Archive | September, 2014

Sunflower Shutout

27 Sep

Texas 23, Kansas 0

Sept. 27, 2014 • Lawrence, KS
 

Weird thing about sunflower seeds: They can be really tasty, but it takes a lot of effort to get to the actual food inside. Working your way through the shell can be messy, and before long, you have to deal with what’s essentially trash in your mouth. And that’s supposed to be appetizing? Somehow, though, sunflower seeds are addicting.

This week our TEXAS is spelled with these paradoxical pods in honor of Kansas, the sunflower state. Now that we play KU every year, sunflower seeds are starting to show up as often as Teddy Grahams (for Baylor) and Kit Kats (for any feline mascot).

But really, sunflower seeds are a pretty good metaphor for this season. Coach Strong has been working really hard to get to the good stuff at the heart of this team. In the meantime, though, he’s had to shed plenty of distasteful shells. And what a mess is left in his wake! Our O-line has been decimated, and injuries have further weakened our team. With so many new guys on the field, not to mention on the sideline calling the plays, it feels like everybody’s a true freshman. But regardless of the mess, we keep coming back for more.

Today’s win was not pretty. The Horns scored three TDs and a field goal, but all of those came after short drives set up by our studly defense or special teams. When we had the full length of the field to run, we struggled to get a good drive going. Our kicking game is going to bite us in the endzone before too long.

But thank goodness for that D! How many times did Kansas threaten to score, only to be stopped by an INT? Four, apparently! Nice to see our first road shut-out since that magical 2005 season. On the offensive side, Swoopes continues to show a lot of promise, and I can’t say it often enough: GOOD THINGS HAPPEN WHEN SHIPLEY TOUCHES THE BALL. That may have to be amended to include John Harris, too.

Now the October gauntlet begins: Baylor, ou, Iowa State, K State. Here’s hoping Strong & Co. can make the most of the good stuff in this program: pride, tradition, talent, and toughness. So hurry on home to DKR, guys. It’s been too long, and the Texas faithful are jonesing to see our guys in burnt orange.

And coach, while you’re at it, give ’em shell.

Advertisements

Crunch Time

14 Sep

UCLA 20, Texas 17

Sept. 13, 2014 • AT&T Stadium, Arlington
 

We’ve used bears and honey and even Keurig K-cups for the Bruins, but this time around, we went with the stereotypical LA snack: granola! Just like granola, this game was at times sweet, but in the end it was just messy, crummy (or at least crumb-y), and a little hard to digest.

After the predictable win over North Texas and that humiliating loss to BYU, we knew that this game would let us know if we were headed up or down. When the Bruins pulled off the win, I was so bummed. In fact, I posted this to Facebook: Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 6.57.56 AM

But what a game! What an atmosphere! What promise we saw! Our last two possessions stunk, but our guys played so much better. We still have some tough opponents ahead of us, but I can’t help thinking we’re on our way UP.

P.S. – Pretty cool to see the Co-op folks repost my Instagram pic from the game! I didn’t win their $300 gift card for their gameday contest, but it was fun to see a ton of likes on this shot. (Next time, though? Keep the “likes” and show me the money!)

Screen Shot 2014-09-27 at 7.39.16 AM

Give Me a Break

12 Sep

BYU 41, Texas 7

Sept. 6, 2014 • DKR
 

Seriously? AGAIN?!

After last year’s shellacking, I had hoped our guys could turn the Cougars into mere kitty cats. Down 6-0 at the half, it looked like we could still get our sweet revenge. Then the third quarter happened.

I knew this would be a rough outing on the offensive side of the ball. With Ash out indefinitely, Espinosa out for the season, and two OTs gone for violating team rules, our line was comprised of a bunch of rooks. Our rushing yardage reflected that. Malcolm-with-an-L Brown and JGray fought to grind out the yards, but they never could get the big runs they’re known for. New starting QB Tyrone Swooooooopes added some highlights, but it seemed like the O never could find its gear.

What I didn’t know is that our new-and-improved D would struggle so. BYU QB Taysom Hill is a beast. Last year we made him look like a world-beater. This time around he wasn’t quite as other worldly, but he still gained 134 yards on us—and we’re talking 134 on the ground. Sheesh.

Yeah, it was pretty ugly. But even worse was the reaction of a certain “fan” who sits near us. Not only did he call for our new coach’s immediate removal, he threw in a comment that I interpreted as racist. Grrrrr. I tried to talk him down, but he was too frothy by the time he gave up on “this @#$)@%! junior high team” to listen. So here’s my open letter to the man in row 51:

Like I tried to tell you Saturday night, you’ve got to give Coach Strong time. This big ol’ ship of a football program can’t turn around overnight. You thought Mack was soft? You were sick of undisciplined players? Then get off Strong’s back and let the man work! We’re in the midst of a culture change here. If you’re not going to allow Coach more than two games to effect that change, who WOULD you want? We’d better have a stockpile of candidates if you’re planning to replace the head coach every other week. Good luck with that stockpile, by the way. Who would take a job that requires that kind of instant success?

Then there’s the matter of personnel. Strong is working with someone else’s recruits, so he has yet to bring in his own. Because of all the suspensions, we’ve lost a bunch of experienced players, too. You’re mad about that; you know, so am I. The difference? You’re mad that this coach won’t let a little pot-smoking slide. I’m mad that these kids weren’t willing to make the changes Coach demanded, that they chose their short-term satisfaction over their lifelong best interests.

Maybe it’s a good thing you’re so mad. Maybe you’ll watch the next home game from your couch where you can rant and rave all you want without some middle-aged woman glaring at you, rolling her eyes at your ridiculous comments. Your stay-at-home plan would work well for all of us in the stands, the ones who stuck around to support this tenacious group of young men who were still fighting through every play, long after the game’s outcome was decided and you had given up.

Yeah, you could say I’m firmly Team Strong. I like the direction he’s taking us. Yes, I hate losing, especially by such a wide margin, but just wait! It may get worse before it gets better, but it WILL get better.

Enough of that! Here are the photo highlights from the tailgate and game. (It’s never a good sign when you have more photos of Jetpack Guy than our D. But hey! JETPACK GUY! And this game was 100 percent drone-free.)

Not-so-Mean Green

1 Sep

TEXAS_unt14

Texas 38, North Texas 7

Aug. 30, 2014 • DKR
 

We’re back! In honor of the Mean Green, green M&Ms were this week’s spelling medium. The rather warm tailgate threatened to debunk the whole “melts in your mouth, not in your hands” thing, as our mushy candy turned soft and took on a slight sheen. Fortunately for us Texas fans, our team was much tougher in the heat.

After attending 225 Texas games, I thought I’d seen it all. But this long-awaited season opener was full of firsts.

The most obvious: This was head coach Charlie Strong’s first game on the Texas sideline. For the first time since 1998, Mack Brown wasn’t there. I’m sure he was clapping somewhere air-conditioned.

17_strong

Instead, there was Coach Strong in his long-sleeved white shirt, glistening in that muggy August heat.

Another first: Jetpack Guy! 

14_jetpack

15_jetpack2    16_jetpack3

 

He took off and landed from the North Endzone. Cool but weird! We could’ve used that jetpack to get past all the construction traffic on I-35, but this? Just strange and a little scary.

Then there was the drone.

37_drone

 

During the third quarter, we noticed this thing come from our right and hover over us before flying directly over the field. With its flashing green and red lights, it obviously wasn’t trying to sneak up on us, but it was odd to know this device was watching the 93,000 of us gathered there. After plenty of speculation (Spy plane? Commercial photographer? Amazon delivery?), KXAN solved this mystery.

And the football? Plenty of firsts there, too. Our first look at our new defense was exciting. They looked tough and played tough, too, giving up only eight first downs and 94 yards, getting four INTs. After years of hearing my friend yell, “WHERE ARE THE LINEBACKERS,” it was nice to see one get a pick 6. Good on ya, Demarco Cobbs. And hello, Mr. Ridgeway! Hassan’s two sacks were mighty pretty. Our D gave up 0 points. ZERO! How refreshing is that? Darn that fumbled snap in our own endzone that cost us the shut-out. 

Our offense was really clicking, too, and if it hadn’t been for some right-on-the-numbers dropped passes, QB David Ash’s stats, not to mention the final score, could’ve been much better. RBs Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray were solid, and in his first game as a Horn, D’Onta Foreman had a 34-yard burst that makes us thankful he got his academic issues squared away and could join the team. 

22_rush-buyersThroughout the game I kept my eye on North Texas’ #31, Kenny Buyers. An L.D. Bell grad, Buyers had 7 solo tackles, including one for a 6-yard loss. Even though he was wearing the “wrong” color, I was proud to see one of “our kids” on the field.

Overall this first game was a Strong (heh heh) one. Sure, there were some lapses, but I have to be encouraged to see a harder running O and tighter D. The worst part of this one wasn’t play-calling or personnel choices but an injury: Dom Espinosa left the game in the third quarter with an ankle injury. The O-line is already young, and we need our experienced anchor at center. If he misses the rest of the season (which it sounds like he will), we could be in trouble (see aforementioned fumbled snap). 

In spite of that, I’m encouraged and excited. Next week, we get another shot at BYU, the team that put the final nail in Mack Brown’s coffin last year. Even a win over ou couldn’t undo the damage from that 40-21 shellacking. Our D gave up 550 rushing yards, the most in five decades, and our #15 ranking was gone just as quickly as you can say “Taysom Hill.” Will this D let a QB rush for 259 yards? Let’s see: QBs rushed for 209 total yards over Strong’s last three SEASONS at Louisville (via @max_olson), so I can’t help but be optimistic. Strong gets it: He knows were were embarrassed last year and says he’s “looking forward to this one.” 

So are we, Coach. So are we.

Tailgate, pregame, game, and postgame pix from this great first football weekend: