Ruminations on a Sleepless Night or How the ‘New' Longhorns Look so Very Familiar

Joe O'Connell on the newest version of the UT football squad

UT tight end Blaine Irby
UT tight end Blaine Irby

It’s 4am and I’m flailing and sweating in a postage stamp guest bed at my in-laws. My kid is throwing Mr. Moo at me from the nearby crib, and my wife has already given up and headed for the couch. The ceiling fan overhead whirs like a wobbly helicopter blade and what little air conditioning is blowing down seeps through a round vent that looks like it belongs on the Titanic.

Which brings us to the new and somewhat improved Texas Longhorns. I ponied up 10 bucks to split the pay-per-view charges with my father-in-law and my sister-in-law (whose husband reports back that the new and improved DKR-Memorial Stadium is louder than that ceiling fan and includes sit-down barbecue for 98,000). I forgot my wallet, so they’re trusting me to actually pay up later (suckers). Unfortunately, the game against those titans of Florida Atlantic looked more vintage than factory fresh to these eyes.

There’s Vince Young on the sidelines holding up a cheesy framed jersey while Coach Mack Brown hangs on his shoulder inwardly thinking one more year, Vince. You could have stayed one more year, dagnabbit. Ah, 2005. That was the season. A QB with jet-propelled feet and a cocky attitude. Take away the swagger and mix it with a dose of new assistant head coach (trust me, everyone on the Longhorn staff besides Brown is assistant head coach, including the towel boy) Major Applebee, ur Applewhite’s angry work ethic and you have Colt McCoy. He ran for 103 yards and passed for 222 against the Owls and – along with his veteran receivers Jordan Shipley and Quan Cosby – seemed the only truly improved element on the team. OK, tight end Blaine Irby nabbed seven passes to prove he’s at least potentially in the same stratosphere as some of his predecessors now knocking heads in the NFL.

Perhaps this is a crazy thing to say about a 52-10 win, but this one was so reminiscent of last year’s early season games against similarly overmatched opponents that I could almost taste the sulfur in the back of my throat. Or was that the jalapeño and cheese hot dogs from early in the evening? Something about the has-been Coach Howard Schnellenberger sweating through his suspenders on the sidelines struck me as a Willie Loman-esque warning. Perhaps it was the still-porous UT pass defense that allowed 253 yards to Owl QB Rusty Smith before finally shutting down Florida Atlantic in the second half. Or the way an injured Vondrell McGee headed to the sidelines for good after galloping for an early 63 yards and seemingly left the running game to hoss McCoy. Sure, Texas held sweaty Schnellenberger’s bunch to 37 yards total rushing, but something smelled of future dashed dreams.

What was supposed to be a coming out party for new co-defensive coordinator Will Muschamp’s crazed defenders was awfully mild. And the Q Package, which would unleash uber athlete John Chiles on the unsuspecting proved rather obvious. (Nice pass, Chiles!) This week Texas will inch from 11th place into the Top 10. How long they stay there will depend on how much McCoy truly becomes Young again. It will depend on how much the rest of the team believes. It will depend on which vintage team shows up on the field.

Tossing and turning as the sun comes up, count me as decidedly uncertain. Mr. Moo isn’t talking.

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