My initial inclination following the Texas Longhorns' 31-22 win over Texas Tech was that everyone needs to stop figuring out what this team will do from one game to the next, because I'm done trying.
Mike Davis is one of the players on this team who has matured greatly.
What do you make of a team that stumbles and nearly falters against a one-win Kansas team one week, then puts together it's most well-rounded performance of the year in beating a team on the road that ranked in the top 20 in the BCS standings the following week?
Perhaps the answer resides in what I'm thinking about this Texas team The Day After a win the Longhorns desperately needed.
Maybe now we're closer than ever to figuring this team out. Maybe, just maybe, the win over the Red Raiders is a sign of things to come more than just another win.
One of the things the Longhorns showed in Lubbock that it hadn't shown much of this season was maturity across the board. I don't buy youth as an excuse as to why this team hasn't met expectations this season, but maturity is something that you can point to as something that can be acquired and can positively impact a team.
Young players eventually get older, but if they don't mature then they're just older football players who don't play well. Mature players who learn from experience and develop an edge are what championship teams are built with.
The one thing that's perhaps the biggest reason for optimism after the win, and maybe why this team can start to be one that can be figured out, is maturity.
While Carrington Byndom has been a good player during his career [last year more so than this] he showed maturity to keep battling and make two clutch plays yesterday. Steve Edmond and Cedric Reed took gigantic steps forward with each playing their best game as a Longhorn.
Mike Davis was the polar opposite of a mature player last year. Now he's become this team's go-to receiver and the type of big-play threat who can be counted on in the clutch.
Johnathan Gray is the type of young player who can help win a championship at Texas.
When we've talked about things like showing pride, being consistent and having a sense of urgency on a game-in, game-out basis, those are things that well-coached teams do, and things that mature football teams do.
Credit the Texas staff with doing the job that needed to be done to get this team ready to play in Lubbock. Also, credit the players with showing a great deal of maturity.
Maybe buying into the preseason expectations of this team was like going to the grocery store and buying bananas that are bit too green. They look great, but they're not ready and they need to ripen a little more before they can be enjoyed at their fullest potential.
You have to wait a little longer to enjoy them than you might like, but once they mature and ripen you've got some dang good bananas.
This team appeared to mature on Saturday in a big way, and it could be on the verge of being a dang good banana. We just don't if it's fully ripe yet.
One piece of fruit many felt had long turned rotted is Mack Brown. What does or doesn't happen down the stretch with this team is on Mack, and the one person who above everyone else in the locker room who needed to have a sense of urgency leading up to the Tech game and inside Jones AT&T Stadium on Saturday did.
Since the Oklahoma game, Mack has had the look of a man who knows exactly what's at stake. He said before the season that he could feel how close this team was to being an elite team in college football, and now he's having to get the most out of himself and this coaching staff to able to put together something tangible down the stretch to show that Longhorns are indeed close.
Nobody expected the turn to come at the expense two straight losses with one being another embarrassing loss to Oklahoma. The Tech win doesn't mean the debacle in Dallas should be forgotten or that this everything is back to the way it was pre-2010, but this Texas team looked like the complete team everyone was hoping to see coming out of fall camp against Tech.
Mack Brown and his staff did a great of getting the Longhorns ready for Tech.
There apparently haven't been any Knute Rockne speeches or quirky motivational techniques behind the scenes to get this team ready to play. Mack's message might have changed a little bit, but for a team that doesn't have great senior leadership if for nothing else the lack of numbers, what we saw in Lubbock can be chalked up in large part to a maturity across the board that hasn't been there this season.
Lack of maturity doesn't excuse the 42-point loss to Oklahoma. It doesn't excuse the issues this team has had on defense, and it doesn't excuse last weekend's near disaster against Kansas.
What maturity does explain is how this team was able to battle in Lubbock and come out with a win. It explains why even though things like winning a Big 12 title and going to a BCS game are out of this team's control, there's still a lot to play for down the stretch.
The best way the Longhorns can show they've matured – that the metaphorical fruit is ripe – is to do what it's expected to do the next two weeks and beat TCU and Iowa State. Maturity is what will allow this team to have the same sense of urgency it showed on Saturday over the next two weeks.
They'll need it because even though this team took a big step forward, it can still potentially take a huge step back if the maturity is merely a mirage and it falters. Iowa State and TCU can play the brand of football that will allow either team to beat Texas if the Longhorns show signs of being an immature team.
If Texas has truly turned the corner and wins the next two ball games, it'll be 9-2 heading into the regular season finale against what should be an undefeated Kansas State team. Winning the next two will also allow the Longhorns to win at least nine games for the first time since the 2009 run to the BCS title game, and will also help reverse a trend that's seen Texas go 4-6 in regular season games from Nov. 1 on since 2010, a number that includes the win over Tech on Saturday.
And in a season where all hope was seemingly lost not too long ago, there's still a chance the Longhorns can net a signature win this season and build a ton of momentum and confidence heading into 2013.
There's no question this team has been frustrating for fans to follow because of the inconsistencies it's shown. The Longhorns were remarkably consistent on Saturday, and could be in a position to put something together over the last three games of the regular season.
That's if the fruit is ripe, and doesn't need more time to sit.
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