Several of the Longhorns players admit that it felt unusual playing a team other than Texas A&M last Thanksgiving.
The game lacked the same excitement that it had in previous Thanksgiving affairs against the Aggies, and Texas suffered a 20-13 loss to a TCU team that it had not played since 1995. Even defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat, who missed last year’s game with a torn pectoral muscle, noticed a lack of intensity without A&M on the field.
“I just think it was something we had to get used to,” Jeffcoat said. “It was just different. You had to get used to not play A&M on Thanksgiving.”
The Longhorns don’t expect to face this same issue this year, especially with longtime rival Texas Tech coming into town for the holiday matchup. While Texas has enjoyed considerable success against the Red Raiders in recent history, senior quarterback Case McCoy always expects a dogfight against the
“We’re excited about playing Tech honestly,” McCoy said. “We were there last year. Tech and this program don’t get along. They spoiled some things around here and they’re not going to spoil it again.”
In addition to wanting to defeat their rival, the Longhorns figure to bring an edge against the Red Raiders due to the game’s postseason implication. Texas maintains its ability to win at least a share of the Big 12 title with victories in its final two games, and a win Thursday allows the Longhorns to hold on to any remaining hope for an outright conference championship.
Likewise, head coach Mack Brown told his players that they must perform better this year if they wish to continue hosting Thanksgiving games in the future.
“We’ve told our players that if you want to have an exclusive game on Thanksgiving night, then you need to make it something that everybody in the country is excited about seeing,” Brown said. “It was that way for many, many years and it wasn’t
While Brown was dissatisfied with last season’s loss to TCU, he remains hopeful that the Longhorns will turn things around in their second season without Texas A&M on the schedule.
“I was disappointed [last year],” Brown said. “I thought there would’ve been an edge from everybody last year playing TCU because it was new, and it was old Southwest Conference. I think the Texas-Texas A&M game has been special for so many, many years. It was who we were. It was more of a transition than I thought. Hopefully it’ll be better this year.”
Junior running back Malcolm Brown expects the transition period to be over, and he expects the Longhorns to be ready to play in front of the national audience Thursday, regardless of opponent.
“From A&M to a different team, we want to treat every game the same,” Brown said. “Of course the tradition that us and A&M had was great, but they got out of the conference so we’ve got to play someone else on that day.”
The Longhorns realize the critical importance of Thursday’s game for their title hopes, and they believe they will have no issue bringing a renewed edge this year against their longtime rivals.