Standard of Execution

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By Ross Lucksinger
Posted Jan 10, 2013
Copyright © 2014 InsideTexas.com


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Mack Brown (Will Gallagher/Inside Texas)

Over the past three seasons, the Texas Longhorns have compiled a set of average records in a fashion that is something other than average.

In 2010, the unranked Longhorns beat No. 7 Nebraska in Lincoln before promptly losing at home to Iowa State. UT only managed five wins that season, and two of those were road victories at Nebraska and Texas Tech.

Games against Oklahoma come to mind as well. This past season No. 15 Texas walked into the State Fair and looked like a desperately out-matched Division III program. The Longhorns were even ranked higher the year before (No. 11) when they lost 55-17 to the Sooners.

Hopes were raised earlier this season after a surprising win at Texas Tech before the Horns turned around and gave up 217 rushing yards to TCU (a TCU team that finished 8th in the conference in rushing offense). Even in the Alamo Bowl the Longhorns not only played better in the fourth quarter, but they looked like an entirely different football team.

Sudden explosions such as the one we saw late in San Antonio may be enough to beat an Oregon State team without a quarterback, but the element that is most elusive to the Texas Longhorns – and is most important for a return to national championship-level performance – is consistency.

Consistency is a word that get thrown around a lot in football. But mostly it's to comment on the surface elements, the results of consistency (or, as in the above paragraphs, the results of inconsistency). The root is a standard of execution that the best have and the rest don't.

The example that stands out to me came from Alabama during the Tide's crushing of Notre Dame and collection of, yet another, BCS National Championship. Late in the game, Alabama center Barrett Jones stood up and shoved his quarterback, A.J. McCarron.

Like so...


(gif via SBnation.com)

There were immediate questions from commentators and critics were about what chemistry problem on the team could have caused this. Jones dismissed the talk, telling ESPN after the game: “We're both perfectionists. He's an emotional guy, and we had a snap count difference. I was right ... but whatever. It doesn't matter. We love each other and gave each other a big hug. That's just how we are, if you don't know us.”

A snap count difference. Think about that. They're winning by 28. There's seven minutes remaining in the game. They could kneel on every play and still win. Actually they could punt on every first down and still win their third national championship in the last four years.

The thought to just relax and soak in the moment did not occur to either. All that mattered was perfectly executing the play.

The importance of the quarterback in modern college football is undeniable from a schematic standpoint. And from a leadership strandpoint that's been the case since before leather helmets. But elevation of the position can become elevation of the person. Jones showed that this is clearly not an issue for the Crimson Tide.

The aggression did not emerge from a chemistry problem on the Tide roster. Nick Saban has gotten a group 18 to 22-year-olds to buy in, completely, to the idea that every play must be executed with perfection.

This column is, of course, unrelated to this week's rumors that Nick Saban would become the next coach of the Texas Longhorns. ...Ok, it's kind of related. But this isn't about whether or not Saban will be coming to Austin any time soon. Regardless of who is coaching the Longhorns, this level of execution is the standard that Texas needs if it is going to return to national prominence. Otherwise it'll be more inexplicable conference losses and coaches scratching their heads and saying, “We've just got to be more consistent.”

I'm not recommending that Dom Espinosa start slapping David Ash around, but consistency begins by making every play the most important of the game. Texas needs that level of urgency and it's been missing the past few years. Getting that back is the first step for a real return.

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