Mack Brown protects job, but is Texas onto something with OU win?
Mack Brown is fighting for his coaching life and his Texas Longhorns played like it in a tone-setting win over Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry.
DALLAS -- Mack Brown could have grabbed the microphone during his post-game press conference and called out everyone who wants him fired, even the people in his own building, and told them to get lost.
He would have been totally justified, if only for a day. A convincing win in the Red River gave him that platform after weeks of shoveling Bevo manure for his job performance.
"I'm past that," Brown said. "I don't have anything to prove."
Knocking Oklahoma off the ball for 60 minutes in a 36-20 win when no one expected it shows the Texas coach is set on directing his own career ending. He's not waiting for unhappy regents to muscle him out or trying to appease everybody. He’s crawling out of his own grave and, after Saturday, “we’re actually alive” with a chance to win the Big 12, Brown said.
But a win-one-for-Mack moment won’t have a lasting impact. To save his job, Brown might need to win at least nine games or possibly run the table.
And that's the thing. Perhaps more important than a team mired in mediocrity finally showing up on a major stage, Brown feels the Longhorns have cracked the code.
They have a football identity. Teams that have one are dangerous.
Run the ball and stop the run and Texas can win some games.
"We need to be a physical team with play-action pass that can run the ball downfield," Brown said.
The Longhorns were allergic to read-option offense early in the season, but Oklahoma quarterback Blake Bell rarely took off and Texas fully committed to run defense.
Oklahoma finished with 3.9 yard per carry (130 yards on 33 tries) and no Sooner had more than 34 rushing yards. Brown said defensive coordinator Greg Robinson, an impromptu hire last month after Manny Diaz's defense gave up 550 rushing yards to BYU, moved a linebacker up to help against the run and switched different looks with the nickel defense.
The result: Texas hadn't tasted success like this since 2009. The Longhorns hadn't held a lead in the OU game since that same year, but that changed on the first drive Saturday.
Maybe it was just Texas' day. Maybe Texas is just healthier (hello, Daje Johnson). Either that, or OU was overhyped coming in. Neither team looks ready for Baylor in Big 12 play.
But something else was in play Saturday.
"We're tired of being run on," defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat said. "We have a good defense. We needed to play like it. This day we got to show ya'll how good we can be."
The running game is where Texas can thrive. After curiously making last week's Iowa State win harder than it had to be by attacking young cornerbacks with the passing game, the Longhorns fed the potent combo of Johnathan Gray (128 yards) and Malcolm Brown (120 yards) 62 times.
Brown basically put the game away with a 7-yard barrel through the middle for a first down with 44 seconds left in the third quarter. Quarterback Case McCoy followed with a beautiful 38-yard touchdown pass to Mike Davis and OU's defense was spent.
The motivation was simple, Gray said: the Longhorns were tired of being called soft, being called "bad names."
"We knew we could break their will," Gray said.
Several highlight plays from UT could be placed in the where-has-this-team-been file.
Defensive tackle Chris Whaley's 31-yard interception return for a touchdown late in the first quarter was the type of play Texas hadn't made in the recent past. They would have botched it somehow. The safety zone blitz from Adrian Phillips was timely and affected the throw from Blake Bell, who couldn't do anything in the passing game (12-of-26 passing, 133 yards, two interceptions).
McCoy's day can be summed up by two beautiful throws and two ugly throws, badly missing wide-open receivers for potential scores.
Yes, this game could have been worse for OU. McCoy's 59-yard touchdown strike to Marcus Johnson in stride exploited an OU defense that allowed 13 points per game entering the day.
An 85-yard punt return for a touchdown in the third quarter by the dynamic Johnson -- whose injury clearly affected production during UT's losses to BYU and Ole Miss -- punctuated Texas' first Red River win in four tries.
Texas didn't panic when Oklahoma's Roy Finch broke off a 73-yard kickoff return late in the first half to set up a touchdown. With 1:06 left, Texas calmly moved the ball into field goal range.
The Longhorns were supposed to be better this year largely because of quarterback David Ash, who's been out with concussions. McCoy isn't considered dynamic but showed up Saturday like many assumed he wouldn't
He wanted a "legacy" game, he got it.
"What I'm excited about is what comes after this game," said McCoy, who finished with 190 yards and two scores.
This game could have been 30-3 at the half, though the score was less symbolic than OU fans – the ones who expected a route of a different kind -- filing out of the Cotton Bowl early in the fourth quarter.
Perhaps Brown can appreciate that. A sideline reporter told him after the game, "When you win, they shut up."
"That's kind of fun," Brown said. "But it's not what I want to win for."
There might be a coaching change at Texas, win or lose.
But what happens if Mack figures this thing out, if the win over OU is who Texas really is?
Maybe he should retire now. It might not get any sweeter.
"We're not in the grave," Brown said. "We're crawling out."
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