DALLAS – After the win that may have saved his job, Mack Brown had a few jabs for media who figured the Red River Rivalry would be his football funeral.
"Anybody can beat anybody," the Texas coach said. "...That's why you have to be careful what y'all say."
"We've won five out the last nine [against Oklahoma] now for those of who are counting."
"I don't think I was emotional [after the game]. You all wanted me to be more emotional than I was in the past. I had 97 cameras in my face and I couldn't see the band."
The feistiness bled through the entire Texas team Saturday, as the Longhorns played with an edge that some would say has been missing for years in their 36-20 upset win over No. 12 Oklahoma. The offensive line blew the Sooners off the ball from the very first drive of the game, and while most of the country reeled at the 'Horns having a 13-point halftime lead, the talk on the way back out to the field for the third quarter was anything but complacent.
"Foot on the throat, man!" offensive guard Mason Walters said in the tunnel. "Foot on the throat!"
For at least one afternoon, Mack Brown had his foot back on the throat of Bob Stoops. After losing 146-58 over the last three years of this annual duel, the Longhorns were dancing on the field by the end of the third quarter, and Texas fans actually moved to the empty seats in the Oklahoma half of the stadium to spread out and get some shade.
"Look at this [expletive]!" yelled defensive tackle Desmond Jackson at the yawning sections at one end of the Cotton Bowl as the clocked ticked down in the fourth quarter. "Take your [expletive] home!"
That raw emotion was the exact opposite of the feeling in the locker room following last year's blowout loss here. It was then that the Longhorns seethed and vowed to change this rivalry.
"A bunch of people were mad," said defensive tackle Chris Whaley, who had the play of the game with a pick-six off Oklahoma quarterback Blake Bell that put Texas ahead to stay. "We said we gotta get everything turned around and play as one."
That's the sanitized version.
"It was embarrassing," said Texas defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat. "It shouldn't happen. We should never let that happen. We were out-physical'd and it was a slap in the face."
From that moment until Saturday, this game wasn't far from anyone's mind in Austin. Offensive guard Trey Hopkins said he thought about Oklahoma during every offseason workout and every last rep of every squat.
"Definitely there was an edge today, from three years of losing," he said. "The worst experience I had at school was here. It can't happen again. These were ridiculous games. This is a game I hated."
[Photos: Texas upsets Oklahoma in Red River Rivalry]
The praise goes to the players for their commitment to "go out and punch them in the mouth the whole game," in the words of Whaley. And to offensive coordinator Major Applewhite for an aggressive game plan that sent a message even when it failed (like a pass on fourth and short). And defensive coordinator Greg Robinson, who has the Longhorns tackling in space better than they have in recent memory.
The question is: Where has this team been? This is the Texas everyone imagines under the hypothetical next coach: hungry, disciplined, angry. "It's crazy," defensive back Carrington Byndom said. "Some weeks it's there, some weeks it's not."
Talent has never been an issue for Texas; it's been will and technique. For some reason, those ingredients have waned in key moments, or for entire games. "I guess our minds just got to us," defensive tackle Malcom Brown said of past losses. "We just had to be physical from the get-go."
Suddenly, on Saturday, the 'Horns looked fearsome. Two Texas running backs, Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown, rushed for more than 100 yards each. Asked the last time his team had been that physical, the head coach had to think for a few seconds.
"Been a while," he said. "This is as well as we've run the ball against them since '05."
Texas is unbeaten in the Big 12 and although few of Brown's skeptics have changed their minds about a need for an overhaul, it's hard to imagine forcing out a legendary head coach if he wins the conference. And, well, if Texas plays with this kind of urgency again, the conference is winnable (no offense to Baylor). Yes, this is the same team that gave up roughly 8,000 yards to BYU.
"It's amazing to see," Brown said, "after the BYU game, what this team has become."
It's Robinson's influence, certainly, but really the whole team played Saturday without the confusion and tentativeness of weeks past. Blitzes worked, making Bell look downright skittish in the pocket. Deep routes worked – not to the extent that they should, but enough to throw the Sooners off. Special teams worked, with a 50-yard field goal and an 85-yard punt return that left an Oklahoma player so frustrated that he unleashed a haymaker at a Texas blocker. Most important, blocking schemes worked. "We needed to come out with an edge," Byndom said. "With high intensity. With presence."
The head coach had a presence all day Saturday, from before kickoff until after his cheeky news conference comments. He may have a presence for longer than people expected.
For the short term, though, Sunday morning will feature anticipation rather than dread. Even the biggest Brown bashers have to admit they're curious what next week will bring.
"What I'm excited about," said quarterback Case McCoy, "is what happens after this game."
Now who would have thought a Texas quarterback would end this rivalry Saturday by saying that?
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