October 31, 2010
Baylor 30, Texas 22. As Longhorn nightmares go, losing to the oft-mocked Baptists under any circumstances obviously ranks in the top five, if not the top two or three. But let's face it: It had to happen eventually. The streaks were reaching epic proportions – UT had taken 12 straight over Baylor since Mack Brown took over in 1998, nine straight in Austin dating back to the old Southwest Conference. And when it finally did happen, at least it happened at the hands of the best Baylor outfit since the consecration of Caecilian, now bound for its first winning season in 15 years. I think Texas fans can resign themselves to the loss, in and of itself.
No, the really gnawing part is that the ultimate humiliation didn't come as a random strike out of the blue. It was more like being submerged in quicksand. The Longhorns had already ceded their claim on the Big 12 South to Oklahoma, their home field to UCLA and their poll position to Iowa State. Brown spent the last week calling out everyone who'd ever worn burnt orange, coaches through water boys. This was a desperate team, not a distracted one. Texas wanted and needed to beat Baylor. It just wasn't good enough.
This is the reality at the start of November: Texas had lost four of its last five, three straight at home, two to teams with losing records and another to a perennial in-state laughingstock. It's failed to top 24 points in any game since early September scrimmages against Rice and Wyoming, and yielded at least 28 in all four losses. Against UCLA, it was the turnovers. Against Oklahoma, it was the lack of top-shelf playmakers. At this point, it's pretty much the entire operation, and it's pretty clearly not going to get fixed in 2010. When return man Curtis Brown was flagged for tossing his helmet on the field in response to a botched punt in the closing minutes, his frustration spoke for the entire stadium.
There aren't many teams for whom .500 represents an utter catastrophe. But Texas hasn't even been in the vicinity of .500 after September since the 1997 collapse that got John Mackovic fired. Saturday night's loss guaranteed this team will be the first since 2000 that fails to win 10 games, ending the longest streak in the country. With one more defeat in the last four, it will match the 1999 team for most losses in the Mack Brown era, and the '99 edition won the Big 12 South with an 8-2 start. The current edition is praying it can still beat Florida Atlantic in three weeks.
The natives (including a few high up the food chain) want offensive coordinator Greg Davis' head on a stick. Some low level rumbling in Austin suggests they may get Mack Brown's letter of resignation instead, even if no one is asking for it. In a world where Baylor – Baylor which is Baylor – is sitting alone in first place on Halloween, there are no sure things.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.