• San Diego or bust: Texan staffers recount the grueling journey

    Mack Brown talks with the media after The Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl press conference early Tuesday. Brown spoke of his great admiration for the University of California football program and their coach, Jeff Tedford, whom he holds in high regard
    Mack Brown talks with the media after The Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl press conference early Tuesday. Brown spoke of his great admiration for the University of California football program and their coach, Jeff Tedford, whom he holds in high regard

    Road trip to San Diego both enjoyable and productive

    Time flies when you’re having fun.

    And a lot of time flew by on the way to San Diego – a little under 18 hours to be exact.

    Elisabeth Dillon drove for the first 15 of those hours, not including the hour and a half she spent picking up Lawrence Peart and I. How she managed to stay behind the wheel from 11:30 a.m. Monday morning until 2:00 a.m. (4:00 a.m. back in Austin) early Tuesday morning across four states, stopping only for gas, remains a mystery to me.

    Lawrence kept everyone entertained through his frustrations playing Paper Toss and multiple triumphs while playing Monopoly on the new iPad I got for Christmas. If his Monopoly performance is any indication of how he can succeed with real money, he has the potential to become quite the businessman.

    During our last few hours in Texas and our first couple in New Mexico, I was frantically refreshing the web page on my iPhone trying to keep track of how Drew Brees – the quarterback on all four of my fantasy football teams – and the New Orleans Saints were doing against the Atlanta Falcons on Monday Night Football. Brees’ 307-yard, four-touchdown outing was more than enough to allow me to capture two fantasy football titles as the former Westlake High star broke Dan Marino’s single-season passing record and helped the Saints clinch the NFC South in the process.

    We rolled into San Diego at around 4 a.m. and wandered around until about 8 a.m. Incredibly, neither Elisabeth nor Lawrence got hungry during the road trip, eating a granola bar, a few crackers, and a couple of oranges between them. I grabbed a bite to eat at Subway the first time we stopped for gas but the three of us did not all enjoy a meal until we reached our destination and stopped at the Family House of Pancakes – a place notorious for its huge portions.

    They certainly did not disappoint as I was presented with an omelet that, as Lawrence described, “looks like there could be a small infant inside.” Along with heaps of potatoes and three giant pancakes, it looked like a scene from Man vs. Food when the waitress set the gargantuan dish in front of me. But like Elisabeth driving from Texas to San Diego, I could not have finished without Lawrence’s help.

    A press conference and a pit stop at Trader Joe’s later, the three of us were finally able to enjoy the comforts of our Holiday Inn hotel. We were all glad to have a shower to use and beds to take naps on, but this road trip was one to remember.

    -Christian Corona

    Robot Dillon takes us to the land of milk and honey (pancakes and syrup)

    Google Maps estimated that the drive from Dallas to San Diego would take 21 hours. Elisabeth Dillon got us there in 18, and it could have been less, a lot less. We hit some traffic near Abilene and definitely lost some ground when I took over at the 16 hour mark because I drive like an old woman looking at the mountains. I echo Christian’s sentiments in my equal disbelief that she could remain awake in the face of such monotony. I even asked her if she was getting tunnel vision. She wasn’t.

    After many hours of real-estate domination and asking E-Dill if “we were there yet”, I rolled the Mystery Mobile into a pitch black San Diego morning at what I assumed was 6:45 am, curious as to why the sun hadn’t come up yet only to be reminded that California operates two hours behind Texas. It wasn’t even five in the morning. Check-in at our hotel was at three in the afternoon so we had a few hours *cough* to spare. I parked the car near Mission Bay for a quick nap, we (Christian kept sleeping) watched the sun rise over some distant wharf, heard a few seagulls complain incessantly, and walked around Seaport Village until 8am. By then the sun was out and you couldn’t help but agree with what Californians are always gloating about: even in December the weather was heavenly.

    Yelp happily suggested that if we were looking for “the best breakfast in San Diego” on a limited budget then the place to go was Family House of Pancakes, a wonderfully yellow-tinged 70’s motel of a place that clearly assumed that you hadn’t had anything to eat in 6 months. Christian’s omelet should have been shipped off to feed a third-world country, Elisabeth’s pancake plate could have doubled as a quilt, and my egg combo plate almost did the unthinkable by just about filling me up. That only happened after I cleaned off a third of the delicious omelet. We work as a team here at The Daily Texan.

    We then headed to the Omni hotel to see Mack Attack (Mack Brown) in good spirits, talking about the final game of the 2011 campaign against California, before finally making our way to our hotel to rest our legs and minds. The three of us have covered a lot of football this semester, when I think about it. I don’t think it’s going too far to say that after seeing the same people and the same personalities go through so much with you right there that it all becomes a part of you in some way. Regardless of the outcome tomorrow night there will inevitably be that small, gnawing feeling of loss, like parting with someone close to you. But these things happen, and you can’t replace the memories, whether they be of all that happened on the field (Tucker!) or everything leading up to the game. San Diego will be no exception.

    -Lawrence Peart

    Proving Google Maps wrong

    I didn’t really know what to expect from this road trip, because I had only been thinking about the football game and what would happen when we actually got to San Diego. So, looking back on the trip with Christian and Lawrence, it’s nice to be able to say that it was a great one.

    Cutting three hours off of the estimated Google maps travel time to San Diego was a fairly big accomplishment for me. Each time we stopped at a gas station, it was like a badge of honor to figure out how much time we had been trimming off the original estimation. Really, though, the drive wasn’t bad. I had some entertaining company to say the least. Lawrence was pretty enthusiastic about Monopoly on Christian’s iPad. And Christian was pretty enthusiastic about his fantasy football leagues.

    Lawrence finished the drive into San Diego (slowly, might I add) and we got there at 4:30 am local time. We had some major time to kill before our hotel check-in time that afternoon, so we found a spot to watch the sun rise. Christian slept, but Lawrence and I watched a California sunrise. It’s unbelievable to me to think that 24 hours before we had been sleeping in Texas.

    The next big stop was breakfast. I don’t think I could do justice to describing the amount of food that the guys ate. There was not a single piece of food on their plates. Christian’s omelet was insane, and he was lucky to have Lawrence to help him finish it off. I just can’t fathom the amount of food that was on our table. As they each finished their plates, I could only watch in shock. And after we left the restaurant, Lawrence started planning his next meals. I just don’t understand.

    The rest of the day was spent just counting down the hours until we could check into the hotel. And now I’m sitting in the most comfortable hotel bed there ever could be and watching bowl games in preparation for tomorrow.

    This was my first semester shooting for Texan, and I can’t even believe all of the great things I’ve experienced working at this paper. I’ve been lucky enough to shoot some great football games this year, and go on several other football road trips with Lawrence, but this has to be the biggest one. San Diego is something the three of us will remember forever.

    -Elisabeth Dillon

  • Two five-star recruits top Longhorns' Christmas list

    It's that time of the year again. The nation's top high school athletes have all but wrapped up their football seasons and it's time for business. While many recruits have pledged their allegiance to their college of choice in the form of strong verbal commitments, and now official signings, there are still a few high-profile athletes that have yet to make their commitments official.

    As of right now two of the nation's top three players, defensive end Mario Edwards and wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, have yet to ink their national letters of intent as to where they will play their college football. It just so happens that both players list Texas as one of their final choices in the recruitment process. Here's a breakdown of what Edwards and Green-Beckham bring to the table and where Texas stands in landing the pair.

    Mario Edwards

    Edwards, a 6-foot-4 270-pound monster, is listed as the top player in ESPNU's 150 (an annual list compiled by ESPN/Under Armour ranking the nation's top 150 high school seniors). While the Denton native is currently listed as committed to Florida State, he has since waivered on that decision and has been shopping other offers for quite some time now. Edwards is somewhat a rarity at the defensive end position as he can stop both the pass and the run exceptionally well. His quickness and strength are unmatched by any player in his class. He's already got the size of an elite end, and if inserted in a strength and conditioning program like that of Texas', he could blossom into an absolute beast on the edge. Edwards would be able to compete for immediate playing time on the line and if he puts on any more weight he could become a potent run-stopper at the defensive tackle spot. Anywhere he plays he'll make an impact.

    After taking his official visit to Austin in November it was revealed that Edwards felt right at home around the Longhorns' other commitments for the class of 2012, and that him becoming a Longhorn was beginning to become more feasible. Not to mention that one of Edwards' high school teammates at Denton Ryan, linebacker Alex de la Torre, has already pledged to play for the Longhorns in 2012. Edwards told the Daily Texan that Texas was his new favorite and gave the Longhorns a 65-percent shot, and his signature would catapult an already impressive recruiting class into the stratosphere in terms of talent and potential.

    Dorial Green-Beckham

    Another gift that the Longhorns would love to unwrap this holiday season would come in the form of a 6-foot-6, 220 pound receiver out of Springfield, Mo. Ranked No. 3 in the ESPNU 150 is Dorial Green-Beckham, whose size will immediately kindle memories of another giant receiver that simply goes by "Megatron" (the Detroit Lion's Calvin Johnson). While DGB still has a way to go before he reaches one-name-fame, he certainly has all the tools in place. What he brings to an offense could be compared to the versatility of a Swiss army knife. Not only can he torch opposing cornerbacks with 4.4 speed in the 40-yard dash, but with hands the size of small countries, he can snag nearly anything thrown his way. Add the size of a billboard and it's easy to see why this guy has garnered offers from seemingly every university in existence. Should Texas sign DGB, it would be an immediate boon to the offense and would make the Longhorns a serious national title contender. He's that good.

    Green-Beckham took his official visit to Austin the same time that Edwards did and he seemed to like the feel of the 40 Acres just as much. Conservative estimates have the possibility of DGB becoming a Longhorn in the 70-80 percent range as well. If the decision does indeed come down to Arkansas and Texas, it could be a tough call for Green-Beckham. One caveat is that he wants to stay close to home because of an ailing younger brother, but reports are that his health is improving.

    Should Texas sign either one of these players they would receive a plus player at either position and would benefit immediately. If not, they still have a superb class of athletes coming in that will no doubt impress as the next year unfolds. Green-Beckham and Edwards are more than must-have players, they are undoubtedly tops on Texas' wish list. Wouldn't it be a nice present for the Longhorn nation if they were to sign soon.

  • Texans to Watch the Rest of the Year

    The Houston Texans dropped their last game against the Panthers, and with it came a much needed knock back down to reality for Texans fans who were ready to buy Super Bowl tickets. Houston achieved its first playoff berth by tackling each game one at a time, and will have to continue to do so as the season wears on. With as many injuries as its sustained, however, doing so will require an especially inspired effort from the few players the Texans have left.

    OLB Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed

    When Mario Williams suffered a season ending pectoral injury after only the Texan’s fifth game, few thought the linebacking corps would be able to pick up Williams’ record setting pace. But instead of regressing, the Texans defense got even better, really fast, and it has been largely due to the outside linebacker duo of Reed and Connor Barwin stepping up their games. The two have combined for 14.5 sacks (six for Reed and 10.5 for Barwin) in 11 games. Barwin even recorded a sack against the elusive Cam Newton. To secure home-field advantage in the playoffs, the Texans will need their ferocious OLB duo to rattle the Colt’s Dan Orlovsky and Tennessee’s Matt Hasslebeck in their final two games. It’s a task they can absolutely handle, but it’s imperative that they are at the center of the defensive charge.

    RB Ben Tate

    Speaking of the injury bug, guess who the next player bit was? Backup running back Ben Tate has been phenomenal this season, serving as the bruising complement back to the speedy Arian Foster. However,  Tate was listed as limited with a hamstring injury for Monday's practice. The coaches expect him to play Thursday against the Colts, and they better hope he does. With a rookie quarterback, the Texans offense depends disproportionately on the run game and Foster can’t take all the touches. Foster has also had troubles holding on to the ball as of late which has opened the door for more Tate touches. He was held to just 26 yards against the Panthers, but is averaging a respectable 65 yards a game given his limited touches. This perfect complement back will have to play like a starter every snap he is in for the Texans to make noise in the playoffs.

    G Antoine Caldwell

    Much of the Texan’s success this season can be attributed to the play of the offensive line. But as the story has gone for most of the season, the line hasn’t been without injury. With guard Mike Brisiel out, Antoine Caldwell was the next man up. He started against the Panthers, a game where the line gave up two sacks, but he played well for the most part. He has three years of NFL experience, and played for a college coach (Nick Saban) who knows a thing or two about building NFL-caliber offensive lineman. All he has to do is protect the rookie T.J. Yates and make room for his running backs, but who knows if the extra load will be too much to handle. If he proves to be a weak link on the line, it could spell trouble come playoff time. Teams are blitzing the young Yates to test him, so Caldwell will have to play his assignments perfectly to give him time to throw.

    TE Owen Daniels

    Well, let’s start with what we all should have just assumed was going to happen. Daniels is hurt. He tweaked his knee against the Panthers and could be out against the Colts Thursday night. The injury doesn’t look season ending, which is important for T.J. Yates. Daniels has emerged as his favorite target, as Yates is prone to send him the ball on crossing routes. He’s got 53 receptions for 637 yards and three touchdowns on the year. He had a100 yards receiving against the Bengals two games ago and possesses that “big play” ability to move the chains. If Daniels not there against the Colts, it’s no big deal. But if he isn’t healthy come playoffs, the Texans will be missing a key component to their offense that has provided them a key receiving threat all season.

    Photos by Lawrence Peart | Daily Texan staff

  • Tebowmania reaching nauseating levels

    Tim Tebow has been one of the NFL's most polarizing athletes. The Bronco's quarterback has helped his team win seven of its last nine games, but has yet to display the traditional, necessary skill set to be an elite signal caller.
    Tim Tebow has been one of the NFL's most polarizing athletes. The Bronco's quarterback has helped his team win seven of its last nine games, but has yet to display the traditional, necessary skill set to be an elite signal caller.

    Miami quarterback Matt Moore has led the Dolphins to wins in five of their last seven games, throwing 11 touchdowns and only two interceptions during that span.

    Last year’s Heisman Trophy winner and No. 1 overall pick Cam Newton hasn’t had as much luck racking up victories for the 5-9 Panthers but has scored 30 touchdowns and is on pace to amass nearly 5,000 total yards this season.

    Texas native Andy Dalton, a rookie quarterback like Newton, has helped Cincinnati double its win total from last year as the 8-6 Bengals have a chance to reach the postseason for just the third time since 1990.

    But thanks to Tim Tebow, nobody cares about that. Not nearly as much as they care about the God-fearing former Florida star who Linda Cohn called the “Mile High Messiah” on SportsCenter Saturday night.

    The next day, Tebow and the Denver Broncos fell to the New England Patriots, 41-23. Denver built a 16-7 lead early in the second quarter, a shocking development considering how slowly Tebow usually started games. But Tom Brady – a three-time Super Bowl champ who somehow took a back seat to Tebow last week – and the Patriots reeled off 27 unanswered points en route to beating the Broncos.

    How fans, TV analysts, writers, and sports radio talk show hosts will react in the coming days remains to be seen. But one thing is certain – they will be talking about Tim Tebow, just like they have since the season began. There are the apologists and cynics, supporters and doubters, lovers and haters. And because of the polarizing figure Tebow has become, there isn’t much gray area for people to roam. You have to pick a side.

    It’s not Tebow’s fault. It’s those that cover him – those that declare “Tebowing” an actual word, those that air “’Twas the Night Before Tebow” songs the night before he plays, and those that provide fuel to the Tebow fire that has engulfed the NFL.

    Tebow’s and the Broncos’ story is a remarkable one but one that has been framed in the wrong way, that is, every twist and turn has been framed in terms of Tebow. Denver’s most recent contest should be seen as another dominating performance by Brady, Belicheck, and the Patriots that saw Tebow deliver a promising performance. Nonetheless, Tebow is sure to get the lion’s share of attention.

    The Broncos’ most recent victory could have been perceived as one of the year’s most entertaining games and improbable comebacks. Denver could not have triumphed without all three of its units coming through down the stretch – believe it or not, multiple players were responsible for the victory.

    That seemed like the obvious way to look at the game, considering the fact that Bears tailback Marion Barber lost a fumble in overtime, a scenario made possible by Matt Prater’s 59-yard field goal in the final seconds of regulation. Prater’s 51-yard boot sealed the Broncos’ 13-10 win in overtime. But you didn’t hear nearly as much about the clutch kicker as you did about his quarterback.

    Instead, the mainstream sports media has put Tebow on a pedestal he’ll fall off of eventually. He certainly stumbled Sunday. The second-year signal-caller threw for close to 200 yards, ran for nearly another 100, and scored twice against a mediocre New England defense. But he lost 53 yards on four sacks and a fumble that led to a Tom Brady touchdown run that would provide the Patriots with all the points they would need.

    Tebow is an average quarterback with below-average passing skills and above-average mobility. His uncanny ability to make plays when it matters most is undeniable and he doesn’t turn the ball over often. His teammates clearly feed off his unyielding will to win and play better because they’re around him.

    But Tebow is by no means an elite NFL quarterback and far from one that can lead a team to the Super Bowl. He hasn’t even completed half of his passes this season. Calling Tebow “a winner” would not be entirely accurate because it does a disservice to the Broncos’ much-improved defense and Prater, one of the league’s best kickers. One should correct themselves and characterize Denver’s team “a winner” before making that mistake.

    And don’t call me a Tebow hater. I’m a Tebow realist.

  • Griffin's top stats puts him in strong running for the Heisman

    Baylor's Robert Griffin III deserved the Heisman this year, and few can dispute it.

    First and foremost, his numbers were gaudy this season. Griffin completed more than 70 percent of his pass attempts when opponents blitzed him with 11 touchdowns and no interceptions. He completed 50 percent of passes more than 25-yards . . . for touchdowns. . . 20 of them to be exact.  

    For the Texas fan that needs reminding, you may recall the second play from scrimmage when the Longhorns rolled into Waco this season. Griffin threw a 59-yard bomb to Kendall Wright that was so perfectly placed, even the Baylor fans seemed to yawn.  

    Second, people will say that winning matters, and that Trent Richardson, Alabama's bruising back, had both the wins and the stats to earn himself the trophy.  But the award is meant to go to the best player in the nation, the player the best lifts the talent around him. All season, Griffin gift-wrapped highlights for his wide receivers, Kendall Wright and Terrance Williams. He shelled out touchdown after touchdown, and rarely ever turned the ball over, all things that make his team look good.  

    But I'd say the biggest reason he won the Heisman is because of  the grand trajectory of his college career and how he transformed the Baylor program.

    "This is unbelievably believable," Griffin said during his acceptance speech. "It's unbelievable because in the moment we're all amazed when great things happen. But it's believable because great things don't happen without hard work."

    Griffin shared the stage with four incredible collegiate football players. But for someone who took a program as obscure and unimpressive as Baylor's and turned it into one of the country's strongest, even if just for a few years, the decision to honor him as the nation's best seemed like a no-brainer. The program only has a few memorable season's to its name, and even less memorable players. The Bears are 540-539-44 since 1846, their first year to field a team. They haven't finished a season ranked since 1986, and the last time they won a conference championship was in 1994 with a sad 7-5 record in the old Southwest Conference.

    This year the team is ranked 12th, its got a 9-3 record and it beat Oklahoma for the first time in school history.

    "Everybody associated with Baylor has a reason to celebrate tonight," he said.

    He's right. Every Baylor Bear should celebrate. Griffin has done more for the program than any athlete at that school has since former Bear quarterback and current NFL assistant coach Mike Singletary did in the late 1970's and then some. And while they party out there in Waco-town, they'll likely beg the junior to come back for one more season. Don't count on it happening Baylor-nation.