Longhorns 2011: The Drought Continues
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.