(previous weekly reviews are here)
In a not particularly well-played, but nevertheless highly-entertaining Fiesta Bowl last Monday night, the Longhorns (12-1) used some more QB Colt McCoy magic with 16 seconds left to pull out the victory over upset-minded Ohio State (10-3).
After arguably his worst half of the season, McCoy (41-59/414 yds/2 TD/1 INT) rebounded in the second half of the game to lead the Horns to a 17-6 third quarter lead, then engineered the spine-tingling comeback in the final two minutes after the Buckeyes had rallied during the fourth quarter to take the lead. WR Quan Cosby had a monster game (14 receptions for 171 yds and 2 TD’s) and capped his Longhorn career with a spectacular catch and run for the game-clinching TD.
In many respects, this Longhorn team was the product of the best performance by head coach Mack Brown during his tenure at UT. With Oklahoma’s (12-2) loss to Florida in the BCS Championship game, the win over tOSU gave the Horns the best record and the highest national ranking of any Big 12 team. The Horns survived a brutal mid-season stretch of games against highly-ranked teams and came within a dropped interception in the final minute of the Texas Tech game of playing in the BCS Championship game. Given their improvement on defense this season over the 2007 season, the stability of the coaching staff and the return of McCoy next season, UT’s future remains bright, although the failure of a dominant running back to emerge this season is cause for some concern.
UT’s troubles against Ohio State, Texas Tech’s embarrassing loss to Mississippi in the Cotton Bowl, and OU’s loss to Florida reflects a trend of Big 12 teams having problems against top-tier defenses of non-Big 12 teams. The Longhorns’ lack of a consistent rushing attack was a problem against the salty Ohio State defense and that inconsistency could leave the Horns vulnerable next season to the tougher defenses that they will face against a top tier team in a bowl game.
In fact, the lack of top-notch defenses overall in the Big 12 should be at least a moderate concern for conference coaches and officials, who appear to have swung the pendulum too far in favor of the offenses in an effort to create exciting, high-scoring games. Texas Tech’s offensive linemen looked absolutely shocked during the Cotton Bowl when referees from another conference actually called holding against them a couple of times during the game. Tech’s offensive linemen rarely endured holding calls this season from Big 12 referees.
Such small problems aside, things are definitely looking up for the Longhorns next season. With a much more favorable schedule, the Longhorns will begin the 2009 campaign as a consensus top 3 pick in the national polls. Inasmuch as OU will probably have to replace their star QB Sam Bradford, the Horns will probably also be the consensus favorite to win the Big 12 championship.
It’s all good these days in Longhorn Country.