Look; I have been a Texas fan for, what seems to be, too long. I can remember sitting on my couch at 7 years old and watched a 21 year old sober (probably) Ricky Williams collect award, after award after award. Or as a 13 year old enamored with the electric Vince Young to Limas Sweed connection more than talking to girls. Or how about a 17 year old Michael (yup, going third person here so you know it’s gonna be a ride) enthralled with everything Colt McCoy to Jordan Shipley? All amazing memories that shaped my blind fandom to all things Burnt Orange.
Then came January 7th of 2010. I remember as if it was yesterday. Such high hopes going into the game against ‘Bama. Starting strong forcing a three and out. Fake punt in the National Championship game has got to work, right? Wrong! Blake Gideon with a huge pick to shift the momentum the Longhorns way. Big time players, make big time plays in big time games! After a good, not great, drive UT finds themselves at the Alabama 11. 1st and 10 in the red zone is always a great place to be. Of course as we all know, that excitement was doused with gasoline and a proverbial match was tossed in as Colt McCoy took a big shot from Marcell Dareus. Colt had a pinched nerve, we got to see Garrett Gilbert (yay?) and UT couldn’t get it done with our backs against the wall. This blog isn’t to highlight that BCS Natty loss, lord knows I don’t think my mental psyche can handle those memories.
Ever since that dreary January day at the turn of the decade, Texas football hasn’t been the same. In the seven years between that loss to Alabama and the hire of Tom Herman, the once feared, respected team on the 40 acres went a combined 46-42 with 3 bowl appearances. The highlight of which being in 2013 beating Oregon 30-7 in the Alamo Bowl. 46-42 is a fine record for a school like Pitt, or UCONN or Hawai’i (no offense to those aforementioned schools, you all are great in your own ways) but is an embarrassment for Texas. After the “mutual” departure of Mack Brown, Charlie Strong was brought on from Louisville after the 2013 season. Expectations were incredibly high for a magnitude of reasons. Football obviously, but also as the first African-American coach in Texas history. Everyone, UT fans and non fans alike, were rooting for Chuck to succeed. At the end of the day he was not a great fit and, at the genesis of college football, he could not recruit his own backyard, losing top talent to in-state schools such as Texas Tech, Texas A&M and Baylor. We all wanted Charlie Strong to succeed, but on November 26th, 2016 the University of Texas relieved Strong of his duties as head coach. Ending an underwhelming run with a 16-21 record with no bowl appearances.
Then on November 27th, just a few short hours after the firing of Charlie Strong, the prodigal son was delivered. Tom Herman, the former Houston head coach who made his name with a high flying offense and huge wins over power 5 schools, was finally home. From 99′-00′ Herman served as a GA for UT, making his mark under the wing of former UT offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Greg Davis. Everywhere Herman went he brought his electric attitude and team first mentality.
In his first season at the helm of the ‘horns, Herman went 7-6, beating Mizzou 33-16 in the Texas Bowl. Not a bad start, lord knows better than what we had seen since Mack Brown was shown the door, but still not “Texas Standards.” Coming into year 2, the Longhorns were ranked 23rd by the Associated Press and high hopes for Westlake H.S. grad and Sophomore signal caller Sam Ehlinger. After an upset in Landover against Maryland, Texas rattled off wins over Tulsa, (22) USC, (17) TCU and Kansas State, Texas prepared for their showdown against 7th ranked Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry. Texas ended up winning a wild one against the Sooners, 48-45. Jumping in the AP Rankings from 18 all the way up to 9, they won a nail biter against Baylor in Austin. UT would drop the next two, at Oklahoma State and home against West Virginia. Over the next 3 weeks the Longhorns would go 3-0 in Big 12 play, setting up a rematch against Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship. Texas would be unable to sweep the Sooners after coming out of the gate hot after a quick 16 yard touchdown run from Sam Ehlinger. Oklahoma was clearly the better team, showing this by dominating in all three phases of the game. Although coming off a difficult loss to their biggest rival, there was great optimism surrounding this team. Despite the loss in the Big 12 Championship game, Texas would take on Georgia in the All State Sugar Bowl. Texas showed to be the better team by dominating on offense, out gaining Georgia 355 yards to 284. The rushing defense from Texas was suffocating, holding the Bulldogs to only 72 yards on 30 carries, a paltry 2.4 yards per attempt. All of this, coupled with good play from Ehlinger, resulted in a big win over the SEC Runner up Georgia Bulldogs. The title of this blog all stems from after the game when Sugar Bowl MVP and Austin native Sam Ehlinger, let all of Longhorn Nation know, “We’re baaaaaaaccccckkkkkk.”
I started this blog, my first of my writing career, with a simple question; Is Texas Really Back? If I was forced to give an unbiased, one word answer, I would say yes. That answer is conjured up from a few reasons; such as Ehlinger, assistant coaches brought on to lead, the likes of defensive coordinator Todd Orlando and Offensive coordinator Tim Beck, and overall more national media attention. But the main reason starts at the top, and that being Tom Herman. The Texas Longhorns finally have a leader, something this school has lacked since the mid 2000’s with Mack Brown. Tom Herman preaches, and expects, greatness. Not just because he says so, but because it is the Texas way and that is how he has been molded. From Mack Brown to Urban Meyer, Tom Herman expects perfection. For the first time in 8+ years, UT is consistently in the top 3 in recruiting class in the country, usually leading the Big 12 in this category. The future looks incredibly bright for Texas. Not only is that great for UT fans, but it is great for college football as a whole. So let’s all be thankful and excited for what this Longhorns team can do! Hook em horns!!