Of Mack Brown’s 154 wins as head coach at The University of Texas, few can eclipse the sweetness of this afternoon’s unfathomable 36-20 Longhorns’ victory over archrival Oklahoma. Texas was a 14-point underdog at kickoff Saturday morning against the No. 12 Sooners and their ninth-ranked defense – the longest odds heaped on the program since 1989.
Ever since Sept. 7’s BYU debacle (which was of course then followed by a home-loss the to No. 25 Ole Miss), UT football fans have raged with debate and conjecture about whether Texas’ woes – which date all the way back to 2010 – are disproportionately the fault of a lame-duck head coach.
The hearty contingent championing an overhaul that starts with Brown’s termination must feel bittersweet now, that the thrill of getting long-awaited retribution – a major upset, no less – against the reviled Sooners likely buys the source of their frustration more time at the helm. Still, numerous college football analysts from around the country are on record with the opinion that Brown’s a goner at season’s end anyway, what with the upcoming installation of a new athletic director to succeed 32-year veteran, and Brown loyalist, DeLoss Dodds.
Regardless of if Brown stays or goes, suddenly, though, the program’s previously tired mantra that they were serious contenders for the Big 12 title has received an unexpected jolt of credibility. And the Longhorns (4-2, 3-0 Big 12) earned it with a well-rounded Cotton Bowl showing that must’ve surprised even themselves.
Texas supplemented a landmark performance by senior backup starter Case McCoy with two interceptions on defense – including one 31-yard pick-six by nimble defensive tackle Chris Whaley – and a Daje Johnson punt-return for a touchdown in the third quarter to give Texas a 29-13 advantage.
McCoy, one of numerous Texas seniors angling for their first win over Oklahoma, was again a serviceable game manager despite lobbing-short a screen pass to Malcolm Brown that was nabbed and returned for a 55-yard touchdown by OU defensive end Geneo Grissom. Offensive coordinator Major Applewhite broke character and dialed-up some deep plays for his weaker-armed signal-caller, and McCoy put a pair of long touchdowns square in the hands of Marcus Johnson (59-yards) and senior Mike Davis (36-yards).
In a game where everything clicked for Texas, victory is all but assured when a team can run the ball at will and stymie the opposing offense. UT’s 23-10 halftime lead and eventual 36-20 victory featured a host of contributions, but the efficacy of tailbacks Jonathan Gray and Malcolm Brown kept the typically formidable Sooner defense on their heels all day. Together, the pair dashed and smashed for a combined 243 yards on 52 carries and were instrumental in stretching Texas’ time-of-possession (35:15).
Although it feels unfamiliar, we don’t have to worry about the Longhorn defense until further notice. Oklahoma and quarterback Blake Bell were hard-pressed to move the ball with consistency and were stifled on third downs, converting only 2 of 13 attempts. Pretty wild that 263 yards of total offense were all the nation’s 12th ranked team could muster against an oft-maligned rival defense.
Of Texas’ last three games – all wins – two have featured strong defensive showings. Hard to argue at the moment, as some persist in doing, that Greg Robinson is a has-been coordinator akin to a band-aid over a bullet wound.
The Longhorns did the unthinkable today. Now their job is simple until they face a gauntlet of ranked Big 12 teams to end the regular season: Don’t squander this goodwill so quickly.
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