Coach's Corner

Let's get something straight right away: The Colorado Buffaloes who rolled over the UT Longhorns last Saturday are not a good football team. Well, let me qualify that. In a rare moment of humility, I'll admit to a lack of expertise in judging football talent. I write a column, what do I know? So, let me amend my assessment to say simply that this is one damn stupid football team. In fact, in three weeks, if you watched or listened to Texas play, you've witnessed two of the stupidest football teams in North America, the other being the Oklahoma Sooners. I don't know what kind of media pressure Colorado wunderkind coach Rick Neuheisel is subjected to in the Rocky Mountains. The Buffs had almost identical pre-season expectations as Texas. His team on Saturday gave a beaten and demoralized Texas every possible opportunity to get back into a game they should have been out of at halftime. The Buffaloes were whistled for an astonishing and wide-ranging array of illegal infractions. There was your garden variety offsides and illegal procedure. There was a fair catch infraction. Three pass interference calls -- on one Texas drive! -- handing the Horns a gift TD as the first half expired. Two not-very-bright personal fouls (late hits). A spiking-the-football-call. HolyBatShit! Was Saturday a Big 12 SAT test for officials? In all, 11 flags for 108 yards, and hardly any one the same. This is par for the course at CU, where the Neuheisel-led Buffs have been setting penalty records for a number of years. If Mackovic is responsible for not motivating his shell-shocked troops, Neuheisel is responsible for this staggering lack of discipline. Texas won a moral victory: two flags for 10 yards.

But there were those pesky six turnovers. There were those. Don't fool yourself with what-ifs. Like, what if those five INT's never happened? I'm from Chicago, home of the Cubs, White Sox, Bears, and Blackhawks. Losers, big time, and for a lot longer than most of us have been alive. Were it not for the incongruent success of the Bulls, the label "Choke City" would be an unwarranted compliment, seeing as it implies a certain level of success. My point is, I'm a student of losing. Been watching it for 40 years. The classic sign of a team deep into oblivion is this: When one thing goes right (providing false hope; if we could only put it all together), something else will go wrong. To wit: The justifiably maligned Texas defense actually had its moments on Saturday, holding Colorado in check in the second half. In seven minutes, as James Brown and Richard Walton were filling the air with interceptions like pollen on a windy spring day, the defense allowed Colorado only 13 plays for a net loss of 14 yards. And the result? 16 CU points! This is how teams break your heart.

An hour before kickoff, the Longhorn Band was singing a cappella in front of Bass Concert Hall. It was Parents Weekend, so a crowd of Moms and Dads, friends and students were gathered. The emotional feel of the assembled was mixed. Some were bored, just killing time. Some were idly interested. Mothers wiped snotty kids' noses. Alumni guzzled bourbon. Fans ate hot dogs. Most were merely curious, waiting to see what would happen. Not a lot of energy here.

This pretty much mirrors the efforts of the Longhorns on this muggy, gusty fall Saturday. I wouldn't say the team was flat or listless, though they certainly didn't look overly excited, either. Sometimes guys seemed disinterested. Sometimes heads did hang. Other times, after the end-of-half score and during the fine defensive stands of the second half, many seemed, for a rare moment this season, wired and ready to fight. But never at any time did the team seem to share the same emotional state. When the offense was high, the defense was whipped. As the interceptions piled up, this reversed, as the defense played with obvious emotion and the offense slunked off the field. Often they seemed only curious, wondering what might come next.

Like the VW Beetle, nothing really changed. Once again, Texas made the option play look like a brand new wrinkle. On the first play of the game, Colorado QB John Hessler, with a 2.7 yards-per-carry average, ran for 18 on a molasses-slow developing option, which looked like I was the quarterback and Hillary Clinton was my pitch-person. In the first half, the defense was terrible. Halfbacks ran through gaping holes. Tackles were missed. Wide receivers ran as free and open as the buffalo of yore. As mentioned, the defense did settle down, but not until the second half, with Colorado down to their third-string tailback and the game all but over. In Mackovic's creative offense, the best play in the book -- no matter what the situation or place on the field -- was to hand the ball to Ricky Williams. That's a sad situation for an offensive genius to be reduced to. The coach was stoic in defeat, as was the team. What else is new? It was the season in microcosm.

It's clear the team has adopted the head coach's phlegmatic attitude. Losing's not good, but hey, we played hard and we'll try to do better next week. This is an okay point of view at Yale. Probably not at the University of Texas.

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