The top story in Texas college football this past weekend was the top story in college football, period: Texas A&M’s wildly entertaining, often-dominant upset of top-ranked defending national champion Alabama. But this wasn’t our only college football story making national headlines. Here’s a round-up of the weekend’s remarkable tributes, tempers, and conspiracy theories.
So Long to the Crimson and White
Oh, my gracious!
As in, CBS announcer Vern Lundquist’s description of the touchdown that put Texas A&M up 14-0 over top-ranked Alabama on Saturday.
“Got him… no they didn’t… oh my GRACIOUS,” Lundquist exclaimed at Aggies freshman quarterback sensation Johnny Manziel’s near-fumble/scramble/run-and-pass to a wide-open Ryan Swope.
It still seems like a dream, doesn’t it? Texas A&M, 6-6 last year, and 13 1/2 point underdogs, beat the Crimson Tide on the road 29-24, permanently fusing shut the mouths of every pundit who predicted that the longtime Big 12 also-rans would struggle in the Southeastern Conference, not just their first year, but for many years to come.
In fact, back in July, that was all anybody asked first-year Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin, to his eventual exasperation.
“It’s a pretty damn hard league” – Kevin Sumlin at SEC Media Day
— Texas Monthly (@TexasMonthly) July 17, 2012
“It’s safe to say that they’re going to hold up just fine,” wrote ESPN’s Travis Haney, “and a better question might be: Once Sumlin gets a few more recruiting classes under his belt, especially in that talent-laden state, how is the rest of the SEC going to hold up against the Aggies?”
In fact, Sumlin, Manziel and the Aggies defense were already having quite the season, which is why Andy Staples kinda, sorta saw this coming. Last week, the Sports Illustrated college football writer suggested that Nick Saban’s pre-game worries weren’t just the usual cliched coach’s poormouthing. Wrote Staples:
…[M]aybe Saban’s concern is genuine. He understands the game better than almost anyone. He knows everything is cyclical. The Crimson Tide won’t rule the college football universe forever. Some program will find the magic bullet to beat them, and then that program will rule for a while until someone develops an even more brilliant scheme. That’s how it always works.
Maybe Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin has found that magic bullet with the help of offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury and Johnny Football. . . . Someone will eventually create a way to beat Alabama and LSU, and, looking down the road a few years, it just might be the Aggies. They have a dynamic head coach who runs an exciting offense, and they sit in one of the nation’s most fertile recruiting grounds. . . .
After [the Alabama coach’s weekly radio show] show, I wished Saban luck on Saturday. “We’re going to need some, I believe,” he replied.
I believe he believes it.
Everybody, including Iowa State’s coaches, knew that on Saturday the University of Texas would run its first play out of the wishbone formation, a formation that Longhorns legend Darrell K. Royal, who died last week at the age of 88, made famous.
This is how it went:
Here, UT’s past met UT’s futuristic flashy offense. And the play was apt given that Royal, who was famously run-oriented, nevertheless reminded people in interviews that “the turning point” in every big game that his Longhorns ever won “was a completed forward pass.”
But current Horns head coach Mack Brown still needed a little convincing that it was an appropriate tribute, as he explained post-game:
We put ourselves in a little bind when I told the coaches I wanted to dedicate the first play to [former head coach Darrell] Royal with the wishbone. All the coaches said, “It’s Wednesday, and we don’t have one. So what are we going to do?” So these crazy young coaches come back to me with a double-reverse pass. And I said, “You are kidding. That would make him madder than anything if we do that.” And we deferred because he always wanted to defer. He never wanted to take the ball. He thought it was stupid football when you do that. Some people said, “Oh take it so you can have the first play of the game out there.” I said, “No. He’ll be really mad about that.”
So we decided that the only way I could justify the double-pass was that Coach [Royal] said, “When you throw a pass, three things can happen, and two of them are bad.” So I thought if you throw it twice, that means two good things can happen. So, that was the only way I could figure out how to make it work.
For a Few Hours, We Were All Aggies. Well, Most of Us Were.
During the game, we asked Texas Monthly‘s Twitter followers:
So, Horns, Raiders & Bears fans…. enjoying possibly [SIC] of upset, or just rootin’ against A&M?
Watch this slideshow, courtesy of Storify, for some surprisingly gracious and funny (but also predictably sour) answers:
TT’s Tuberville Slaps Graduate Assistant
Is Texas Tech inherently a place for coaches who can’t help but lose their s***?
When the school parted ways with basketball coach Billy Gillispie amidst allegations of player mistreatment, it was at least in part because Tech had ostensibly fired Mike Leach for that very reason.
And yet, Tech was also the place that gave Bobby Knight refuge from a similar history in Indiana.
Now, during a season in which third-year coach Tommy Tuberville has brought the program back to Big 12 relevance, he’s being discussed in the national media for this smack upside the head of graduate assistant coach Kevin Oliver during Saturday’s game against Kansas:
“Oh, I reached and grabbed him,” Tuberville explained during his press conference. “He was on the field, and I reached to grab him and pull him off. When I pulled, I missed his shirt and I grabbed his face mask and his microphone ripped off his head. I was trying to get him off the field.”
Nobody was buying it.
“I think he’s a good man and a good coach, but he made a terrible error” said ESPN’s Rece Davis. “. . . [T]here’s really no excuse for it.”
“His motion suggested anything other than a pull,” wrote John Taylor of NBC Sports’ College Football Talk. “The only pulling the coach is doing now is our collective legs. Or the wool over the eyes of the visually impaired.”
“[Leach and Gillispie] were fired after they put a player or players in harm’s way; why would it be any different for Tuberville?,” demanded Matt Hayes of the Sporting News (though he ultimately wrote that Tuberville should only be suspended).
Meanwhile, history appears to be repeating itself for Leach at Washington State, where recently suspended wide receiver, Marquess Wilson, is accusing Leach of abuse, a charge the school is taking seriously. More on that here at the TM Daily Post tomorrow.
Longhorns-Aggies Cotton Bowl Talk Cotton-Balled?
Last week’s fun “What If?” was the possibility that Texas A&M and the University of Texas would go no more than five weeks without meeting again on the football field . . . because of the Cotton Bowl, which generally matches the second or third-best teams from the SEC and the Big 12.
Now the Aggies may be too good for that game. Sports Illustrated‘s Stewart Mandel projects them for a BCS bowl, as does one of ESPN’s two experts.
That’s based largely on the assumption that whoever loses the SEC championship game (likely between Alabama and Georgia) will drop down to the Cotton or Capital One, leaving a spot open for either A&M, Florida or LSU. Those happen to be the two SEC teams to which the Aggies lost, but bowls don’t always pick on merit, and A&M is hot and novel. (That said, Mandel’s projection also assumes that Florida will lose its last game of the year to Florida State.)
Some have wondered if the two schools, and particularly UT, would be willing to square off so soon, which makes this recent column by Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports, written prior to the Alabama game, particularly interesting. Wetzel wrote that UT’s refusal to schedule A&M in everything from football to woman’s tennis is not a matter of spite, but rather, pure recruiting hardball.
“There isn’t anyone, even a Longhorns fan, who doesn’t realize that giving Sumlin an SEC membership to sell on the recruiting trails of the Lone Star State has some serious potential,” Wetzel wrote, before dropping the following bombshell via former Texas A&M athletic director Bill Byrne:
Byrne claims Texas is so aware of the Aggies’ potential that the Longhorns asked the other Big 12 schools to never again schedule them in any sport. That way recruits could be told that, unlike in the Big 12, they won’t get to play games across the state.