Sept. 18, 2009
Bill Little, Texas Media Relations
In Ohio, it’s “The ‘Shoe.” Michigan has “The Big House.” Notre Dame plays in the shadow of “Touchdown Jesus.” Georgia plays “Between the Hedges.” In Florida, it’s “The Swamp.” Clemson ominously welcomes visitors to “Death Valley.”
And in Austin, it really doesn’t matter what you call it – football is still the king.
Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, proudly expanded to a capacity that will likely exceed 102,000 fans Saturday when the Longhorns host Texas Tech on the classy field turf on Joe Jamail Field, has become one of the most imposing places for visitors in all of college football.
In Mack Brown’s time at Texas, the Longhorns are 44-6 at home, including a record of 29-1 against all teams from the state of Texas, and 22-1 against Big 12 South teams. The only South Division and in-state loss came to Texas A&M in 2007.
So if DKR is “Cardiac Canyon” or “The Royal Corral” as some have suggested, it is not only the largest football facility for collegiate sports west of the Mississippi River, it is arguably the hardest place for an opponent to play.
“When our crowd comes ready to play, when we get ‘the power of one,’” says Mack Brown, “it really makes a difference.”
All of that brings us to Saturday night and the stadium that sits on the banks of a hill beside Waller Creek just to the east of the main UT campus which was once and referred to as “The Forty Acres,” a moniker that still endures.
Much has been written, viewed and said about the 2008 Texas-Texas Tech game in Lubbock. If you follow college football in the Free World, you know that one-second separated the Longhorns from a determined come-from-behind victory and a stunning loss to the Red Raiders. For the folks in Lubbock and their fans, the upset of the nation’s No. 1 team ranks as a high water mark in their college football history. At Texas, it is simply, “the one that got away.”
That is why, when the subject of “revenge” comes up, Mack Brown and his team discount that as a reason to play the game. Instead, to a player and coach, Texas has given Texas Tech credit for winning the game, and Brown has been specific in making his case that a single play – on either side – did not make the difference in the contest. Instead, he believes (and he backs it with statistics) the game was lost in the trenches – in the battles of the offensive and defensive lines.
Where many Texas fans have recoiled at the repetitive showing of the Raiders’ game winning score, the Longhorn team has used that as a reminder of the basic premise of the game of football. It is a team sport, played by individuals. And individuals have to make plays.
All week, Brown has reminded the entire Texas family that to win all the games, you have to win the next one, and that means the coaches, the players, the trainers, the managers…well, you get the point. Everybody has to be ready to play.
In Brown’s tenure at Texas, the Longhorns haven’t lost very many times at all, but the monster that Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium has become to visitors has made it even tougher for a road team in Austin. The new configuration, with the Red McCombs Red Zone in the north end and a set of permanent bleachers manned powerfully by the Longhorn Band, captures the sound in a way never heard before.
Mack has made it clear that each individual player, coach or person has their own way of motivating themselves when it comes to getting ready for a game. Some, obviously, will remember how they felt in the dark of the night in Lubbock last November.
In 1961, Texas appeared headed for its first National Championship when TCU stunned the Longhorns, 6-0, here in Austin. The defeat knocked Texas out of a No. 1 ranking just one game before the ‘Horns would have finished their regular season against a below average Texas A&M club and claimed the championship.
Saturday night, David McWilliams, who played on that 1961 team for Texas and served as head coach at Texas Tech in 1986 and for the Longhorns from 1987 through 1991, will serve as an honorary captain for the Longhorns – just as Fred Akers, who coached at both Texas and Wyoming, did last week.
McWilliams will likely recall a similar story to what the current Longhorns face, and how in 1962, Texas again was ranked at the top of college football when they headed to Fort Worth to play the Frogs.
The final score, a 14-0 Texas victory, did not reflect the nature of the game. TCU failed to cross midfield for the last three quarters of the game, and accumulated only 71 yards of offense, the smallest number allowed by a Texas team since the 1953 Cotton Bowl.
Everyone does it different, but the importance of the game is about the game itself, for many different reasons.
A national television audience approaching 10 million homes will watch, ESPN’s College GameDay is here. We’ve got movie and TV stars and former all-Americans in attendance.
So understand this: For Texas, this is not a big game because of what happened last year. It is a big game because the Longhorns are defending their “House” against a defiant intruder. It is the first step toward a Big 12 South Division Championship, which is one of the major goals of every Texas team every year.
Moments, good and bad, are like pictures hanging in the hallway of the mind. You notice them, remember them, learn from them. And then you walk past them. In this case, into a Canyon.
Now, it is “Show Time.”