Bowl Season's Crucial

Baylor's Robert Griffin III may have won the Heisman, but he's not forcing Mack Brown into retirement

Baylor's Robert Griffin III may have won the Heisman, but he's not forcing Mack Brown into retirement

Austin Photo Set: News_Kevin_UT v Baylor_Football_Dec 2011_case mccoy
Case McCoy #6 of the Texas Longhorns runs during a game against the Baylor Bears at Floyd Casey Stadium on December 3, 2011 in Waco, Texas. Photo by Sarah Glenn/ Getty Images
Austin Photo Set: News_Kevin_UT v Baylor_Football_Dec 2011_robert griffin III
Robert Griffin III #10 of the Baylor Bears looks to pass during a game against the Texas Longhorns Photo by Sarah Glenn/ Getty Images
Austin Photo Set: News_Kevin_UT v Baylor_Football_Dec 2011_case mccoy
Austin Photo Set: News_Kevin_UT v Baylor_Football_Dec 2011_robert griffin III

And things started so well. I was ready to take it all back, my criticism of the offense, the quarterbacks, everything.

And then the second half started.

Robert Griffin III, Baylor’s best imitation of Vince Young, made a powerful case for his run at the Heisman trophy as he led Baylor to a 48-24 win over Texas. He is as good as advertised. His passes on the money, his fleet feet making people miss. RG3 is as good as they get and receiver Kendall Wright (166 receiving yards) makes him even better.

RG3 is everything Case McCoy is not. McCoy started the game looking every bit like his legendary big brother. His throws on the mark, creating opportunities in the pocket and overall managing the game well.

And then the second half started.

 Good practices and a well-played bowl game will set the team and the coaches up for success. These Longhorns could use a little consistent success. 

McCoy was apparently reminded that his first name is not Colt because he began throwing the ball like . . . well . . . to the other team. McCoy’s troubles actually started late in the first half with his first interception which led to a Baylor touchdown and a Baylor lead after Texas had come roaring back from a 14-0 deficit early. Two more interceptions in the third quarter and the game was over.

Case closed, Ashes to ashes, Texas needs a quarterback.

That said, the vaunted Texas defense failed to make the trip to Waco. RG3 picked apart the defensive backfield particularly the cornerbacks who were playing lights out until Saturday.

Running back Terrance Ganaway ran around and through a Longhorn defensive line that until today had been improving.

This game was Texas' undoing. A team losing six turnovers on the road won’t beat anyone in the country.

It all started so well, showing that this young team has some potential. McCoy threw for more than 200 yards in the first half — he finished with more than 350. He made big plays and great pinpoint throws and led the Longhorns down the field with several extended drives. Texas second possession of the game was a 16-play thing of beauty that ended in a spectacular Blaine Irby catch for Texas' first score.

McCoy’s problem is not in his decision-making, but in his strength. Case just doesn’t have the arm strength to get the ball downfield. He badly under threw two deep passes that, if well thrown, were sure touchdowns. McCoy does not have college level arm strength and Texas will struggle with him behind center with no feature running back.

 Mack has something to prove. His recruiting prowess is under fire; his coaching prowess is being questioned. Brown wants to go out on top. He’s not going anywhere. 

Texas super running back combo was also missing in action. Joe Bergeron didn’t make the trip to Waco, Malcolm Brown didn’t play. Texas called it a game-time decision not to play Brown. Clearly the tailback's injuries are far more serious than the Texas athletic department let on.

Texas, now 7-5 overall and just 4-5 against the Big 12, looks forward to a bowl berth. Which bowl? It doesn’t matter. No team in the conference needs the extra practice time more than these Longhorns.

McCoy and David Ash need reps. McCoy could also use some serious time in the weight room. Brown and Bergeron need to heal. The defense, particularly the young corners, needs to work on its communication skills on the field.

And about those rumors . . . Mack Brown retire? Are you kidding me? No coach, let alone Mack Brown, wants to leave under this kind of cloud. Brown has something to prove.

His recruiting prowess is under fire; his coaching prowess is being questioned. Mack Brown wants to go out on top. He’s not going anywhere.

But it would be wise to start a conversation about what Brown needs to do better, and learn from what went wrong in 2010 and 2011. He first needs to focus on recruiting. It’s obvious the starry-eyed excitement over Garrett Gilbert clouded the quarterback recruiting trail. One might expect a veteran like Brown to avoid that kind of dreamy inattention, but it happened, now it’s up to Brown to fix it.

It would be easy to write this 2011 season off as a “rebuilding” year. This is not rebuilding, this is starting over, and Texas should never “start over.” This is a football program that has enjoyed a massive recruiting advantage. Texas has world-class facilities, nationally renowned coaches and a recruiting base as good as any in the country.

There is really no excuse for a 5-7 season, followed by a 7-5 season. There is really no excuse for lacking a quarterback who can accurately throw the ball more than 30 yards. There is no excuse for laying down against Baylor.

In 2007, Texas (with sophomore Colt McCoy at quarterback) finished a disappointing 9-3 and played in the Holiday Bowl against a good Arizona State team. Texas won a shootout. It was a huge signature win for a team badly in need of an identity. Just two years later, Texas was playing in the National Championship game.

No one is suggesting this team can get that good, but the similarities are worth considering. The 2011 Texas Longhorns lack an identity, and lack confidence in themselves. There are many reasons for that — a new coaching staff with new playbooks, inconsistent starting lineups, young and inexperienced players, injuries. Good practices and a well-played bowl game will set the team and the coaches up for success. These Longhorns could use a little consistent success.

We’ll find out soon who Texas will play soon. Who and where is much less important than the fact the Longhorns are still playing at all.