Conner's Burnt Orange Glasses: Holiday Bowl

Jeff Conner's commentary on the Horns' Holiday Bowl win over Arizona State.

And when the disciples saw Jesus walking on the sea, they were frightened, saying, "It is a ghost!" And they cried out for fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, "Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid."

And Peter answered Him and said, "Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water." And Jesus said, Come!" And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became afraid, and beginning to sink, he cried out, saying, "Lord, save me!"

And immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and took hold of him, and said to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?"

Gospel of Matthew 14:26-31

Christmas is a time for miracles. I'm surprised at you folks. Don't any of you watch television? George Bailey gets back his missing $8,000. The Grinch gets the strength of ten Grinches, plus two. Charlie Brown sees a cheap, crappy Christmas tree transform into a really great, cool one. Rudolph gets to be the most flaming reindeer. Brent Musburger, despite all logic, sporting, and entertainment arguments, gets a broadcasting job. Vacuous zit cream salesgirl Jessica Simpson isn't exterminated by Homeland Security in some type of gene pool preservation project.

Simple things. Beautiful things. Miracles.

Which brings us to the 2007 Pacific Life "Settle for Less" Holiday Bowl. Ah, the Inside Texas staff score predictions. The delectable, taste-like-chicken-but-not-in-a-good-way smell of crow being eaten by Inside Texas posters. Having the Girl Scout troops they call the PAC-10 seriously believe they could hang with the battle-hardened men from the Big XII (By the way, my wife likes the Tag-a-Longs, and I prefer the Thin Mints). The smart-ass mouth on yellow (and maroon) Arizona State quarterback Rudy (named after the flaming reindeer, no doubt) Carpenter, who is a dead ringer for Corky Thatcher from "Life Goes On." Watching a can't-back-it-up-on-the-field braggart like Carpenter literally limp off the Qualcomm Stadium turf like the beaten, pathetic, made-him-our-bitch also-ran he is.

It's the little things in life that make it worth living, don't you think?

It's just so satisfying to shut up the critics for a short while, even if it won't last past the next commercial break. This is the team we thought we were going to have this year – kids with some testicular fortitude, some fire in their belly, the willingness to hit ferociously, and an if-you-don't-succeed-at-first-keep-pounding-it running game. It feels like my little mustard seed of faith in the football program was justified and not misplaced. My beloved, mighty, fighting Texas Longhorns were within striking distance of playing up to their ability. We looked like Texas last night, by gosh, and we candidly have not looked like Texas in a long, long time.

The most interesting play of the night was the alleged sideline touching of a live ball by Coach Mack's stepson Chris Jessie, but the most illustrative play was Colt McCoy's fumble-into-the-end-zone-for-a-score. If you want a near-perfect snapshot of the 2007 season, look no further. With a little over three minutes left in the third quarter, 2nd down, 11 yards to go, Colt took the shotgun snap and dropped to pass. Seeing nothing open, McCoy scrambled through the defensive line and off to his right, easily making the first down. As he cut to his left toward the center of the field, Colt made the mistake that has cost us so dearly so many times this season – he tried to do too much. Instead of sliding and giving the Horns a neat, tidy first down and goal, McCoy attempted to spin like he did in the Iowa State game in a misguided attempt to force the ball in the endzone. Of course, Arizona State created a fumble and Jermichael Finley fortuitously beat out a pack of Sun Devils to recover the ball in the end zone.

But the bounces haven't always gone our way this year. The interceptions in the Kansas State game, McCoy's late fumble in the A&M contest, Jamaal Charles' numerous fumbles (especially near the goal line in the third quarter of the OU game), the times we've been burned by going for interceptions rather than defending the receiver, the linebackers' sad, consistent over-pursuit, the slow starts we had in several games – it felt like our guys were pushing too hard, trying to do too much, a little too desperate, threading the needle on ill-advised passes, straining to the point of becoming less effective, recklessly putting the ball at risk to make an extra two feet.

But those are good problems to have, correctable and fixable with a more mature, consistent offensive line, more athletic linebackers, a defensive backfield that isn't graduating two NFL starters every year, and a more mature, confident Colt McCoy who's not trying to prove his manhood to himself on every single play. We know you're the man, Colt – now act like it and don't take silly risks with the football. Trust your teammates. Do your job, and they'll do theirs.

The other major consideration was the new, improved starting lineup. Dr. Phil says the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. If that's true, then many of us were justifiably skeptical to trust Coach Mack's assertion that "all positions were open" following the A&M collapse.

But, as the Scripture says, "Wisdom is proven right by her actions." Like other Inside Texas posters, I thought the changes in the offensive line and linebacking corps were long overdue and very effective. But what gives me encouragement for the future is Coach Mack's apparent willingness to continue to learn, to challenge his old modes of operation, to change long-held assumptions, to shake things up, to be less straight-jacketed in his thinking, and to take actions that some might construe as an admission of mistakes.

I'm not saying Coach Mack is a completely changed man, but the decision to bench some seniors before their last bowl game is a major shift in operations on the Forty Acres. I know many of you are skeptical, but what happened last night was a very good sign. Coach Mack is now 7-3 in his ten bowl games at the University, and the momentum a bowl win brings (not to mention the blow-out of a higher ranked opponent) is almost palpable. It's a Festivus miracle!

Trust me, I'm right about this.

Have a little faith, brother and sisters.

Hook ‘em.

Jeff Conner's political and pop culture-infused Longhorn commentary appears regularly in the Inside Texas magazine and at

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