The Fear and Loathing of Football Season...

It's appropriate that I write this on the Eve of football season, as the beginning of each year of Longhorn football puts a feeling in the pit of my stomach much like that I experienced on Christmas Eve as a kid. It was eight months ago that I watched Vince Young and the Texas Longhorns win a thrilling Rose Bowl over the Michigan Wolverines on a last-second, partially blocked field goal, and with most of the team returning, there is the familiar anticipation and very real hope that, as Red Sox fans would have said until last year, "This is our year." Tomorrow's game against Louisiana-Lafayette could be the beginning of the best year in the history of Longhorn football, and along with tens of thousands of others, I care entirely too much, and am a little hesitant to commit my heart to this team...

Why? We've said the same thing every year since 2000 - we are capable of winning the title, we have the talent, this is our year. Let me chronicle very quickly how these lofty expectations have been dashed each year:

2000 - The team, mired in a QB controversy between Major Applewhite and Chris Simms, loses 63-14 to an Oklahoma team that went on to the national title from out of nowhere. This one hurt - we lost big, and they won REAL big. I was there.

2001 - Starting Simms at QB, the Longhorns lose a close game to Oklahoma right at the end of the game, but somehow make it into the Big 12 title game. There, they fall behind by 19 to a team they had beaten 41-7 earlier, and switch to Applewhite, who almost leads them back to victory. Winning this game would have put us in the national title game. This one hurt the most. I was there (again).

2002 - A team with a great group of seniors is undone by a subpar offensive line, and lose games late to Oklahoma and Texas Tech. I was at the Tech game.

2003 - A rebuilding year, but one that included a loss to Arkansas at home, and another BIG loss to the Sooners, after which Vince Young started games, and the team finished the year relatively well.

2004 - Now this is the weird thing - we lost a close game to a very good Oklahoma team, and came from behind to win our last four games of the year. We came back from 35-7 to beat Oklahoma State by 21 in the best half of football I've ever seen Texas play (and I was there). Vince Young ran to convert a 4th and 18 to beat Kansas in an absolutely ridiculous play. And then there was the Rose Bowl. 11-1, no bad loss, great under pressure, and the team returns all but the All-American running back and linebacker.

The 2004 year (with a relatively young team, incidentally with two Youngs in the backfield) begs the question: Can Texas make the Leap? They are one of about 10 or 12 teams that have a chance to face USC (the two-time defending champions) in the Rose Bowl for the title. The Horns have a tough schedule - Play at Ohio State (and I'll be there - more on that later...), Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl, and the Aggies in College Station, with few gimmes in between. They are capable of winning all the games, but it's tough to stay focused for 11 games when it's probable that EVERYONE will play their best game against you (Ah, the joys of being Texas). I think they can, but everything must go right. Vince Young must stay healthy for the big games. The passing game must improve, as must the playcalling (a sore point for many years with Greg Davis as the offensive coordinator). The defense must be better than they were last year, and they were very, very good last year. They can't let down against Missouri, Tech, or Kansas. In short, everything must go right.

Tomorrow is Football Morning. I'm scared, I'm excited, I'm something of a wreck. I care about this way too much. Should be fun...


At 5:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kansas was robbed.


Post a Comment

<< Home