National Columnist

Texas may have beaten BYU, but it only delays inevitable


Good for Texas for escaping with a victory against BYU. Doyel doesn't like its chances against tougher teams. (AP)  
Good for Texas for escaping with a victory against BYU. Doyel doesn't like its chances against tougher teams. (AP)  

AUSTIN, Texas -- The small picture is a happy picture. Texas coach Mack Brown was smiling and cutting up. His team rallied in the fourth quarter to beat BYU 17-16.

"What a win -- what a comeback win," Brown gushed afterward. "We're 2-0. That's the story."

Well, sure. I guess. If you're looking at the small picture, encapsulated by three steamy hours on a Saturday night, that's the story. If that's all you want to see, that's all you will see. You'll see Texas with 17 points and BYU with 16 points, and that's all. Move along, folks. Nothing else to see here.

So instead, listen. Open your ears and hear the following quote, also from Mack Brown, a quote that is so damaging and insulting I can barely believe he said it -- much less that he said it with a smile on his face.

"It's more like the NFL for us," Brown said. "We're probably even with every team that we play from here on out, or an underdog."

That's the big picture right there. That's the forest, and you're staring at it. Focus on the tree from Saturday night if you want, though -- there were some pretty cool branches. Texas went back to the future for this win, going back to the days of McCoy-to-Shipley. It was Colt McCoy's younger brother, Case, throwing the ball to Jordan Shipley's younger brother, Jaxon. That's a neat little branch.

Texas also has a quarterback straight from the Book of Tebow, true freshman David Ash, a 6-foot-3, 225-pound bruiser who runs like a fullback. He doesn't throw it all that well, but did you see the way he lowered his head and ran over linebackers? That's another neat branch.

But the bigger picture, the forest, is what Mack Brown said:

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"We're probably even with every team that we play from here on out, or an underdog."

The thing is, he's right. He's not exaggerating his team's deficiencies or lifting up the talent level of future opponents. Texas isn't playing possum -- at least not until it plays Oklahoma and Oklahoma State in back-to-back weeks in early October, a stretch that should turn the Longhorns into roadkill.

This Texas team just isn't that good, although it's about to be a lot better. It took Mack Brown a long, long time, but it finally dawned on him -- perhaps because he has a new co-offensive coordinator, Bryan Harsin, who came to Texas from Boise State -- that Garrett Gilbert shouldn't be playing quarterback.

Bless his heart, Gilbert has had a brutal college career. His first start was in the BCS title game as a true freshman, against Alabama, when he was 16 of 40 for 186 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions. That TD-to-INT ratio was not a fluke -- it was an omen. Since then, as the team's starter as a sophomore and two games into his junior season, Gilbert has thrown 19 interceptions and 11 touchdown passes.

In warm-ups Gilbert looks the part of a quarterback, much bigger than Case McCoy and much more fluid as a passer than David Ash. But then the game starts, and Gilbert's throwing the ball to the other team. He completed four passes Saturday -- two to his team, two to theirs. Midway through the first quarter, the Texas crowd was booing him off the field. By the second quarter, the crowd was booing as he ran on the field. When Case McCoy replaced Gilbert on the next series, the crowd gave him a standing ovation simply for being anyone but Garrett Gilbert.

By then Texas trailed 13-0. The possibly independent-bound Longhorns were being thumped at home by their Mormon brothers from BYU, a newly independent football school that, like Texas, has its own school-wide network. This was embarrassing. But then Gilbert got pulled, McCoy started hitting passes, Ash started running over linebackers, and slowly the Longhorns started to rally. A horrible interception by BYU's Jake Heaps gave Texas the ball at the BYU 25, and the Longhorns kicked a field goal to make the score 13-3.

Texas then drove for a touchdown, the snaps behind center being shared by McCoy and Ash, to make it 13-10. A BYU field goal made the score 16-10, but the Longhorns drove 52 yards -- given great field position by a 20-yard Shipley punt return -- and scored the go-ahead touchdown on 252-pound Cody Johnson's second bludgeoning explosion into the end zone. It was 17-16, and disaster had been averted.

Or delayed, I should say. Because this Texas program is not what it was. And what it was, not so long ago, was the envy of the nation. Its players were bigger than yours, faster than yours, stronger than yours. It had future pros at almost every position. Mack Brown had that thing on auto-pilot.

And maybe, now that I think of it, he did have it on auto-pilot. Did Mack Brown get lazy in recruiting? Maybe so. I'm not sure what else could explain the sight of Texas being manhandled at home for most of the first half against a BYU team that needed a last-minute fumble recovery in the end zone to beat bad Ole Miss last week.

Texas won this game with team work and chemistry and resilience. It won this game with creative play-calling, including an end-around pass out of the Wildcat formation from Shipley to Ash. For those scoring at home, the snap went to a running back, who handed it to a receiver, who threw it to a quarterback. That was the 23-yard pass late in the fourth quarter that sealed this win for Texas.

But it brings me back to my point: Texas needed a gimmick play to hold off BYU at home. And it worked. That's the tree you're looking at, if you so choose to look there. But pan out a little bit and see the bigger picture. You'll see a Texas program that averaged 11 wins a year from 2001-09, then plummeted to 5-7 last year, then needed gimmicks and gumption and guts to hold off BYU at home this year.

"We're 2-0," Mack Brown said, because that's what he sees. He also sees a future full of games like this one.

"What we've got to do is just figure our games are going to be 17-16 if we win, [maybe] 20-17," Brown said, talking with a smile on his face as if he was talking about a competitive, gutty team. And he was. That's Texas.

It's also Iowa State.

Gregg Doyel is a columnist for He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. He was 4-0 (3 KO's!) as an amateur boxer, and volunteers for the ALS Association. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.

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