The Eyes Of Texas Are Upon Whom?
This year was supposed to restore balance to Texas football. Their No. 15 ranking to open the still young, now deflated season reflected that. The combination of veteran leadership, fresh offensive schemes, and a collective agenda of atonement had many fans across Texas buying into Mack Brown’s resurgent rhetoric.
After the Longhorns’ 44-23 home loss on Saturday night to an Ole Miss squad they blew out as visitors just twelve months ago, it’s apparent that UT hasn’t improved a lick – they’ve regressed. The Longhorns last opened the season 1-2 in 1998, Brown’s first season in Austin. It’s not far-fetched to suggest that this 1-2 start is the beginning of his last.
Adversity weighed on the team all week. The brains of their defense, Manny Diaz, was fired following BYU’s rushing onslaught last Saturday, and starting quarterback David Ash did not practice all week due to head and shoulder injuries sustained in the game’s fourth quarter.
The embattled Longhorns met No. 25 Mississippi on Saturday looking to snap a six-game home losing streak to ranked opponents. The defense, overseen by new coordinator Greg Robinson, was in the spotlight and buckled early, as the Rebels burst out to an early 14-0 lead.
UT rallied to take a 23-17 edge into halftime behind impressive relief duty from quarterback Case McCoy, who’d started for Ash after he’d been ruled out on Thursday. The senior backup was 11-13 for 104 yards, with 2 touchdowns, no interceptions, and no sacks in what was a strong half of football throughout, save for two consecutive false starts on the goal line that turned a touchdown into a field goal.
Ole Miss scored the game’s final 31 points, beginning with a field goal as the first half expired. From there, the Texas offense couldn’t revive what they accomplished in the first half. While the defense was breaking from the will of Rebel quarterback Bo Wallace and diminutive tailback Jeff Scott, Case McCoy’s offense stalled on three consecutive three-and-outs, and accumulated only 100 yards throughout the entire second half.
Scott compounded UT’s defensive woes by scooting to the outside for 164 yards on 19 carries, later extinguishing hope of a Texas comeback with a shifty 73-yard punt return.
What happened Saturday night was the confluence of a team on the rise and one taken down yet another notch. How can Ole Miss, ranked but formerly an SEC bottom-dweller, have such superior all-around talent to the University of Texas? The sentiment’s especially true at the skill positions, both Ole Miss’ Scott and Texas’ Jonathan Gray had 19 carries, but Scott rushed for 71 more yards and looks like a bonafide pro prospect.
No matter how chummy Mack Brown is with his superiors, athletic director DeLoss Dodds and school president Bill Powers, his team is on the precipice of abject disaster entering Big 12 play, and the collective frustration of Longhorn Nation may be enough to override administrative loyalties if the slide persists. One need not look any further than the 100,000 boos ringing out from DKR during when the stadium aired a public service announcement geared towards the beleaguered figurehead.
Longhorn fans have grown accustomed to a standard of excellence Brown himself crafted out of the middling John Mackovic era. And while he deserves—and has received—substantial acclaim for his service as head coach, there can be no sacred steers in the business of winning and losing.
Texas football isn’t just losing: It’s losing its identity, one loss at a time. How much longer until the program becomes a punch line?
The longer Texas breaks all the wrong records and endures home beatings to ranked opponents – with whom they also compete for prized recruits – the harder it’ll be for the program to rebuild, no matter who’s in charge.