Austin, TX – With the announcement today by the Texas Longhorns that Garrett Gilbert will start at quarterback against Rice in Texas’ season opener, the fate of the Longhorns for the 2011 season is sealed. Make that doomed. In other words, the drought will continue. Hot days will not translate into hot streaks for the 2011 edition of one of college’s premier football programs.
To be fair, it’s not all about Garrett Gilbert. It’s just that the starting quarterback is such an important, visible position. And the junior from Lake Travis hasn’t lived up to the expectations, the hype, or the hope. Back in the sparkling days before the 2009 National Championship Game against Alabama, Gilbert was an understudy for Colt McCoy, one of the best college quarterbacks of all time. Thrust into action when McCoy went down with an injury early in that historic game, Gilbert showed flashes of why he was so highly recruited. Then along came the 2010 season and with it Gilbert’s shaky, lackluster year. Ten TD passes, 17 interceptions. Bad decisions, errant throws, and a decided lack of “take charge” leadership. His reward: a nod to be at the most visible position in the State of Texas.
Other question marks loom for the Horns. The offensive line, the running game, the receivers, and the new offensive scheme brought in from Boise State are untested. There’s hope. On the defensive side, yet another new head coordinator, a lack of depth at defensive end and tackle, young linebackers, and cornerbacks and safeties with little playing time, or little playing time that resulted in wins.
The Longhorns, one of the most followed sports team in the nation, are shrouded in mystery, in large part due to head coach Mack Brown’s reluctance to share with anyone the answer to a simple question: What’s up? No media access, no player interviews, no open-to-the-public practices. Everyone understands he’s hurting from the shoddy 5-7 campaign from 2010. But to simply lock everyone out, particularly the fans, puts even more pressure on Brown and his young Horns (and the new coaching staff) to put up points, yardage, TDs, wins and more. It’s been a strange ride in Austin since that unfortunate loss to Alabama way back when.
On the positive side, the Longhorns have a fairly favorable schedule. They open with Rice and BYU at home, giving them a chance to quell the unrest, provided they win both games. Then a road trip to UCLA, which should have warning lights flashing, and not just on the runway at LAX. If they can win there, things start to look up, way up. A week off after the West Coast game should (if they have won all three) provide huge momentum leading up to the Oct 1 game against Iowa State. This could start a string of payback games for the Horns.
Boom: it’s on to Dallas for OU, which is only Number One in the Nation. Oklahoma State visits the next Saturday, a top 10 team in its own right. Realistically by this point, Texas could be 1-4 or 5-0.
Another off week is next, thanks to the demise of the Big 12’s twelve-team league. Kansas visits, followed the next week by Texas Tech; three home games in a row with an off week thrown in. Are the Horns 1-7 by now or 8-0?
A trip to Missouri won’t be easy. And then it’s back home against Kansas State, which always seems to have Texas’ number. And that’s it for Austin appearances. With only a five-day rest, it’s off to Aggie Land for perhaps the last UT-A&M game for the foreseeable future, should the Ags bolt to the SEC. And then to end the quirky schedule, it’s December in Waco and another payback game, this one against the Baylor Bears, another victor in Austin in the disastrous 2010 season.
The logical conclusion: the Horns go 5-7 once again. There will be blood. And it ain’t going to be orange. The caveat: Gilbert continues his errant ways, Texas endures two losses to start the season and a QB replacement takes over in LA. The season turns around too, with wins against the Bruins, OU, OK State, Kansas, Texas Tech, Missouri, A&M and Baylor. The Horns end up 9-3 and the drought ends with a bowl game in January. Here’s hoping against logic. And good luck to Garrett Gilbert and all of the Longhorns.
In that novel, he wrote about West Texas, the drought of the 1950s, and the cowboys and the cattle that suffered under the brutal onslaught of heat, wind, and no rain. Today, I felt that same suffering as I filled up the cattle troughs with well water – the scorching sun making it uncomfortable just standing in the straw-dry grass. I glanced around and saw mostly rocks in the pasture – very little in the way of grass or brush that the few cows I have could eat. There’s several burros too – not much for them to eat either. The big round bale of hay is dry as sand, but they all chew on it – occasionally.
Lately, deer have been drinking out of the bird bath – something else I fill up with water every day. A doe and fawn approach carefully at first, but after several days of visiting and drinking, they’re like old friends. The dog and the cats look at them from the shade of the patio, not moving, not caring that wild things are nearby. Even a four-point buck has begun visiting the same bird bath. He, like the doe and the fawn, is skinny as a rail. I can’t imagine the deer hunters will be too impressed when they haul in from the cities this fall in search of their trophies. There’s some trophies here…all of them sad, thirsty, and bony.
The wind blows as if we really are in West Texas. It used to quit blowing when the sun went down, but now it blows on through the night, rattling the planks on the house outside the bedroom. When day dawns, it’s still breezy outside. And the sun’s not even up.
Nine inches of rain – that’s it for this year. And we’re past the rainy months of April and May. The lakes are 25 feet below normal. There’s not enough flow to go tubing in New Braunfels on the Comal River. Well, technically you could float down the river, but there’re 10,000 people in the water already. Cops hold up a crowd and their tubes and ice chests on the river bank until there’s room for them to jump in too. Why bother?
I spent a week out of state recently. My thoughts were back home and I worried about the drought and the lack of rain. It was 83 degrees where I was. It even rained one day. People there just didn’t get it – even though I tried to explain how intense the sun was, how uncomfortable it was to be out in it. “It’s always hot in Texas, isn’t it?” they asked. I nodded and gave up. I guess I should’ve just said, “This is the time it never rained.” I think about that line as the wind blows without ceasing.
Stretch. Stretch it out.
Many years ago, we began walking a route that covered two and a half miles on our dusty ranch road (time elapsed: 32 to 38 minutes, depending on how many neighbors rattled down the road as the dust flew into our faces). We’ve stretched it out over the last couple of months – and changed locations.
The Blue Hole trail, for us, began as a straight two-mile power walk from the parking area near Ranch Road 3237 over to Ranch Road 12. And then a two-mile power walk back. Four miles. Time elapsed: about 56 minutes. We were doing about a 14-minute mile. Now, however, we’ve discovered that another leg of the trail back up near RR 3237 continues on over to the Blue Hole swimming area. We’ve added another half-mile on that portion in addition to the straight-shot four miles we’ve been doing. Our walk now takes about 63 minutes, and we’re getting down to about a 13.5 minute/mile speed. Try it: it’s a pretty fast pace. And thanks to over 50 days of 100 degree temperatures, we’re arriving earlier and earlier so we can finish and get out of there. This morning we started at 7:08 and finished at 8:11.
What’s it all for? We keep doing this so we can go snow skiing in the coming winter in Colorado…or Utah…or New Mexico…or wherever. Dreaming of going downhill on the white stuff. What’s your cardio routine?