Making a stand
Sept. 21, 2008
Jonathan Mann, Texas Media Relations
Late in the second quarter of Saturday's 52-10 Longhorn victory over Rice, the Owl offense was looking to regain some momentum following a Texas flea flicker touchdown toss from Colt McCoy to Jordan Shipley.
After driving to the two-yard line, Rice was threatening to do just that as they knocked on the door for a score that would cut the deficit to 11 and end a streak of three unanswered UT touchdowns.
After eleven total snaps including penalties, McCoy and the Longhorn offense were preparing to go the other way after a turnover on downs courtesy of the defense, which held the Rice offense out of the end zone in a monumental stand.
"That's the type of thing that makes a mark on who you are," said defensive coordinator Will Muschamp of the defense's stingy sequence. "Our guys just kept fighting and fighting. That was a good moment for us."
In a stop that spanned about three times the length of an average goal line stand, Texas defenders exemplified a determined resolve to protect their end zone, regardless of the situation.
"We just needed to have that mentality that nobody was going to score," said senior cornerback Ryan Palmer. "We just wanted to stop them from coming in our end zone and that's what we did."
The string of plays was lengthened by two defensive pass interference calls against the Longhorns, as well as a false start on the Owls.
"They say it was 11 plays, but I feel like it was longer than 11," laughed junior linebacker Roddrick Muckelroy. "I want to say about 25, that's what it felt like."
The burnt orange sea of nearly 100,000 Longhorns fans was undoubtedly vital to preventing an Owl touchdown. "We were just excited," said junior defensive tackle Lamarr Houston, who opened the goal line series with a tackle for a loss and later batted a ball at the line of scrimmage. "We just wanted to keep the crowd in it, keep our heads in it and stay focused on keeping them out of the end zone."
Trust and confidence were major factors for the Horns during the marathon series. Throughout the defensive line, linebacking corps and secondary, players relied on sharp communication with one another to get the job done.
"As far as team chemistry goes, it just shows how much trust we have in one another and how much camaraderie we have with one another," said senior defensive end Brian Orakpo, who recorded a batted ball at the line of scrimmage and a quarterback pressure during the stand. "Linebackers were talking to the D-line, the secondary was talking to the linebackers. Everybody was on the same page."
Despite the short yardage situation, Rice's tendency to spread the field created a possibility for confusion. The players were not fazed, however, as they credited their high degree of preparation as a major reason for success.
"We studied film all week and we talked about the formations they were going to run the ball out of," Houston said of the homework leading up to Saturday. "We knew exactly what they were going to run and when they were going to run it."
"They can only run certain plays out of certain formations," Muckelroy followed. "You pretty much know what's coming at you and you just have to be ready and quick to read it all."
Senior defensive tackle Roy Miller, who notched a tackle during the goal line stop, attributed the defense's tenacity and fortitude to Muschamp.
"It's just been something Coach Muschamp's been preaching to us all week - we've got to play a 60-minute game, we've got to put everything together," Miller said. "Just seeing a resiliency in the players, that really made me happy."
Not only did the unprecedented stop solidify the Horns' momentum on Saturday night; it also provided an example to point to when defining this year's Longhorns defense in general.
"The goal line stand showed what we're capable of this year," Orakpo said. "We have a lot to improve on but we can take that on as a mentality, stopping guys when they're about to score. The effort and passion are things you can't teach."