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Note to Texas Coaches: Success = Opportunity + Preparation

By Joe O'Connell, 3:06PM, Mon. Nov. 13, 2006

Don't Blame Jevan Snead
Don't Blame Jevan Snead
Photo courtesy of UT

Let’s get one thing straight up front: It wasn’t Jevan Snead’s fault that Texas lost to lowly Kansas State. Offensive Coordinator Greg Davis did it with the full support of Mack Brown. Burnt Orange faithful were looking for the second coming Saturday. Remember how Snead was touted as every bit the quarterback as Colt McCoy? Yes, he was, and is. But you can’t expect a freshman with little playing time to perform miracles.

Texas need only look to its past for that easy answer. Perhaps the two biggest comeback wins by backups were in 1977 against Oklahoma and 1983 against the Aggies. Apt comparison? You bet. Texas went into both games undefeated and ended the season undefeated. Unfortunately, they blew the national title with bowl game losses both times as well.

In 1977, Oklahoma was ranked No. 2 coming into the game. Texas was No. 5 and hadn’t beaten the Sooners since the glory days of 1970. Darrell Royal had retired the previous year after finishing 5-5-1, and had been replaced as head coach by Fred Akers. The Sooners had been national champs in ’74 and ’75. This match was touted as a defensive struggle, and QB Mark McBath, much like McCoy, didn’t last long. Seven plays in, he suffered a vicious blow and left for the season with an ankle injury. His backup, Jon Aune, lasted nine plays before his knee was blown to bits.

Enter Randy McEachern, a senior who’d spent the last season on the bench with his own knee busted. He generaled an 80-yard touchdown scoring drive for a 10-3 halftime lead. The Horns eventually won 13-6, saw Earl Campbell win the Heisman Trophy and all was right in Austin until the Joe Montana-led Notre Dame bitch-slapped them in the Cotton Bowl.

Note the important word here: “senior.” McEachern wasn’t a green freshman with no playing time. OK, granted, McEachern himself went out with a sprained knee later in the season against TCU, and fourth-stringer Sam Ansley engineered a 44-14 win. But did you notice the name Earl Campbell above? As in “hand off to Earl.”

Let’s look at the better example. That aforementioned 1983 game was the only time I’ve ever been to Kyle Field. My buddy Steve snagged the tickets, and his girlfriend brought along a red-haired date for me who would eventually turn into my semi-stalker. What I remember most about that day is the windburn on my face and Rick McIvor. Texas was No. 2, and the wind was crashing through at a bruising 39 miles an hour. Taking advantage of the wind at their backs in the opening stanza, the Aggies jumped out to a 13-0 lead and, darn it, they and their fans wouldn’t sit down. Option-oriented Texas coaches wised up with a little more than five minutes left in the second quarter and sent in McIvor, a rocket-armed backup with a mustache only a cop or a porn star could love. He threw into the breeze like a Back to the Future Drew Brees for four quick touchdowns. He abused the Aggies as Texas cruised to a 45-13 win. And he was a senior. (And the undefeated Horns lost 10-9 to Georgia in the Cotton Bowl. Go figure.)

It’s not unreasonable to expect a true freshman like Snead to come in at a moment’s notice. It’s only unreasonable when you don’t properly prepare him for that moment by giving him some game time. What is that old saying about success? Opportunity meets preparation. The Texas coaches chose not to give Snead adequate playing time, and it came back to bite them in the ass. Now the big question is: Who will start for the Horns in two weeks against the Aggies? And will he have a properly prepared backup? Because you never know which way the winds will blow.

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