September 14, 2011
SOME RANDOM THOUGHTS ON UCLA
Without having gone through my detailed breakdown of UCLA (we'll roll that out on Thursday), here are my initial impressions on the Horns' upcoming game.
On the surface, this seems like a very winnable game for Texas. Of course, that's what everyone thought last year, and we all know how that one turned out. Much like this year's situation, UT entered the 2010 UCLA game with some momentum after having picked up a win on the road over Texas Tech. This year, it's a one-point home win over BYU, but Texas should have some confidence heading into Saturday's game.
If the Longhorns fall behind early, the guess here is that Texas has the grit to fight back, as long as it can stay within a touchdown. It fought back from two scores last week, but that was at home against a BYU team that hadn't shown 12 months earlier that it could essentially force Texas to tap out of a lopsided beatdown.
UCLA will test Texas up the middle with its run, and it will do it mostly out of a pistol formation that gave the Longhorns fits last year. I expect Manny Diaz to have his defense ready. If Texas can take away first- and second-down run success by the UCLA offense, this game is over. The Bruins don't have the weapons to consistently pick up third downs against an aggressive, athletic UT defense.
On the other side of the ball, I don't expect anything flashy from Texas with two first-time starters at quarterback. The Longhorns will feature the run and probably won't light up the scoreboard, but Texas should be able to make enough plays to get the win.
Give me Texas in another low scoring game that's decided by about a field goal.
TIME TO SHOW SOME SUPPORT FOR GARRET GILBERT
I’m pulling for Garrett Gilbert to find some way to bounce back. I know, that’s not exactly an objective approach and I won’t let it affect my reporting on the team’s quarterback situation, but let me explain …
I’ve always said that I want to see the student athletes that I cover go on to successful athletic and academic careers, wherever a kid winds up. Be it at Texas, at OU, Texas A&M, USC, Harvard, Wyoming or anywhere in between, my hope is that the recruits and players I cover each year go on to thrive on the field, in the classroom and in the community. The most important thing is that the young men take advantage of their opportunities and use maximize their abilities to better their future.
For Gilbert, who I began covering when he was a recruit during his junior season at Lake Travis, he hit a tremendous road block on Saturday night against BYU. A former 5-star player, Under Armour All-American and Gatorade Player of the Year, Gilbert’s role with the Texas Longhorns is now as a supporting cast member as Case McCoy and David Ash take the reins to the UT offense.
Throughout his career, while fans and media members were throwing darts at him during his times of struggles, Gilbert has always taken the high road. He’s represented Texas and Lake Travis well. On Saturday night, during what was undoubtedly the toughest moment of his athletic playing career, Gilbert was front and center cheering on his replacements, offering words of support and advice on the sidelines and in the locker room.
Think for a moment what kind of maturity that must have taken and what kind of character Gilbert displayed during the lowest of low moments. At a time when most high-profile players would have had their head in their hands sulking or pouting, Gilbert put his team first. How difficult must that have been? Few of us will ever know.
Every kid who has played sports at any level has dreamed of hitting the game-winning shot in the NBA finals, blasting a walk-off grand slam in the World Series, throwing the game-winning TD pass in the Super Bowl. For 99.9 percent of the world, those thoughts are nothing more than a fantasy. For Gilbert, dating back to his days at Lake Travis, the visions of playing in the NFL probably felt incredibly realistic, like it was only a matter of time before his dreams became a reality.
On Saturday night, in front of a stadium full of screaming (and sadly, booing) fans, Gilbert’s dreams might have officially crashed into a million pieces. He had to know standing on the sidelines that there’s a chance that the window on his playing career at Texas had essentially closed, that any thoughts of playing football after college were suddenly unrealistic. He’s not the first kid that’s ever been in that situation and he’s certainly not the last. But Gilbert’s situation is different than most since he seemed like a near lock coming out of high school to go on and do great things as a Longhorn player and beyond.
It’s okay for fans to feel some sort of jubilation or relief that Texas made a change at quarterback. That’s part of the game. But people also need to remember that these are still very young men who are giving everything they can to live up to their lofty dreams, and understand it has to be an incredibly painful experience to see those lifelong dreams shattered in such a public way.
Gilbert handled the situation with much more class than did a large chunk of the Texas fan base, and his actions in the wake of demotion should earn him a ton of respect from those who have been the most critical of him over the past 13 months. It probably won’t happen, and those same fans will be quick to boo once again if he does get back on the field, but Gilbert’s earned my respect regardless of what happens moving forward.
It’s too early to completely write him off, and for Gilbert’s sake, I hope he gets another shot at some point and makes the most of his opportunity. Then, after a successful senior season is completed, I hope Case McCoy goes on to greatness, then David Ash, then Connor Brewer, so on and so on … any civil adult should hope the same for all kids playing college athletics. The next time a player struggles, put yourself in his or her shoes for a minute, show some class and try to be supportive when a young man or woman is facing some adversity.
Rant over. And, if the plea above isn't enough reason to pull for Gilbert, all you have to do is remember that I selected him in our pre-season OB fantasy draft (thankfully, I also took Case McCoy with a late-round selection).
RESOLUTION ON THE WAY?
Raise your hand if you're like me and just want this conference realignment stuff to finish up so you can quit reading the revolving door of possibilities for Texas and every other school that's caught in the middle of this mess? We have actual football games we should be discussing, but the conversations on the message boards have been dominated by what appears to be the inevitable changing landscape of college conferences.
It was fun for a while, but let it end already. I'm not sure how my man Chip Brown, who has been out in front of this ever-evolving story for more than a year, keeps up (don't miss his latest, which has Texas possibly looking in a new direction).
Let's wrap it up already. Send the Aggies packing to the SEC to be even bigger also-rans than they've been in the Big 12, but let's make sure to keep the Texas-OU rivalry alive, even if the two programs are in different conferences moving forward (which is looking more and more likely).
A lot can change in the next week, but the good news is that there are some rumblings that we could be closing in on the end of yet another unpredictable chapter of college realignment. Let's hope so.