“I Don’t Get Stunned About Anything Anymore”

Quoth our coach, Mack Brown. OK, folks. So Texas lost in a stunning, blistering fashion. What does this mean? Well, lots of things. It’s not all bad. Dust off your own version of the fainting couch and let’s talk about what happened on Saturday in Austin, and what we can look forward to. Yes, I mean that in a positive way. There are positives, after all, even if you have to search for them like a Hostess Cupcake in a gluten-free bakery.

Okie State handed Texas its worst home loss under Mack Brown. The ‘Horns can’t seem to beat a ranked team at home. It’s been years. You’ve all read the headlines today, I’m sure, as you stuffed down your bile and carted out your mounds of tissues, full of tears of disappointment and white-hot anger. What gives? We all shouted at the heavens. The ‘Horns had six straight wins in conference! How could you? HOW COULD YOU?

There is a simple answer, and a more complex one. The straightforward answer is that Okie State outperformed Texas on both sides of the ball. The end. They came in higher ranked, and showed themselves to be the superior team.

However, it’s not that simple. Texas has battled injuries, some cataclysmic to the team’s playbook. David Ash. His absence still looms large, especially in games where his athleticism would likely make a difference. Johnathan Gray comes to mind, obviously. Jordan Hicks, lost at the beginning of the season, was a huge hole to fill. And Chris Whaley is part of the latest bad news to hit. The ‘Horns are shell-shocked. Beaten up, but not beaten down. They played with heart, even if the skill went missing a bit.

Let’s talk defense. There are players on this squad who came up under Manny Diaz and are indoctrinated in his style of football. That’s not a good thing. Coach Robinson has worked wonders, there’s no doubt about that. But he is still repairing damage left behind; undoing someone else’s work. That’s harder than it sounds. Under stress, it’s not surprising that Coach Robinson’s new schemes might not be “sticking” like they should. The squad has work yet to be done. I’m not taking away from their progress—but the defense did not play like the Big 12 champion on Saturday.

What about the QB situation? By now, we’re well aware of Case McCoy’s limitations. He is a team player, and always gives as much as he can. I have no doubt he’s pushing himself to the limit in every game. He has weaknesses. The O-line has weaknesses. Those were exploited to perfection by Okie State. And what of Tyrone Swoopes, he of legend and myth? When Ash was injured, should Coach Brown have given Swoopes more snaps? Managed more live play so he could step in if McCoy faltered? Because when McCoy isn’t hitting on all cylinders, the offense suffers as a whole. Could Swoopes do better? We probably won’t find out this season. Shoulda, woulda, coulda…they’ll kill you. It was Coach Brown’s decision, and he stuck with McCoy. Second-guessing now just buys you an ulcer, or at least some acid burps.

It was a perfect storm for Texas on Saturday. They seemed unsure of themselves. They were suffering from depleted ranks. The coaches can’t be let off the hook—when play-makers get hurt, you modify your playbook. You exploit the talent you have left. You tailor plays to the guys stepping in to fill an absence. Those things didn’t quite gel on Saturday, and the team suffered for it. Old mistakes resurfaced. And Okie State punished the ‘Horns for each and every one.

Barring a miracle, I don’t see Texas coming away with a trip to the Fiesta Bowl. Okie State would have to lose another game—not unimaginable with Baylor on their horizon. Texas would have to win out, meaning victory over a battered but tough Texas Tech, and managing a Baylor team that by all accounts is red-hot and in the hunt for the BCS Championship. That’s a tall order. Not impossible, but we need to focus on what’s real, and what’s positive.

Texas will go to a bowl. Even if it’s the Toilet Bowl, there’s national exposure. That means recruiting. If the players and staff can regroup, the ‘Horns have a very real chance to beat Tech. But Baylor? I need to go see the Shaman and make an offering. But beating Tech is achievable.

Will Coach Brown retire? I’m not even going there. Too much speculation abounds. He will know when it’s time to hang up his spurs. Until then, he’s the coach. Full stop.

While we’re sort of talking about Baylor, how much fun would it be to see Baylor play ‘Bama? I, for one, would like to have a year where no SEC team was in the natty. Maybe with the playoffs? But as my darling husband pointed out, the four-team playoff system, voted on by a committee, is just another opportunity for the SEC to stack the deck in their favor. It’s a little fairer, but not much.

So, dry your tears, sing “The Eyes of Texas,” and let’s get ready for the next one. The ‘Horns have a bye this week, so plenty of time to get things together for a turkey day match-up with Texas Tech.

Until next time, Hook ‘em!

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