Football

Daily Longhorn football history: The 2008 season

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Posted August 25th, 2017

The Texas football program dates back to 1893. Each day, we look at a little piece of Longhorn history. We’re starting by looking at each Longhorn football season. 

In January of 2008, Texas made changes to its defensive coaching staff. Larry MacDuff’s one-year run as defensive coordinator was done. Co-Defensive coordinator Duane Akina returned to being the defensive back coach and rising star assistant coach and Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp became the coordinator.

The YouTube clips of him were going viral. He said things when he got angry.

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With the new defensive coordinator in place to coach a loaded group and an offense that still had one of college football’s top quarterbacks, Texas was in good position to have a strong season. But the pressure was a little lighter than previous seasons. Texas had begun the past eight years ranked in the Associated Press preseason top-10. But this year they were No. 11.

Texas started the season 8-0. After beating No. 1-ranked Oklahoma 45-35, Texas went to No. 1 in the nation.

AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN: Rodolfo Gonzalez – 10/11/2008 – University of Texas’ #8, Jordan Shipley turns and runs upfield against the Oklahoma Sooners during fourth quarter of Big 12 action held at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas, on Saturday October 11, 2008. Texas defeated Oklahoma 45-35.

The Longhorns beat three consecutive AP top-15 teams: Oklahoma, Missouri and Oklahoma State.

A fourth game against a ranked team, No. 6 Texas Tech, followed.

A strong case can be made that the 2008 season is the best the conference has ever been. When Texas went to Lubbock to play Tech on Nov. 1, four Big 12 teams were ranked in the top 10 of the BCS standings. A fifth team, Missouri was No. 14 and a sixth team, Kansas, had just dropped out of the rankings.

Texas was no stranger to high-scoring shootouts against Texas Tech, and now the Red Raiders and coach Mike Leach had their best team ever and were 8-0 — the same record as Texas.

Tech opened a 12-0 lead and led 22-6 at halftime. The Red Raiders led 29-19 after the third quarter.

Texas scored two touchdowns in the final quarter to take the lead, 33-32.

Then came the final drive of the game that featured two of most the famous plays of the Mack Brown era. Both are not remembered fondly.

Blake Gideon is the son of a successful high school football coach, Steve Gideon, who coached nearby Leander High School to several long playoff runs. His son was one of the best players he coached.  A talented defensive back, Blake Gideon started 52 straight games at safety — the second most starts of any Longhorn player.

Blake Gideon graduated from Texas with 276 tackles and 10 interceptions.

But it’s the interception he didn’t catch his freshman season that Longhorn fans remember.

With less than 1:30 to play in the game, Tech took the ball drove across the 50-yard line. With less than 14 second left, Tech snapped the ball, quarterback Graham Harrell rolled to his left, let a pass go and it appeared Blake Gideon picked off the pass with nine seconds to play.

But he dropped what would have been the game winning-interception.

There are Longhorn fans who still blame Gideon, nine years later, for Texas not winning a national championship — even though the game wasn’t finished.

The Red Raiders still needed to score and weren’t in field goal range. On the very next play, this happened:

It was the play of the year. Michael Crabtree’s 28-yard touchdown with one second remaining in the game threw the college football world into chaos.

“We’ve won a whole bunch of these, ” Brown told reporters. “Tech won it tonight.”

Texas didn’t lose again the rest of the season.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma hadn’t lost since falling to Texas in Dallas.

Two weeks after Tech’s win over the Longhorns, the Red Raiders played Oklahoma. Some Texas Tech fans still cringe when House of Pain’s “Jump Around” is played. The Sooners destroyed Tech, 65-21.

A three-way tie for the Big 12 South was happening. The winner of the division would likely have a good shot at the BCS National Championship Game. Leach suggested that the Big 12 South tiebreaker be based on graduation rates. It wasn’t.

Entering the final week of the regular season, Texas actually led in the BCS standings over Oklahoma. But Texas was playing a 4-7 Texas A&M team. Oklahoma was playing No. 11 Oklahoma State on the road. Since the tiebreaker was going to be the BCS formula, Tech wasn’t really a factor unless both UT and OU lost. The Red Raiders were playing Baylor and first-year coach Art Briles.

Tech barely won, 35-28. Texas bashed the Aggies, 49-9. Oklahoma had its second-straight week of scoring at least 60 points and beat the Cowboys, 61-41.

The Sooners won the division, beat Missouri 62-21 and were the No. 1 team in the nation heading into bowl season. They were to play No. 2 Florida in the BCS title game.

Texas finished third in the BCS Standings and received an invite to the Fiesta Bowl to play Ohio State.

Off the field, the Texas storylines were getting headlines also.

On Nov. 18, 2008, Texas and athletic director DeLoss Dodds made one of their biggest missteps when they named Muschamp the head coach in waiting. Few thought it was bad idea.

Statesman columnist Kirk Bohls wrote: 

All he needs is a little polish around the edges. He has the coaching acumen as one of the best game-day adjusters I’ve seen. He has a feel for the game’s flow and connects with the players like few others who have been at this school in some time. He’s the real deal.

Why was this a misstep? Because Brown hadn’t really given any public indication that he was pondering retirement. He was 57 years old at the time. Muschamp doubled his salary when this was announced. The move was made in part to ward off other programs from hiring Muschamp, namely Tennessee which had just moved on from Phil Fulmer.

Statesman reporter Suzanne Halliburton wrote:

Brown made the announcement to the Longhorn football team Tuesday afternoon, shortly before a news conference making it public.

Brown stressed that he had no set date to retire. He’s in line for a $1 million bonus if he’s the coach after this season. He’ll also earn a $2 million bonus if he stays through 2009. His current base salary is $2.91 million, and his contract calls for an automatic $100,000 annual raise.

“I don’t want someone to think this is the twilight for me. It’s not, ” Brown said. “I have had absolutely no thought of quitting, at all.

“This team has rejuvenated me. I think we have a great future.”

With the future in place, it was McCoy who was now trying to make Texas history. The junior rushed for 734 yards and 11 touchdowns. He passed for 3,859 yards — the most in school history — with 34 touchdowns and just eight interceptions on 433 attempts. He even completed an amazing 76.7 percent of his passes.

Of course he was nominated for the Heisman. He, Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford and Florida’s Tim Tebow were invited to New York. Tebow was the reigning Heisman Trophy Winner.

ORG XMIT: NY206 Heisman Trophy finalists, from left, Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford, Florida’s Tim Tebow and Texas Colt McCoy applaud during Heisman Trophy presentation ceremony Saturday, Dec. 13, 1008 in New York. Bradford won the award. Tebow won the award in 2007. (AP Photo/Kelly Kline, Pool) ** POOL PHOTO **

Bradford threw for 4,721 yards and 50 touchdowns (read that again) and just eight interceptions.

McCoy did not get the award, but it was close. The margin was the narrowest in seven seasons.

“I think if we’d had the opportunity to play (in the Big 12 title game), things would have been a little different, ” McCoy told reporters, “but give credit to Sam.”

The focus shifted to Ohio State, which had beaten McCoy in his second start in Austin.

The No. 10-ranked Buckeyes were led by freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor and running backs Dan Herron and Chris “Beanie” Wells.

The game was a classic. The two mega powers took it down to the wire. First Ohio State regained the lead with 2:05 left to play on a 15-yard touchdown pass from Pryor to Herron.

There was too much time left. McCoy went 78 yards on 11 plays in 1:42, capping off the drive with a 26-yard touchdown to Quan Cosby to give Texas a 24-21 lead with 16 seconds left.

Ohio State didn’t score and Texas improved to 3-0 in BCS bowl games.

Bohls wrote after the game: 

The Longhorns put the wraps on one of the most exhilarating and satisfying seasons ever as Heisman runner-up Colt McCoy directed the nation’s third-ranked team to a late touchdown and a 24-21 victory over 10th-ranked Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl.

McCoy was returning for the 2009 season. Brian Orakpo was riding into the NFL sunset. Earl Thomas had established himself as one of the best defensive backs in the nation. Jordan Shipley was back.

All of the pieces were in place for another run at the national championship, which for the first time since Vince Young’s magical run would be held back at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.

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