Going to a historic stadium that holds 100,000 plus and hosted the “granddaddy” college football game, numerous Super Bowls and soccer’s World Cup final, would be enough to raise a player’s anxiety level. Combine that with this being the first road trip for the freshmen Longhorns, you would think they might be on edge. But with the help of their coaches and experienced teammates, the young guns appear prepared for the challenge of this road trip to UCLA half-way across the country.
Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz and the rest of the coaches will teach the players about all the history that occurred at the Rose Bowl, but he believes some of the players who have never even been on an airplane before will be focused on other concerns.
“They’ll be wondering what the fasten seatbelt light means more so than who scored a touchdown at which end of the Rose Bowl,” Diaz said. “But it’s a great place to play. It’s why you come to Texas, to play in games like this.”
He said the coaches rely a lot on the older players to help with the freshmen and sophomores who have not experienced the rigors of travelling so far for games. There are a lot of distractions that go along with preparing for trip, the hotel and practice logistics in Los Angeles and the eventual game.
“They’ll probably be real quiet during ascent,” Diaz said. “During the first plane trip of the year, there’s not a lot of chatter going on when the plane takes off.”
So far this season, both on the field and off the field, this group of talented freshman have come through. Texas has used 18 true freshmen in their first two games. The continued development of these underclassmen is the key factor to the Texas’ return to excellence.
Freshman running back Malcolm Brown said he is very excited, yet nervous to walk out onto the field at the Rose Bowl.
“I’m nervous before every game,” Brown said. “I was nervous before the games in high school my senior year and I had been doing it for awhile. It is a little nerve-wracking, but once the first hit gets out the way, I’ll be fine.”
Senior Fozzy Whittaker said it’s vital that the team stays hydrated on the plane because traveling has the potential to wear players out and dehydrate them. In addition, he said a potential challenge that faces the younger players is the crowd, which is going to be loud.
“They need to make sure that they stay focused with the calls that are called and that you’re tuned in to your quarterback and offensive line,” Whittaker said. “Just zone into the field because the crowd is going to play a big factor.”
California native Blaine Irby is confident in the freshmen’s skills. He said despite the new-ness of this weekend’s game, their strong play will continue even with the trip all the way to California.
“You just let them know that it’s just football,” Irby said. “It doesn’t matter how big the stadium is, it’s still 100 yards and 50 yards across. It’s just one of those deals where you tell them it’s the same game that they’ve’ been playing since middle school.”
Head coach Mack Brown said the coaches attempt to make the trip fun and exciting, rather than full of anxiety.
“What you try to do instead of worry is prepare,” Brown said.