Texas won a football game Saturday night.
And seemed to lose in nearly every other way imaginable with a cloud of distractions, critical injuries and questionable penalties, which served to underscore the magnitude of this victory.
At this point, however, Mack Brown will take it because he’s not the least bit interested in style points. After what he’s been through the last month, a win’s a win’s a win’s a reprieve. At least for now.
That’s because Mack beat Kansas State. Maybe not a great Kansas State but it wore the same purple uniforms it always does.
For real. And hell’s experiencing a major cold front, and pigs are being cleared for takeoff from the Austin airport any minute now.
“They wear the same jerseys,” Mack said. “They say Bill Snyder doesn’t graduate.”
Meet Texas, undefeated in the Big 12, even if it’s only been a week, and there was school president Bill Powers giving his head coach a bear hug on the field after one of the coach’s worst weeks ever.
The Longhorns’ dramatic 31-21 victory over its nemesis signaled an end to a horrendous two-game losing streak and years of misery at the hands of Kansas State. It also offers some semblance of hope for fans who still think Texas can salvage this season with a run at the Big 12 championship.
If it does start a run, a 2-2 Texas team might have to do it without its starting quarterback, one of its best defensive players and maybe even its two best wide receivers. Oh, and the middle linebacker was ejected for targeting the Kansas State quarterback. Nothing like a little adversity sprinkled into Mack’s personal nightmare of a September.
Otherwise, everything’s balloons and rainbows in Austin.
Give Mack and his staff credit. At the darkest time of his 16-year tenure when a regent at his own school is making calculated overtures for his successor and Mack’s own fans were booing his likeness on the Jumbotron, the staff held firm and gave a solid account of itself and even pulled off a big fake punt for some early momentum.
“I actually said to the guys, ‘Handle it any way you want to, but beat Kansas State. If you enjoy the drama, look at it,” Mack said. “But I’m going to do everything I can to beat Kansas State. This can be a really good football team before we finish.”
They got the very best out of the players despite some adverse circumstances that worsened as the game went on.
“We had a crisp, sharp walkthrough Friday,” offensive coordinator Major Applewhite said. “Sometimes you can look in their eyes and tell. They were wired and dialed in. It was fun to see us play well on both sides of the ball.”
Flat out, Texas played very well in its league opener, got the best game of Johnathan Gray’s career and produced some tenacious defense when it absolutely had to have it. Gray ran with unbridled passion, the offensive line opened holes like it hasn’t all year long, and the defense allowed a single touchdown for three quarters as the Longhorns built a commanding lead.
Just as Mack would have drawn it up.
“We weren’t desperate, but you never want to start out 1-2,” Gray said. “We had it in our mind we needed to hit them in the mouth and prove a point.”
But Texas now must face the reality of perhaps playing the rest of the season without quarterback David Ash, who suffered a head injury for the second time in as many games. And they don’t know when they’re getting back Mike Davis and Daje Johnson, Texas’ two most explosive wide receivers who sat out with ankle sprains and desperately need next week’s open date to get completely well for Iowa State.
And top linebacker Jordan Hicks was carted off in the third quarter with an ankle sprain.
Then linebacker Steve Edmond launched himself headfirst into Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters and was correctly called for targeting. The penalty will cost him a half against the Cyclones.
But the team held together emotionally and stuck it to a Wildcat team that has owned Texas and got great play out of Ash and good play from backup Case McCoy, his backup who threw several key passes. Something about Kansas teams apparently brings out the best in him.
And the home crowd booed the officials, not Mack Brown.
“We told him in the locker room this is a start,” Mack said, “not an end.”
At least for a week.