Bill Little commentary: It's about the mortar
Sept. 11, 2011
Bill Little, Texas Media Relations
It was in the video room of Sally and Mack Brown's home that former Longhorn defensive back Johnnie Johnson stood there, talking to the 2011 Longhorn seniors who had just reported for fall practice last month. The discussion centered around the theme adopted by the team - a rebuilding theme of "brick by brick."
But Johnnie wasn't talking about the bricks. He was, instead, talking about the glue that holds them together. It was about role playing for some, and leadership for others. The point was, you can stack all the bricks that you want, but unless you have mortar between them, the wall is easily knocked down.
The web's Autonopedia--described as "the practical encyclopedia for sustainable living," says this about the bonding agent used in construction:
"Mortar consists of the body or aggregate, which is fine sand; and the binding material, which is cement mixed thoroughly with water. Mortar is used to bed blocks as well as for plastering. A good mortar should be easy to use and should harden fast enough that it does not cause delays in the construction. It must be strong enough, long lasting and weatherproof.
"The best mortar for a particular job is not necessarily the strongest one. Other properties like workability, plasticity or faster hardening can be more important, though the strength of the mortar must of course be sufficient for the job. Mortar should neither be much stronger or much weaker than the blocks with which it is used."
Johnnie's simple lesson in construction was manifested Saturday night as the young Texas Longhorns overcame a 13-point deficit to beat Brigham Young, 17-16, before a packed house of over 100,000 in Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.
The game was not about the bricks, it was about the stuff called teamwork that holds them together. Pick a player, and you pick a brick. Pick the effort of the entire team, and you have the beginnings of a wall.
It is important here to not get ahead of ourselves. The come-from-behind win conjured memories of games in the first decade of the 21st Century which often featured such dramatics. The cast of characters has changed drastically, but the thrill of the hunt, and the conquest, remains the same.
Time will tell whether what happened in the second half was a growing-up reality or an illusion, but what we do know is, you can't prove you can do it until you've done it. And that is what happened Saturday night to the youthful players and staff in the second game of Mack Brown's 14th season at Texas. They did it.
The signatures of the new staff on both sides of the ball were written all over the two halves of football. For the second game in a row, the defense played endorsing a theory that the late Longhorn defensive coordinator Mike Campbell was a big subscriber to -"bend, but don't break." Despite repeated assaults on the Texas goal in the first half, BYU came away with two field goals and a passing touchdown. With the Longhorn offense struggling, the defense played with a fierce passion that reflects the attitude of defensive coordinator Manny Diaz and the defensive coaches.
And as they held on, the offense came on.
Adhering to the philosophy of "if it's not working, try something else," Texas co-offensive coordinators Bryan Harsin and Major Applewhite switched styles and quarterbacks with enough success to win the game.
Through it all, however, the game was a reminder that a team is not a collection of individuals...rather, a collection of individuals is a team. They are the mortar between the bricks. The evidence came from the support of the crowd, but it was again manifested by the work of the team.
Through two games, this team appears to be one of the more interesting collections of young people in recent years at Texas. You can fill in the blanks with the sentence: "this team (or this guy) reminds me of...."
Still, it is important to remember that it is way too early to expect anything. At this point, you can expect everything. Sometimes, the wall needs elastic values, and other times it needs hard-rock solid. History tells us we Longhorns can get way ahead of ourselves in anointing super stars. That is why the approach of the staff has been so impressive.
When wide receiver Marquise Goodwin decided to return to football last week, some questioned how quickly he could get back into the mix (what was that in that mortar business about "faster hardening?"), because he didn't know the plays or the offense. To which receivers coach Darrell Wyatt responded, "He knows fast." Goodwin's 40-yard kickoff return was a critical play in the comeback. But you could say the same about plays from Malcolm Brown, David Ash, Jaxon Shipley and Case McCoy offensively. Justin Tucker was superb both punting and kicking, and defensively, folks such as Carrington Byndom, Quandre Diggs, Kenny Vaccaro, Jordan Hicks, Emmanuel Acho and Adrian Phillips were part of that mortar as well as being a brick.
At the end of the game, the players and the coaches were exhausted - the happy kind of exhausted which comes when you check your ego at the door and leave everything you have to give on the field.
That was the final, exciting piece about Saturday. Again it wasn't perfect, but it was another positive segment of building a wall. The bricks and the mortar were coming together - flexible at times, solid at others.
It's like watching one of those TV shows where the characters evolve and the plot changes each week. And nobody really knows where that will lead us. But right now, the journey is really fun.