DALLAS -- They're either delusional, out of touch or totally in denial.
Perhaps it's a little of all three.
I don't know.
But if the Texas Longhorns -- THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS LONGHORNS -- think that "fighting hard" is something to be proud of after losing their second consecutive game in a year that began with a preseason top five ranking, well, I've got a copy of Vince Young's Guide to Throwing the Ball Downfield that I'd like to sell them.
"We fought our hearts out from the first play to the last play," said Texas defensive end Sam Acho. "We didn't care about the score."
Note to Sam Acho (and everybody else on the UT roster): It's time to start caring about the score. Because your fans care about the score, which is why Saturday's 28-20 loss to Oklahoma here at the Cotton Bowl on the heels of last week's 34-12 loss to UCLA down in Austin has folks in a frenzy. You don't play at Texas Tech or Texas A&M. You play at Texas. You are measured by wins and championships, not intangibles like the level of your effort and size of your heart.
That stuff doesn't register at Texas.
Nobody cares that you could've beaten Oklahoma for the fifth time in six games if you would've recovered Landry Jones' fumble in the final two minutes or avoided some of those stupid and ill-timed penalties. All that matters is that you've gone from a team with a top five preseason ranking to a team with a 3-2 record featuring one embarrassing loss and another to a rival. It's the first time you've dropped consecutive games since 2007, and now you're at risk of falling from the Top 25 for the first time since 2000.
A Top 25 without Texas?
That's like a State Fair of Texas without fried foods.
Makes no sense.
But it really could happen considering the Longhorns entered this game ranked 21st and looked mediocre while losing. And even if it doesn't happen this week it could certainly happen in two weeks because Texas' next game (after a bye) is at sixth-ranked Nebraska, where the Longhorns will be underdogs.
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"What else is new?" said Texas running back D.J. Monroe, whose 60-yard touchdown run in the first half was one of UT's few highlights. "We're always underdogs."
Since when is Texas "always" underdogs?
Again, this is THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS -- arguably the best football institution in America because it's big and powerful and the state school in a state filled with prospects. (Consider that 52 of the players on Oklahoma's roster are from Texas.) The Longhorns have won four national titles, 32 conference titles, produced two Heisman Trophy winners, averaged 11.2 wins per season the past nine seasons and finished ranked in the top three of the Coaches poll each of the past two years. The Texas Longhorns are always underdogs in football about as often as the New York Yankees are always underdogs in baseball, and yet the Longhorns really will be underdogs at Nebraska in two weeks. Barring an upset, they'll drop to 3-3 while losing a third consecutive game for the first time since 1999.
Which is why I was expecting total despair in the postgame press conference.
I instead encountered a group of guys who were obviously upset about the loss and how they lost it -- Did I mention all the dumb penalties and wasted opportunities? -- but still pretty OK with everything because, hey, at least they made progress from last week and fought hard. In fairness, I suppose that's a better approach than the alternative, the power of positive thinking and all that. But it was still strange to watch the Texas coaches and players find solace in their effort in a loss to a rival, in a loss that featured nine penalties for 81 yards, in a loss in which they trailed by double-digits for most of the second half.
"I want to congratulate OU on a great and hard-fought game," said Texas coach Mack Brown. "I think this is what people have come to expect out of these two teams."
I think not.
The truth is that people have come to expect more.
And Texas had better start delivering or this season will soon slip even further away.