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October 6, 2012
MY TAKE: This gameday has a different feel
Do you feel that knot in your stomach? The reason you keep looking at your watch to see if it's another minute closer to kickoff? Do you feel that compulsive desire to scream in support of your team?
You know why?
Because of the opportunity.
We know enough to know the two teams meeting in DKR tonight have the goods. They've got a chance to be special. You don't get to say that every year. Look at USC, Oklahoma and Arkansas. They thought it was going to be a special year, and it won't be.
West Virginia's offense is scary good. Texas has a chance to be the best and most complete team in the Big 12. Tonight's game could determine the Big 12 champion, if the winner doesn't let down.
That's why you feel all that emotion today.
Before the year, I thought it would come down to Texas and West Virginia. I said both would finish 10-2 (I had Texas winning the head-to-head meeting, and I'm sticking with that.)
But this is not a great matchup for Texas right now simply because the defense is trying to find itself.
This defense will find itself, right?
It has to, right?
I see future NFL players on the defensive line in Jackson Jeffcoat, Alex Okafor and eventually Brandon Moore and Desmond Jackson. And Ashton Dorsey has been showing a lot of progress the past two weeks. Chris Whaley will get a look in the league.
Steve Edmond has NFL potential. We know Kenny Vaccaro is already a first-round guy. Carrington Byndom and Quandre Diggs looked like pro prospects coming into the year.
I know Jordan Hicks is a huge piece of the puzzle. But it's time to realize he's not walking through that door. If Texas wants to seize tonight's opportunity, the 11 players on defense have to take on a blue collar, band of brothers attitude and fight through a bunch of adversity today.
Pride, resolve, determination, perseverance and a healthy dose of pissed-off-physicality should all be on display tonight at DKR. Big East meet the Big 12.
It's time for the players on defense to stop looking around for the next guy to make a play and for everyone to take it upon himself to go make that play. And suddenly, 11 guys will be at the ball carrier.
If the players on defense ever wanted to answer the critics, tonight is the night.
There won't be a better combination of quarterback and receivers in the country this year than what West Virginia is bringing to Austin. And that includes USC's Matt Barkley and receivers Marquise Lee and Robert Woods.
Geno Smith is trying to outdo Robert Griffin III. And right now, WVU's Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin are the No. 1 and No. 2 receivers in the country in receptions per game and are No. 2 and No. 3 in the country in receiving yards per game. This WVU offense is the ultimate challenge for any defense, let alone one that has shown some mental blocks while playing below its ability.
There is going to be trouble and adversity in this game for the Longhorns.
Texas may even fall behind by 10 or 14. And that's when David Ash has to continue showing the poise and patience of a veteran.
That's when Bryan Harsin has to keep sticking with the run, pounding away at WVU and wearing them down with Joe Bergeron and Johnathan Gray.
In the fourth quarter of every game this season, Texas has ripped off big chunks in the running game, including last week in decisive, final drives against Oklahoma State.
If Texas wants to seize opportunity tonight, it has to play its first complete game of the year. It has to make DKR a house of horrors for opponents once again.
Mack Brown was probably right when he said it's been since 2008 when the college football fever at DKR was this high when he made reference to the Missouri game that season, a 56-31 victory over Chase Daniel and company.
There wasn't a home game like this even in the 2009 season. That year, it was Kansas and UCF, Colorado, UTEP, Tech and ULM. That Tech game was kind of fun because of the payback factor from the year before. But it was too early in the year. It was September.
Tonight, Texas can take the next step back to being a legitimate conference title contender. Mack Brown has been pointing to next year for the Longhorns to really be in the mix for a national title.
But he's also made a lot of references to 2008, when Texas followed the great work ethic and leadership of guys like Colt McCoy, Jordan Shipley, Quan Cosby, Chris Ogbonnaya, Brian Orakpo, Lamarr Houston, Sergio Kindle, Rod Muckelroy and Earl Thomas.
Can Steve Edmond fill that Muckelroy role until Jordan Hicks gets back? Can Vaccaro impact games like Earl Thomas? Can Jeffcoat and Okafor be the Orakpo and Kindle of 2008?
These answers will become more clear tonight.
The reason you feel the nerves, the anxiety, the anticipation you feel today is because of the opportunity. It's sitting there. And it hasn't been sitting there for a while.
It's Separation Saturday in the Big 12, with the biggest game right here at DKR tonight.
The 40 Acres lives for Saturdays like this. So let it all hang out.