Tech Game a True Test for Longhorns

Revenge? Nah. Longhorns channel Travalena in prep for Tech.

D.J. Monroe
D.J. Monroe (Photo courtesy of UT)

The Texas Longhorns have been doing their best Fred Travalena impressions as they pretend to not care about Saturday’s home game vs. Texas Tech. It’s a continuation of a trend for the (dropped interception) Horns, who pretended to be an inept offense for most of two quarters last week against a mediocre Wyoming team playing well over its potential.

Then Texas turned around and walloped the same Cowboys in the second half. My son woke up from his nap at the start of the fourth quarter; Texas woke up barely in time to avoid being held without a first-half touchdown. Thank you, James Kirkendoll for a catch and zig-zag to the end zone that was a pretty fair impersonation of the razzle-dazzle fans expect from a No. 2 ranked team.

Comic impressionist and The Love Boat schmaltz king Travalena, if you didn’t hear, died recently, taking with him imitations of more than 360 celebrities and cartoon characters including Dr. Ruth Westheimer, Robert De Niro, Donald Rumsfeld, Bruce Springsteen and Graham Harrell (just kidding).

Texas has been doing its fair share of impressions as well. With the emergence of Tre’ Newton last week and D.J. Monroe the week before, the Burnt Orange is again aping a team with a running offense that racked up 191 total yards in Wyoming (“Baby, we were born to run?”). Colt McCoy did his best to portray a very good quarterback, but not a Heisman hopeful, throwing for 30 of 47 for 337 yards and one uncharacteristically inept toss to a Cowboy defender

As Rumsfeld channeled through Travalena would say, "You go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time." For Texas, that army-enemy has been themselves. The team is so stocked with talent it reminds me of the pre-scholarship-limit days when freshmen fielded their own separate team. Yet, Dr. Ruth would tell us, "Don't criticize in the sack. Discuss constructively later.” OK, while we’re in the cool of pregame, let’s look at the facts:

Texas knew its problems going into the season – a running game without a proven go-to guy and tight end prospects who spontaneously combust before game time. We’re seeing improvement on the first and replacement of the second with a string of hot-handed receivers including Kirkendoll (seven catches for 102 yards against Wyoming), an equally impressive Dan Buckner (six catches for 86 yards), the ever-reliable 19th-year senior Jordan Shipley (seven catches for 61 yards) and converted QB John Chiles (five catches for 49 yards) who finally showed his stuff with a 26-yard touchdown scamper.

This week will clear up the lingering worry from 2008 – can the Longhorns finally defend the pass? They certainly could against Wyoming. Whatever hiccups and stumbles they showed in the first half, the Texas defenders never gave up the big play and held the Cowboys without an offensive touchdown. That’s impressive and a good sign, because as much as they try to swat it away, those two (dropped interception) big plays (Michael Crabtree) from last year’s Tech loss linger.

Also lingering are memories of a 2008 UT pass defense that ranked 104th in the nation in passing yards allowed per game at 259.4. Enter the pass-happy Red Raiders with Taylor Potts trying to continue what Graham Harrell accomplished behind the ball without the aid of Crabtree’s sticky fingers. Tech coach Mike Leach says it’s just another game for the Red Raiders. Horn coach Mack Brown says revenge is the furthest thing from his mind. Fred Travalena as De Niro doing Travis Bickle doing a guest spot on The Love Boat says, “Are you talking to me?”

Here’s predicting this is the week Sergio Kindle finally wakes up and gives Potts a proper welcome to the DKR-Memorial Stadium turf. That combined with a suspect Tech defense – even gimpier if Rajon Henley doesn’t play – and powerless running game should result in a 58-35 Longhorn win on Saturday. One thing is certain; by Sunday morning we’ll know if this Longhorn team is the real McCoy or a cheap imitation.

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