AN OPPOSING VIEW
NEW ORLEANS — Georgia and Texas are playing each other for the first time in 34 years when they meet in the Allstate Sugar Bowl on Tuesday night. In order to gain some proper insight and perspective on the Longhorns, we needed to find somebody who not only knew everything there was to know about that storied program but, ideally, might’ve been also around for that Cotton Bowl matchup those many years ago.
When Kirk Bohls said yes, the Opposing View hit the jackpot.
As Bohls says, he’s “only” been covering the Longhorns since 1971. He first started his career as a sports journalist as a teen-ager writing for his hometown paper, the Taylor Daily Press. He picked up the Horns as a UT student writing for the Daily Texan shortly thereafter. Forty-five years later, Bohls is still writing about the University of Texas — and a lot of other things — as a columnist and the sports voice of record for the Austin American-Statesman.
As detailed in a great profile in the Daily Press on the occasion of winning another Texas sportswriter of the year award five years ago, Bohls also feeds the homeless every Tuesday and cooks for the them once a month. We also learn there that he is son of a Taylor, Texas, cotton farmer and Bohls and his wife Vicki have three grown sons.
As for the Longhorns and Tuesday’s matchup with the Georgia Bulldogs, here’s what Bohls had to say:
1. You’ve been covering the Horns for a long time. What has been holding them back in recent years from enjoying the success they had not so long ago?
Bohls: I’ve only been covering the team since my days at the Daily Texan on campus in 1971, but I’ll give it a go. Texas has been held back by complacent coaching from Mack Brown, who admitted he had a pity party after losing to Alabama in the title game in 2009 and whose Longhorns were never quite the same, and unfortunately bad coaching by Charlie Strong, who was never lucky nor good. Strong lost his starting quarterback, David Ash, after his first game in Austin. He was plagued by bad decision, poor quarterback play and a lack of leadership. Mostly, Texas hasn’t been Texas because it’s dropped the ball at the quarterback position since Colt McCoy (Mack Brown didn’t offer Heisman-winning quarterbacks from Central Texas that went to Baylor and Texas A&M or J.T. Barrett, who wanted to be a Longhorn, or Andrew Luck because Brown thought he had the answer in Garrett Gilbert) and didn’t have an offensive lineman even drafted by the NFL in nine years. Poor recruiting and a lack of evaluation and development have made Texas nationally irrelevant.
2. What has been your read on Tom Herman, and is there anything about him that indicates he’s going to be more successful than previous coaches?
Bohls: Herman is the original Urban Meyer starter kit. He’s very smart and very intense, he knows what he’s doing, he has tunnel vision when it comes to football. He recruits well, has a knack for playing big in the biggest games but has less than stellar performances against lesser teams like Maryland, Tulsa and Baylor. With nine wins and a spot in the Big 12 title game after two years represents huge strides, and he seems to have solved the quarterback dilemma with sophomore Sam Ehlinger. He wants to win with strong defense, which could represent the very square peg in the round hole that is the Big 12.
3. What would you say is the vibe of the UT fan base about playing Georgia and about being in the Sugar Bowl?
Bohls: Overjoyed, I’d say, but maybe they should be careful what they wish for. They know they might be overmatched a bit, but Texas frequently plays to the level of its competition. Longhorn Nation loves a big-game setting whether it’s the Rose Bowl or Sugar Bowl and will turn out in a big way. The fans are ever hopeful Texas is back, which has become a punch line of late. The smart ones know Texas won’t be back until it sustains big-time success (10 wins or more) several years in a row.
4. What is your familiarity with the Georgia phrase, “it’s always 10 to 9 in Texas?” Were you at or do you remember anything about that last matchup in the 1984 Cotton Bowl?
Bohls: Never heard of it. OK, OK, I’ve heard of it, but Texas fans still claim its linebacker Mark Lang was held illegally on Georgia’s one touchdown. That one was a big-time hurt. It denied Fred Akers, Darrell Royal’s successor, a second chance at the elusive national championship. The Longhorns had a great defense that year but often sputtered on offense. I was at the game and mostly remember Craig Curry’s fumbled punt, which Texas fans have mostly gotten over much like Red Sox have a certain ground ball through Bill Buckner’s wicket. Akers thought Georgia was going to fake the punt on a fourth-and-10 on its side of the 50 and kept his regular defense on the field instead of the punt return team. Hello, disaster. Akers never survived.
5. I love Austin but haven’t been there in years. What’s your thoughts on Athens, GA, have you been there before and do you plan to be there when the Longhorns visit in 2029.
Bohls: Alas, I have never set foot in Athens, which remains unchecked on my sports bucket list. I’ve always been told it’s one of the most picturesque campuses and regret my travels have never taken me there. I just might have to hang around for that 2029 game as long as they have wheelchair access to the press box. I ain’t getting any younger.
I fear Texas may be a bit over its skis in this matchup unless Georgia is still heartbroken over its painful loss to Alabama or eats too many beignets. I think Ehlinger will give a great account of himself. He’s a star in the making and has three dynamite receivers, but this game may require too much of the Longhorn defense. Hey, there’s always the French Quarter. Texas is just thrilled to be in the national conversation again and should be, so long as Maryland doesn’t show up on the schedule any time soon.