This isn’t an ordinary road trip for Texas.
Not only are the Longhorns heading into SEC country to play Ole Miss, but they will be breaking their normal pre-game routine.
“Normally you take young guys to the dressing room and to the stadium and let them walk around and get a feel of what’s around them,” head coach Mack Brown said. “We will not be able to do that because it’s an hour-plus trip from Memphis down to Oxford. It will be the first time the guys have seen the place, right before they play the game.”
As Brown said, the Longhorns will stay in Memphis on Friday night, then cross state lines into Mississippi the next morning, as there are no available hotels in Oxford, Miss., or Tupelo, Miss. This doesn’t sound like a big deal, but in a sport that’s built on structure, routine and discipline, it will be quite a bit different for the players.
Still, they’re not too worried. The stadium may be in foreign territory, but it still is 100 yards long with a pair of end zones and goal posts.
“It is still a stadium, we’ll see it when we get out there and warm up [before the game,]” defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat said.
The standards may be the same at Vaught-Hemingway stadium for the upperclassmen, but for a group of young starters and freshmen it represents their first road test. And it’s not an easy one at that; the Rebels pack their venue with a loud and rowdy bunch.
But the elder statesmen on the Longhorns’ roster have spent the whole week funneling advice to the players who are less experienced with playing on the road.
“I think us as older guys we’ve got to kind of show them the ropes and show them how to handle themselves on the road, said linebacker Jordan Hicks. “But I think if you channel the emotions right, it will be good for you.”
It’s not all about handling rude fans and the nerves of playing in a hostile stadium; a big part of the trip is just getting there.
“It’s really a 48-hour experience. It goes from when you wake up Friday morning, you have to pack differently,” said defensive coordinatior Manny Diaz. “You have to make sure your tube of toothpaste has less than three ounces — that type of stuff.”
Once the players make sure they aren’t overstocked on toothpaste, the trip becomes an opportunity to see new places and experience unfamiliar cultures. Some of the players on the roster have never flown before, and some haven’t ever set foot in Mississippi, so it’s a great opportunity for the players.
However, they would be quick to tell you the best part of hitting the road is the chance to bond with their teammates.
“I like traveling,” right guard Trey Hopkins said. “I like going on the road and seeing different places. I like that aspect of the plane ride with the team.”
Once the team arrives at Vaught-Hemingway, though, the fun will be over. By then it won’t matter who won the game of cards on the plane or who got stopped by security because they forgot to remove the spare change out of their pockets. It will come down to Texas’ performance on the field against Ole Miss.
“It’s going to be a test. [Strength and conditioning coach] Bennie [Wylie’s] been talking all week about how crazy it gets down at Ole Miss,” said safety Kenny Vaccaro. “But we’re ready for it.”