1 play away from a perfect Season in 2008.

Discussion in 'On The Field' started by Billy Dale, Sep 20, 2021.

  1. Billy Dale

    Billy Dale The History of Longhorn Sports through 2014

    By LARRY CARLSON Nov 9, 2008

    I was about 30 feet away.

    I remember watching Curtis Brown get shucked like a tamale before Michael Crabtree regained his balance from Brown's attempted tackle and tiptoed in for the biggest Texas Tech touchdown of all time.

    The first night of November 2008.

    Dateline: Lubbock, Texas.

    What seemed like a lot more than 55,000 Red Raider fans shrieked as one, and hordes of them poured immediately onto the field.

    It had been an exhilarating college football atmosphere, starting with the drive out west. Not far past the edge of the Hill Country, the air had grown cool and crisp and I noticed red and black streamers decorating gnarled, weathered fence posts and shiny ranch gates, starting even before we hit Brownwood. West Texas is Red Raider territory and there's always a palpable spirit of such, as cotton fields and telephone poles scoot by beneath electric-blue skies.

    It was going to be a huge game. Texas had ascended to the No. 1 spot in college football by beating number one Oklahoma, 11th-ranked Missouri and seventh-ranked Oklahoma State in a 15-day span. So now the swashbuckling pirates of Texas Tech coach Mike Leach would be hosting ESPN's GameDay crew along with the Longhorns.

    Hundreds of Tech students, warmed and fueled by copious amounts of beer and bourbon, had been spending the week camping out next to Jones AT&T Stadium. Friday night was Halloween and the craziness really got amped outside the stadium, with still almost 24 hours until kickoff. A few of us walked through the tent city, talking to giddy students and fans who were sharing food and looking forward to ESPN's national spotlight being, for the first time, on the South Plains come sunrise.

    When Crabtree scored with one second on the clock, I thought Curtis Brown had carved himself an ignominious spot atop the short list of all-time Longhorn goats. Maybe he would crowd out the unfortunate Craig Curry, forever linked to his fumble of a Georgia punt that enabled the Dawgs to beat Texas, 10-9, and keep the Horns from a national championship on the first day of 1984.

    I said as much to another member of the media as we all huddled a short distance from the visiting Longhorns' media room, awaiting the nod to enter and hear from Mack Brown, Colt McCoy and company at the post-mortem.

    "What about Blake Gideon?" came the writer's response.

    From the hazy perspective on the opposite sideline, all I could tell from the play before Crabtree scored was that a hurried Graham Harrell pass had fallen incomplete, inciting a collective gasp from the crowd. Sidelines are not the best for vantage points and depth perception. But the other writer had witnessed it clearly from the press box before a late descent toward the interview area. He had seen the pass skip off a would-be receiver's hands and surprise Gideon, the aggressive freshman standout who couldn't secure what would have been a game-clinching pick. And a few seconds later, the Raiders had aimed at their best receiver over on my sideline as the clock ran low.

    If Brown had wrestled Crabtree successfully and downed him in bounds, it's possible that Tech wouldn't have been able to call timeout and try a short field goal. Or maybe they would've missed or had a second one blocked on this night.

    Maybe if McCoy, one of the headiest players in UT history, had stayed in bounds instead of deliberately going out — admittedly, after taking a ruthless pounding all game long — right before Vondrell McGee's go-ahead touchdown from the 4-yard line, with 1:29 to play, perhaps Tech would never have had the time to do what it did.

    Or maybe if Texas hadn't allowed the Red Raiders to return the ensuing kickoff all the way out to the 38-yard line, Harrell couldn't have dinked-and-dunked to set up the game-winning pass.

    Maybe if Texas hadn't come out flatter than the South Plains topography and fallen behind 19-0 (with Greg Davis-hating fans cursing the offensive coordinator for a safety on UT's first play from scrimmage, a deep handoff from the 2-yard line), well, perhaps things would have worked out from the get-go.

    Maybe, maybe, maybe.

    Blake Gideon was a 19-year-old freshman that night. He had already started every game and had played very well. He would go on to start all 52 games in his Longhorn career, second-best on the "starts stats" at UT, and merited honorable mention All-Big 12 honors all four seasons.

    He's now an assistant coach at Georgia State, after getting tutored by his old defensive coordinator, Will Muschamp, at Florida and South Carolina, plus a year on his own at Western Carolina.

    It's possible that he is haunted by what might have been on that strange night in Lubbock that's now a decade in the rearview mirror. Or maybe, as defensive backs are reminded, he forgot it in time for the next play.

    And in spite of that Crabtree catch, you don't hear people cursing Curtis Brown.

    And they shouldn't.

    What Texas fans should remember is the 2008 squad emerged from the loss in Lubbock to go down as one of the very best burnt orange units ever.

    They not only beat three stellar ranked teams in a row before the "woulda coulda shoulda" dance with Tech, but they bounced back and ran off three more wins in November (including delivering a 49-9 body slam to Texas A&M on Thanksgiving night ) and beat another top-10 team, Ohio State, in the Fiesta Bowl for a 12-1 record. In the current playoff era, Texas would’ve been a cinch for the semi-finals. This writer will always, always consider them a notch above the team that played Alabama for the national championship the next season. Who knows? A play here and there and Texas wins three national crowns in five years.

    So it has been a decade, and a strange one at that, for football at the University of Texas and the legions of fans who back the burnt orange. Maybe it's one long fever-dream. Mack, Emmanuel Acho and Jordan Shipley now call 'em as they see 'em from the broadcast booth. Colt carries a clipboard. Earl Thomas carries on with accolades albeit not in his desired Dallas Cowboys uniform. And though Muschamp was given the keys to "coach in waiting" status behind Mack barely two weeks after the Crabtree catch and 39-33 Red Raider triumph, he never saw the open road on the Forty Acres.

    Maybe the Twilight Zone didn't begin when Colt McCoy grimaced and held his shoulder as he came off the field during the opening drive against Nick Saban and Alabama. Maybe it started 14 months earlier, out on the flatlands that Sports Illustrated, perhaps unfairly, used to regularly refer to as "America's ugliest campus."

    I watched a Western movie recently and was gripped by the climactic scene of impending doom. One grim-faced cowboy complained to another about their misfortunes as a desolate nightfall approached.

    "Luck don't live out here," is all his fatalistic friend could reply.

    And I thought back ten years, to Lubbock in 2008.

    Texas vs. texas tech ticket stub 10201983.jpg

    Larry Carlson saw his first Longhorn victories in 1960 and grew up in a bedroom that was painted burnt orange. He was the sports director and host of "Longhorn Locker Room" for KVET radio from 1977-79 and later co-hosted "Longhorn Pipeline" on San Antonio's ESPN Radio affiliate from 2008-2011. He has been teaching broadcast journalism at Texas State University since 1984 and resides with his wife in the Alamo City.

    Write to Larry Carlson at lc13@txstate.edu
    • Like Like x 4
  2. Clean

    Clean 5,000+ Posts

    I thought Earl Thomas was just as much to blame as Brown. He ran over as if to help, but didn't do a damn thing, plus he didn't try to get between Crabtree and the goal line. He just ran out of bounds upfield from the play. Strange.
    • Agree Agree x 5
  3. Phil Elliott

    Phil Elliott 2,500+ Posts

    I've always said that if the world was right, Colt McCoy would have had 2 NCs and a Heisman and would have gone down as the greatest Longhorn QB ever. But the world ain't right.
    • Agree Agree x 8
    • Like Like x 1
  4. Statalyzer

    Statalyzer 10,000+ Posts

    If only we had a playoff back then.
    • Agree Agree x 3
  5. Driver 8

    Driver 8 Maybe

    I don't recall any such game
    What a terrible story you have fabricated, shame on you
    • Funny Funny x 5
    • Like Like x 1
  6. huisache

    huisache 2,500+ Posts

    Thomas was trying to avoid a penalty for late hit as he thought Crabtree was already taken care of. He never hesitated to hit anybody again. One of my all time favorite Horns.
    • Like Like x 2
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  7. n64ra

    n64ra 1,000+ Posts

    Hmm, interesting thought. There are nine good teams to consider. In order of AP Poll ranking:
    1. Florida - 1 loss, conference champion, conference championship game
    2. Oklahoma - 1 loss, conference champion, conference championship game
    3. Texas - 1 loss, beat OU
    4. Alabama - only Power 5 team with undefeated regular season, loss in conference championship game
    5. USC - 1 loss, conference champion but no conference championship game
    6. Penn State - 1 loss, conference champion but no conference championship game
    7. Utah - 12-0 but in Mountain West Conference
    8. Texas Tech - 1 loss, beat Texas
    9. Boise State - 12-0 but in Western Athletic Conference

    Coaches Poll before the bowls had OU, UF, UT, Bama/USC (tie), Penn State, Utah, Texas Tech, Boise State

    UF and OU are in.
    Utah, Tech, and Boise State are out.
    Which two of Texas, Alabama, USC, and Penn State get it?
    I might think the conference championship game matters but that only helps Alabama. I doubt they'd pick round two of Florida/Alabama here, which means conference championship games don't matter. That might get USC and Penn State in over Texas. :(

    Even if I put on my burnt orange glasses to give Texas the #3 spot, how do we pick USC or Penn State? USC's loss was to Oregon State, who Penn State happen to play and beat that season. They both played Ohio State and won - USC by a lot. Penn State's loss was to Iowa by one point. Feels like a toss up, which leads me back to the CFP picking both conference champions over Texas. :(

    Hopefully it would have fallen in line like the AP or Coaches Polls, but it's all for fun so doesn't really matter here in 2021.
    • Like Like x 1
  8. zuckercanyon

    zuckercanyon 2,500+ Posts

    when you go out of bounds, the clock stops. Tech wasn't going to miss that field goal.....even if the Crabtree attempt was incomplete.......Gideon's non-interception was the only chance.....acknowledge my contempt for said freshman was not gentlemanly.....just saw the undefeated season go awry....OU would've made a better showing if DeMarco doesn't go down in the Big 12 championship game...
    • Agree Agree x 1
  9. wadster

    wadster 5,000+ Posts

    If I remember this game right Colt threw a terrible pic (was it a pic 6 I can't remember). Also Ship dropped a wide open and sure TD pass. I think if we're going to blame players, let's blame the best players on the team and not true frosh Giddeon. There was plenty of blame to go around that game, but I put the most blame on Mack. We snapped the ball with 10-15 seconds on the clock multiple times. We had complete control of that clock and choked it worse than the Cowboys did yesterday. Mack gave them the chance and then asked his players to make up for his bone headed clock management. Mack was never a good game day coach and why we lost games we just shouldn't have. This was one of them.

    I still think we should have gone over OU. We lost on the road, they lost on a neutral field. TT lost on the road. Really that simple. Pollsters try and apply transitive properties to football which you just can't do. Whether one team wins by 28 or another wins by 42 means NOTHING. Pace, run vs pass offense all factor in. If you're going to look at that at all, look at pts per possession on both O and D. Much better indicator.
    • Like Like x 2
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  10. Mike the Texan

    Mike the Texan 250+ Posts

    Thank God I will be at the game so I don't have to watch that F@#$%&g play during the broadcast.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  11. zuckercanyon

    zuckercanyon 2,500+ Posts

    The problem is when we won/they lost. They lost to us and then went on a run including demolishing TT after they beat us. Sad, but if you win them all, you don't have any open wounds to pour salt in...
  12. dukesteer

    dukesteer 5,000+ Posts

    Gideon’s drop will live in infamy. However, I think that Mack badly mismanaged our prior drive, leaving too much time on the clock. There was little doubt that if Tech had the time, they were going to take it right down the field. So while Gideon was the goat (not GOAT), better clock management would have all but eliminated any opportunity for the Red Raiders.

    What I also remember were all the non-holding calls on their O-Line. For example, all the choke holds on Orakpo by their tatted up tackle. The refs were not on our side that night. (What a shocker.)
    • Agree Agree x 1
  13. wadster

    wadster 5,000+ Posts

    Wasn't Rak hurt and off the field on that last drive? One sack wins the game too. So many ways we could have won that game.
  14. wadster

    wadster 5,000+ Posts

    That's my point on transitive property in college football. Killing TT at home and playing them in Lubbock is night and day different. We all know that but the national media just doesn't. And sure we could have won them all, but nobody won them all that year. Big 12 was loaded. We crushed undefeated Mizzu and Okie Lite. Beat OU by 10. We should have gone because we were the better team and we wouldn't have **** the bed like OU did. Notice we beat tOSU in the BCS. We were just better and proved it on the field. Proved it in the final rankings too. 08 was a much better team than 09. We missed Quan terribly in 09.
    • Like Like x 1
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  15. BevoJoe

    BevoJoe 10,000+ Posts

  16. dukesteer

    dukesteer 5,000+ Posts

    We did crush Missouri but Oklahoma State was a different story. We basically survived, 28 - 24.
  17. wadster

    wadster 5,000+ Posts

    Yes, you're right. Sorry my memory isn't as good as it used to be. I also can't remember if Colt's pick in the TT game was a pick 6, or just a pick. My minds telling me it was a pick 6, but I'm not 100% on that. I do remember Ship dropping a wide open deep ball that was probably 6.
  18. Clean

    Clean 5,000+ Posts

    Not buying it. Crabtree was on his feet and fighting for the goal line. **** even if he did get a penalty it would have been better than what happened.
  19. Clean

    Clean 5,000+ Posts

    Digging ourselves a 0-19 hole to start the game was a killer. Then we whittled it down to 13-22, or something like that, and Colt threw a pick six. On our last drive, the piss poor clock management didn't help. I remember thinking "too much time is left" when we scored the go ahead TD. It didn't help that we let them run the KO back to the 40 yard line either. That team had a lot of fight, but too many mistakes doomed us, not just Gideon's bobble.
  20. n64ra

    n64ra 1,000+ Posts

    Agree. Of the three teams, Texas had it the hardest.

    Texas had to play on the road and at a neutral site. Hardest.
    Tech got to play at home and on the road.
    OU got to play at home and a neutral site. Easiest.

    OU won by 44. Best.
    Texas won by 10.
    Tech won by 6. Worst.

    Texas lost by 6. Best.
    OU lost by 10.
    Tech lost by 44. Worst.

    Texas wins two categories, and OU wins one.

    The only reason OU was voted ahead is the notion that voters must punish recent losses more than old losses. OU lost on October 11, Texas on November 1, and Tech on November 22.
  21. lkainer

    lkainer 250+ Posts

    I think one of the biggest factors creating that loss was the fact that Quan Cosby was injured. Colt with Shipley and Cosby was unstoppable. I could tell early on we had trouble adjusting minus Cosby.
  22. BornOrange0855

    BornOrange0855 100+ Posts

    I think OU was selected also in part because their offense was considered so much more explosive than ours. To me, that OU team was like a bully. If they punched you in the face and you didn't punch back, they rolled over you. If you punched back like Texas and Florida did, they ran home crying to mama. Head to head should always be the dominant criteria. We got screwed.

    And to the OP, why bring this up now? I was almost over it until being reminded of it. :e-face-tears:
    • Agree Agree x 1
  23. Statalyzer

    Statalyzer 10,000+ Posts

    Yep. They got more credit for blowing out A&M by 38 than we did for blowing them out by 40, because they had a higher scoring total than we did.

    They are fans of claiming they don't lose to Texas if Ryan Reynolds doesn't get hurt and they don't lose to Florida if DeMarco Murray doesn't get hurt. What about us having Quan Cosby and Brian Orakpo (2 of our best 5 players) both hurt in the Tech game?
  24. havoc7701

    havoc7701 Sponsor and Aggy Ridiculer

    Good ‘ole OSackpo - we need guys like that on today’s defense!
  25. wadster

    wadster 5,000+ Posts

    If memory serves the humans slightly favored us over OU. It was the computers that put OU into the Big 12 CC game. The computers factored in margin of victory too much IMHO. Penalized teams that didn't play fast which should be a style of play but not one that is necessarily better or worse. What matters more is pts per possession.
  26. n64ra

    n64ra 1,000+ Posts

    Coaches Poll prior to Big 12 CCG: Bama, OU, UT
    Harris Poll prior to Big 12 CCG: Bama, UF, UT, OU

    so you are half right. :)

    AP Poll didn't matter as it wasn't part of the BCS in 2008, but for the record, it had Bama, UF, UT, OU.
  27. p_town_horn

    p_town_horn 1,000+ Posts


    What kind of sick bastard tortures us with this memory. I was at the game, decked out in burnt orange in the Tech alumni section with about 10 of my in-laws, almost all of whom are Tech grads. That was a bitter pill to swallow.

    Now .... back to crying reading the article.....
  28. Phil Elliott

    Phil Elliott 2,500+ Posts

    Don't forget that scumbag Art Briles voted us 8th in the coaches poll.
    • Agree Agree x 2
  29. p_town_horn

    p_town_horn 1,000+ Posts

    That's the second worst thing he ever did. Right behind being an accessory to dozens of rapes.
  30. Horns11

    Horns11 5,000+ Posts

    I know there's no such thing as a transitive property in comparing sports teams, but I actually think the "system" got it right in 2008.

    I'd love for head-to-head to be the determining factor, but in a case like this, I just don't think it can be.

    OU had a tougher schedule than us outside of getting Tech at home. For nonconference, they beat Cincy (made a BCS game) and TCU (was ranked at the time) while we had far fewer viewers against Arkansas, Rice, FAU, and UTEP.

    But the biggest factor to me is the OU/Tech game. Tech crushed OK State (who we needed timely, close play to beat) the week after us and was riding high, and OU just effing dismantled them. To the point where they struggled against Baylor and got their asses kicked in the bowl game. If you had to put the Texas/Tech, Texas/OU, and OU/Tech games on a spectrum of determining the importance of teams in the Big XII at the end of November, then OU/Tech would be so far ahead of both of our games against either team.

    To put it another way, I just don't think our win over OU was as impressive as Tech's win over us or OU's win over Tech.
    • WTF? WTF? x 1

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