Coach's Corner

Coach went to his first Texas / OU football game last weekend, and boy, was it a doozie.

The first two living creatures a writer (attending his first Texas/OU game) encounters have four legs, but are members of two very different species. These special moments in the animal kingdom come at the end of a strange three-block drive where the journeyer transports from modern downtown Dallas, through a seedy slum, abruptly ending in rural Kansas ... still some blocks away from the ancient Cotton Bowl.

The only way on a cold, dreary Saturday morning to navigate the tangled path to the lighted stadium in the murky distance without arriving completely drenched is to step lively from covered spot to covered spot between let-ups in the rain. It comes to pass that the first shelter is what appears to be an incongruous barn, extending along the grounds for some blocks. The building's brimming with cows/heifers/bulls or whatever. In any case, they're mooing. More than a little disoriented by the barn, the animals, and the rich odors of the farm in central Dallas, the writer moves on. The next likely shelter is an elaborate tent about 100 zigzagging yards away. A familiar logo proclaims this as the "Home of the Budweiser Clydesdales." Here, in a leaking tent the famous horses call home, he rubs the warm snouts of Sam, Gamer, Rick, Bush, and Bud. Like their bovine brethren, they seem content, despite the inclement conditions. Some are snoozing in deep, dry hay. Others are eating ... oats or barley, or maybe hay. Another subtlety lost on a city dweller.

The press box is at last found after a complete circumnavigation of the stadium which proves again the axiom that, just because people are wearing dark-blue jackets with a big yellow "Staff" written on the back, doesn't mean they're intended to be helpful. The complex question, "Where's the press entrance?" is met with stares as blank as those of the cows. Upon finally arriving, still a safe two hours before kickoff, the shivering writer is pleased to find hot coffee, danishes, and, even at this early hour, fresh hot dogs.

It's probably apparent, three full paragraphs into the column, that no mention of the game has been made. That's because you probably saw the game, read all about the massacre in the local daily, and heard the outraged howls -- for the first time in the Brown Era -- of the Orange faithful. It's always the intention of the writer to contribute, in some original way, to the mass of commentary already heard and seen. And in the hysteria of the past week, pastoral references and the media food table haven't been often noted.

Still, some game observations perhaps missed: The opening series for each team became a precise microcosm for the next 55 minutes. Texas got the opening kickoff and went, quietly, three and out. Included was a vicious Sooner hit on Hodges Mitchell, a five-yard penalty for a false start (the first of seven first-half Texas violations, all costly) and a wayward pass. OU gladly received the UT punt and marched smartly 57 yards, in five quick plays, for a touchdown...

Major Applewhite isn't the same fearless quarterback fans have grown to appreciate. His unflappable poise in the pocket -- holding the ball until the last possible second before hitting receivers on the numbers -- is diminished, at best. His ability (or willingness) to scramble is gone. It may all come back, but for now...

Other factors are also at play: Fans underestimate the value of experienced receivers. His receivers the past two years -- guys like Nunez, Cavil, McGarity, and Derek Lewis -- were where they were supposed to be, when they were supposed to be. The constant threat of Ricky Williams didn't hurt Major's QB ratings either...

Josh Heupel's outstanding performance was reminiscent of a fellow lefty, Cade McNown, on a hot September afternoon in Austin, three (it seems much longer) years ago. Heupel's a clever, gutsy guy with a strange delivery who always seems to make exactly the right decision...

Because of the inclement weather, the half-orange/half-red thing the writer heard so much about didn't become apparent until the fourth quarter. Then, one half of the stadium was Oklahoma red and the other half was blue, the color of all the empty seats...

Some positive things Texas can take from the debacle: extensive live practice for the punt and kick-off teams, and an understanding that glowing newspaper articles have never earned a first down. They can also feel good about helping the Sooners work on their heretofore ignored running game...

In 365 days, Texas has lost to its four great rivals: A&M, Nebraska, Arkansas, and OU...

The Slaughter of the Innocent on Oct. 7, 2000, officially marks the end of Mack Brown's extended tour of Disneyland...

UT fans and media are quick to mock the easy schedules of some conference foes, while conveniently ignoring the four palookas UT has faced. Lauding gaudy statistics earned against Louisiana-Lafayette, Houston, Stanford, and Oklahoma State is like bragging about the six-year-old kid you can out-bench press. Meaningless and a little embarrassing.

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