never should have been.
Cornerback Aaron Ross was tight on the line of scrimmage in Ginn's face without safety help. The play wasn't close. It was a major breakdown. Michael Griffin, who was wearing a towel with Gatewood and Brown's numbers on it, missed the over the top coverage with Ross so tight to the speedy receiver. Bingo, it's 14-7 instead of 7-7, or at worst 10-7 at halftime.
In the first half, it seemed the twin safeties at Texas were in on every tackle. That means the Buckeye offensive line was in control. Also not good. And while Ginn was drawing Aaron Ross in coverage, the Buckeye underneath receiver Anthony Gonzalez had a career night with eight catches for 142 yards.
After seeing this part of the Buckeye game plan, I ask you, wouldn't it have been nice to stick Tarell Brown on Gonzalez? Heck, it would have been nice to stick anyone on Gonzalez, who at times looked to be totally undefended.
To their credit, the Texas defenders did not fold their tents; they were outcoached and undercut by a former teammate.
I take no satisfaction that last week I picked Ohio State to win this game 24-21 or that I pointed out Colt McCoy had an average arm and, with his lack of running ability, couldn't beat a good team running this Texas offense.
In fact, McCoy did a credible job in his second college start against such an outstanding team. But, in my opinion, he could have been better prepared. The Texas staff should have taken the black shirts (no contact) off of McCoy and Jevan Snead and let the Texas defense have at them at the end of spring practice or the start of full-pad two-a-days.
The Texas staff had to know that North Texas most likely would tell them very little about who their best was at quarterback. But that opportunity has passed and we will never know how McCoy or Snead would have responded had they been pressured in practice. Colt McCoy is the Texas quarterback for better or worse, ordained by Greg Davis and Mack Brown. End of argument.
But in three short weeks, on Oct. 7 in Dallas, Colt McCoy will face another D-I defense with talent. At this time, I would rate Colt McCoy several steps behind Chance Mock and no more a threat as a runner than was Chance. And that bodes ill when the Horns face the Sooners.
Things could have turned out differently on Saturday night, though. Billy Pittman didn't help things by trying to stretch the football across the Buckeye goalline from two yards out. Linebacker James Laurinaitis knocked the ball out and teammate Donald Washington raced 48 yards with it, leading to a five-play drive for a touchdown. Pittman knows better.
What I'm saying is that even with all the missing parts -- Tarell Brown, an untested quarterback -- this game should have been closer, and almost certainly would have been if the Horns had scored on that drive.
One group that deserved better was the Texas offensive line and running backs Selvin Young and Jamaal Charles. They fought their Longhorn hearts out. But at wideout and tight end, forget about the "potential" of Jordan Shipley and Jermichael Finley until they catch a pass!
Darrell Royal said it best after the 1974 loss to Baylor after the Longhorns held a 24-0 halftime lead: "After the game, in our dressing room, if somebody had played organ music real softly, I would have cried."
I felt the same way Saturday night in seat 31, row 4, section 29 of Darrell K Royal-Memorial Stadium.
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.