Bill Little commentary: The leader in the locker room
Nov. 29, 2008
Bill Little, Texas Media Relations
It is a premise well-acknowledged in the sport of professional golf. It's called "the leader in the clubhouse," and its value is to be reckoned with.
And Thursday night on the grandest stage of holiday college football, Texas stepped front and center and delivered a classic, statement-making show.
Thus, in a Big 12 South title race that has more subplots than the grandest of suspense movies, Texas, with a 49-9 drubbing of arch rival Texas A&M, got to the clubhouse first. Right there in the locker room after the game, Bob Burda, an assistant commissioner of the league, handed Mack Brown and his team the crystal-spired trophy signifying the Longhorns' sixth share of the zone title in the Big 12's dozen seasons.
The others in the game of hide and seek who are trying to touch the goal with a "one, two, three for me"-Oklahoma and Texas Tech-will sort out their fortunes on Saturday.
Thanksgiving Thursday night, however, belonged to Texas.
After two years where upsets by Texas A&M knocked the Longhorns out of at least a share of the South Division title, Texas took no prisoners in this one.
ESPN had negotiated with the league and the two schools for a move to Thanksgiving night, and with no other games on, the Horns and the Aggies had the floor all by themselves.
For almost two weeks, since the 35-7 victory over Kansas in Lawrence, Brown and his staff had considered and reconsidered every move that had taken place in the last four games between these longtime rivals. Dating back to 2004, when a freak Vince Young fumble at the end of the first half in Austin actually gave the Aggies a halftime lead over the eventual Rose Bowl champions, Brown had looked at everything from text-messaging to Thanksgiving dinners.
It was also a feature performance for Colt McCoy, who has already been tabbed as a finalist for several national individual awards.
And McCoy and his Longhorns did not disappoint, as they left absolutely everything on the field. In an era where defense has been almost an afterthought throughout much of the Big 12, Will Muschamp's crew delivered their second straight game where they allowed single digit points.
If statistics tell the story, they reflected, most of all, the efficiency of the night for Texas on both sides of the ball.
McCoy delivered a stellar game on the ground and through the air. He scored Texas's first touchdown on a 14-yard run and the second on a 20-yard pass to wide receiver Brandon Collins. He finished his work early in the fourth quarter, leaving the field with his 31st victory as a Texas starting quarterback, breaking the record he shared with Vince Young.
Offensively, Texas converted 14-of-17 third down situations, while Texas A&M was only 4-of-14. The Horns amassed 536 yards total offense to 245 for Texas A&M, including a net of minus-24 yards rushing.
Senior night was a night of thanksgiving all the way around for Texas. The largest crowd in the one-year history of the stadium helped the cumulative total for the year to yet another record.
As the Longhorns moved their record to 11-1, they also achieved rarified air. Only a handful of Texas teams have reached 11 victories in a season. And even though through the season of 1974 teams played only 10 regular season games, the Brown era has now produced five 11-win seasons in the last eight years.
But while nothing replaces the euphoria of beating your in-state rival to close the regular season, the intrigue of what happens now pretty well dominated post game speculation.
Truth is, Saturday is a bigger day on the national college football scene than some of those "Super Tuesday" election days during the recent presidential primaries.
In the SEC, in-state and league rivals Alabama and Auburn play, as the Crimson Tide risks its No. 1 ranking. Surging Florida will play out of conference, but will risk its national title hopes against old rival Florida State.
The rest of the Big 12 will play out on diverse fields, with Texas Tech hosting a dangerous Baylor team as the Red Raiders come off their big loss at Oklahoma, and Oklahoma heads to Stillwater to play Oklahoma State at night in their "Bedlam Series."
It could all be settled on the field, or the pollsters and the computers could make everyone hold their breath until the next-to-last BCS results are announced Sunday afternoon.
What we know is, the Longhorns finished their body of work just one second away from a perfect season, and now will wait and watch.
But they will be watching from the clubhouse, while the others fight it out in the arena. And being the leader in the locker room is never a bad thing.