AUSTIN, Texas – Just when everybody counted Mack Brown out, when the vultures were circling and message boards were ablaze, he did it. His Longhorns beat Oklahoma. Actually, they dominated Oklahoma.
For the first time in a long time in this rivalry, Texas wasn’t just the more physical and confident team in the Cotton Bowl. This team was better coached than the Sooners, too, and that was impossible to miss on Saturday.
It was a fitting and much-needed outcome for Texas coach Mack Brown, who for weeks has repeatedly said he’s living one week at a time, focusing only on the Longhorns’ next foe and trying to ignore all the clouds and thunder overhead.
One Texas player admitted after the game that the team had to “save his career” on Saturday. Brown didn’t talk defiantly about what this win meant, though he had the right to after so few gave his team a chance.
“I think it says more about the state of college football and that anybody can beat anybody on Saturday if you play better than the other team,” Brown said. “It is all about how you play, and if you go out there and stand around, you probably can’t beat anybody.”
For all that has happened in six games, Brown’s week-by-week belief seems to be helping. He’s not letting his team ride the roller coaster of highs and lows, even if a 36-20 victory over the Sooners is about as high as Texas has known in four years.
“We can’t do that. We have to get back to work, and that is what these guys did,” Brown said.
He said all the right things on Saturday, that what mattered was that Texas is 3-0 in the Big 12 and its seniors got a final win over OU. Privately, though, you have to imagine he savored this victory as much as any in his career.
There will be many who say the victory over OU doesn’t change the end game. Perhaps Texas was already past the point of no return, no matter the result of this game, and that a new head coach will be coming to Austin this offseason regardless.
There is a time for that discussion, and it is a lengthy one. But now isn't that time.
Brown put himself in a difficult spot this season with all of his offseason vows that Texas was about to go on another big run. He set the bar of expectations high. Then his team started 1-2 and he fired his defensive coordinator two games into the season. Time to panic, right?
“I know it’s hard to believe, but as a coaching staff we really don’t pay a whole lot of attention to what media says,” offensive coordinator Major Applewhite said. “We really try to keep our kids in line and make sure their minds are ready to go.”
The hiring of Greg Robinson as Texas’ defensive coordinator is showing promising results, none better than in the OU game. That bold move is, at least for the time being, paying off, and Robinson fully understood what beating the Sooners meant for Brown.
“It is all-important for Mack Brown because, let me tell you something, I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Mack Brown,” Robinson said. “I just wanted to come help him, because he is that kind of guy. I think our players feel the same way and I know our coaches feel the same way.
“He’s a good person and he has had tough situations that he has been having to deal with here for a while. I’m just so happy for him; I really am. I think he deserves it.”
If his team, coming off a bye week, stumbles at TCU and takes that first conference loss, the rumor machine starts up again and the expensive chair in his office gets a little more uncomfortable. That’s the nature of college football and the roller-coaster ride.
But for one day and one game, the head coach reminded his doubters he’s not done fighting. Mess with Mack and you just might get the horns.