The Longhorns strutted off the field after their win over Texas Tech, the merriness of the “Eyes of Texas” radiating from their faces. Seniors, especially, in their last night at Darrell K Royal–Texas Memorial Stadium, portrayed a healthy dose of holiday-like spirit.
Players quickly dressed to head out of the stadium, as parents waited to whisk them home for a quick post-Thanksgiving visit.
But, as many students roll into campus Sunday, dragging in leftovers and clean laundry, the Longhorn players will have shifted their focus to Baylor. The team is one week away from its first Big 12 championship — at least a share of one — since 2009.
A conference title for this team was almost inconceivable two months ago and, even now, holds the same sense of disbelief. This team is led by a group of players whose strengths are nearly equally foiled by what should be insurmountable faults.
A fill-in quarterback that exudes moxie but can’t chunk the ball farther than 30 yards consistently? Check.
A No. 1 wide receiver that makes spectacular catches and plays but often lets simple catches bound off his hands? Check.
A legendary coach on the brink of unemployment, fighting to keep his job? Yep, the Longhorns have that too.
This Texas team is essentially an extension of a TV drama, a sequel to “Friday Night Lights,” if you will. The elements are all there, anything a producer could think to throw at this team has been leveled this season.
A young quarterback star falling to injury early in the year, a coach fired because of poor performance, injuries to a different player nearly every week: It’s all there, even suspensions and some last-minute game-winning magic, results which seem more appropriate in a perfect script than for Texas.
The Longhorns have been counted out frequently this season, but they’ve always clawed back. After two early losses and the dismissal of Manny Diaz, Texas reeled off six-straight wins, including an upset of rival Oklahoma. When Texas suffered its worst home loss in the Mack Brown era against Oklahoma State, it didn’t wallow. Instead, the Longhorns held the Red Raiders to their lowest point total in two seasons in the win.
It’s almost the season finale. With two episodes remaining, the producers have the opportunity to deal Texas a resounding triumph or yet another taste of defeat. Baylor will be the Longhorns’ penultimate challenge. A top 10 team stands in the way of a Big 12 championship and redemption for a senior class that’s suffered through the worst four-year stretch at Texas in two decades.
A history of cheesy movies and unforgettable dramas says Texas’ cast of challenged characters will come away with the victory. But this is where fiction and fact separate; no producer will yell cut if the Longhorns fall behind.
The end of the script is blank. It’s up to the Longhorns to fill it.