Mack surprises us all with upset of Oklahoma

Posted Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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lebreton The coach stays.

Please remove — for now, at least — those “For Sale” signs that you’ve been planting in Mack Brown’s front yard.

After his Texas team stunned the Oklahoma Sooners — and the 92,500 in attendance, whether they were wearing crimson or burnt orange — Brown was very much alive Saturday and still very much the Longhorns’ head football coach.

“We’re not in the grave,” Brown announced after Texas’ 36-20 Red River Rivalry victory.

He was talking about his football team, which now sits improbably atop the Big 12 standings. But Brown could have just as soon been talking about his job.

Newspaper wise guys. Talk show hosts. Rogue regents. The great Earl Campbell.

All had offered the opinion of late that Brown’s 16-season tenure as Longhorns coach needed to be brought to an end.

The previously 12th-ranked, undefeated Sooners were presumed to be just the team to do that. Oklahoma came into Saturday’s annual State Fair showdown as a 14-point favorite and winner over Texas for three years in a row.

It wasn’t the first time that Brown’s job security had been called into question during Texas-OU week. But whereas in the past Mack has responded with defiance or paranoia (“Let me answer that for Chris”), the Brown who arrived for Saturday’s postgame interview session was disarmingly empathetic.

He clearly intends to fight for his job. Yet, instead of telling the assembled media to kindly take themselves to Hades, Brown provided a moment of semi-snarky reflection.

“I learned from this that you guys have a difficult job to do,” he said. “I learned that sometimes you have to say some things that are hard to say.

“But I learned, too, that I can have my own opinion. And it’s important that coaches step out and say the things that are true.”

He had a twinkly smile on his sun-flushed face when he said that. Except for a few emotional moments right after the final gun, when he stood with the team while the UT band played The Eyes of Texas, Brown was smiling like it was 2005.

He believes in this Texas team, and Mack was saying it even as he fired his defensive coordinator and the angry drums beat louder in Austin.

One victory in October doesn’t make a BCS bid, and he knows that.

The double-digit decision showed, however, that Brown and his staff still know how to get it done. A UT defense that was ranked third-to-last in the Big 12 held quarterback Blake Bell and the Sooners’ offense to one touchdown.

The Longhorns, meanwhile, kept it simple, putting the football in the hands of Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown a combined 52 times for 243 yards.

When exactly, someone asked, did Mack make up his mind to commit to the run against the mighty Sooners?

“Three years ago,” Brown answered.

“We got away from it against Iowa State. Part of that was my fault. But that’s what we have to be — a physical team with the play-action pass that can run the ball.”

Whether it will work for the rest of the Big 12 schedule remains to be seen.

For all of Case McCoy’s capable quarterback play Saturday, the Longhorns aren’t built to fare well in a shootout with, say, Baylor.

Brown knows that he has to keep winning, and even that may not be enough to stave off the angry Orangebloods who want him to retire.

“I’m past that,” Mack said Saturday when asked about the mood in Austin.

“Somebody told me, ‘When you win, they shut up.’ And that’s kind of fun.

“But that’s not why you win.”

Mack Brown’s face said the rest of it. It might have been a measured smile, a vindicated smile, but it was a smile nonetheless.

For now, the coach stays.


Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697 Twitter: @gilebreton

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