The turning point was when Mack Brown got red-faced raving mad. His cheeks puffed up as Mr. Nice Guy let loose with a spew of bile that had his players’ eyes wide and their cleats trembling. It was about time. His Longhorns were pathetic. Oklahoma State bitch-slapped them up and down the field and crazy Mike Gundy was trying to hide the smirk nesting somewhere beneath his winter tan. Mack the back-slapper, the pal, the go-with-the-flow soft-salesman blew a gasket. And his team responded for an improbable 38-35 comeback win that may say as much about Gundy’s ability to lose as Brown’s need to win.
This one was necessary. In College Station the Dennis Franchione death watch is counting down the days, the minutes. Two games to go. Same for Bill Callahan at the University of Nebraska. Win or die. Be cut free to hang in the breeze and rot. No, this wasn’t an essential win for Mack Brown. This was the game instead that said it wasn’t a fluke two years ago. That the string of 10-win seasons didn’t just happen to a nice guy. Brown was frothing at the mouth because his players were embarrassing him with a string of missed tackles and piss-poor pass defense. They were playing like chumps, and this time it didn’t look like they’d wake up. But they did, and Daddy was smiling as the final seconds ticked off.
How’d it happen? Jamaal Charles was a lightning bolt. For the second week in a row he ripped up large chunks of turf, then he demanded more. No fumbles. Not a one. Mea culpa, Jamaal. All is forgiven. Hold that ball tightly. Run, Mr. Charles. Run free and often. Colt McCoy was thrown around like a rag doll but got up and begged for more. The defense woke up and held the Cowboys scoreless for five straight late-game series as the OSU lead slowly dwindled. And Ryan Bailey, Mr. Reliable, booted it through the uprights with ease after the Cowboy kicker failed to do the same.
But mostly this was about Mack Brown showing his teeth. It began two years ago when he started going for it on fourth down more and more often, Bob Stoops style. It’s about cojones, friends. Sure, he grabs the opposing coach midfield in the aftermath and whispers sweet nothings into his ear. But he’s got a taste for blood, and that’s good. Could the Horns, this battered, rattled, injury-depleted band of survivors win out? Maybe so. First they’ve got to figure out a way to stop Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell’s steely arm just enough to live for one more week. Then they can feast on Fran’s corpse as the Corps Turds stand at attention. Mack Brown will smile, put his arm around Fran’s shoulder and make it all better.
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