In some Oct. 7 editions, a Sports headline incorrectly said that Texas football coach Mack Brown was 0-4 against Oklahoma, and a section-front reference to the article indicated that Brown had coached at Texas for four years. When the article was published, Brown had coached the team against Oklahoma six times and had won the first two games before losing four straight. Oklahoma beat Texas on Saturday to make that mark 2-5. (Published 10/21/04)
Two games have been fairly close: 11-point losses in both 2001 and 2002. Two games have been utter embarrassments: 63-14 in 2000, 65-13 last season, enough to make a longhorn steer try to figure out a way to bury his head, horns and all, deep in the ground.
Either way, the results mean the same thing. In each of the past four years, be it a blowout or a ballgame, Texas has lost to Oklahoma. Each time, Mack Brown has coached the Longhorns. As he might say, he has looked at it, studied it. And he has come to a conclusion.
"It's really on me," Brown said this week. "The players change. I'm the constant. I have been at every game, and I just haven't done my job."
Saturday, in a stadium evenly divided between fans clad in burnt orange and crimson, Brown will get another chance to do his job. Some folks around the Texas program, but not those at the top levels of the athletic department, feel that he should be required to beat second-ranked Oklahoma, as he did his first two years in Austin, in order to retain his position. And if the fifth-ranked Longhorns are to finally win some sort of championship -- be it Texas's first national title since 1970, or merely its first Big 12 title since 1996 -- they almost certainly will have to buck convention and beat the Sooners.
"I've lost to them three times in a row," senior linebacker Derrick Johnson said. "This is a new team, new attitude. We have a different focus on where we're going."
There are, in fact, differences in the Longhorns this season, and they were almost all made, at least in part, because of Texas's struggles with Oklahoma. The Longhorns' record over the previous four seasons and the first four games of this one is 45-6 against everyone not named Oklahoma, 0-4 against the Sooners.
"At our place, what you're losing is brought up a lot more than what you're winning," Brown said. "It's constantly talked about here with the fan base and with the media -- much more than what we've won."
In an effort to change that in the offseason, Brown hired a pair of veteran defensive coaches -- former Arizona coach Dick Tomey and former NFL defensive coordinator Greg Robinson. That move was made partly because Brown looked at tape of the Oklahoma game, and felt like the Longhorns simply weren't physical enough. After Oklahoma quarterback Jason White completed 17 of 21 passes for 290 yards and four touchdowns in last year's game, the Longhorns are playing more zone coverage than they ever have. Offensively, Brown said he wants to run the ball more because, as he said, "when Texas has been real good in the past, that's what we've been."
Overall, Brown said, he is searching for toughness -- a quality the Sooners, under sixth-year coach Bob Stoops, seem to define. So there was more tackling in spring practice, more tackling in preseason drills, and there is more tackling this week. A Longhorns booster reminded Brown, he said, that "practicing in football without tackling is like swimming without a pool."
The question, though, is will any of this make a difference Saturday? And if it doesn't, will there be further calls for Brown -- who has at least nine wins in each of his six seasons -- to be ousted? This week, before the Oklahoma game, a columnist in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram wrote that Brown should be fired and replaced with former Redskins coach Steve Spurrier.
Yet Texas Athletic Director DeLoss Dodds has offered his constant support of Brown and maintains that he is mystified anyone would think Brown is miscast as Texas's coach.
Darrell Royal, the legendary Texas coach who played at Oklahoma but still lives in Austin, is adamant that Brown is the perfect Longhorn.
"When he came, we didn't really fill the stadium at the time," Royal said. "Now, we do it every week. He's good at the microphone. He's good P.R. for the University of Texas. He's good in his interviews. I think the search committee could still be looking and not find a better fit for the University of Texas."
That, though, can be the argument against Brown as well, that he is too much car salesman, not enough game-day coach. Royal, though, points out that the OU-Texas rivalry tends to go in streaks, and other coaches -- on both sides -- have had this problem. Indeed, since the series began in 1900, there have been 10 streaks in which one team has won at least four games in a row. In Royal's last six games against the Sooners, he lost five and tied one -- and retired.
Brown dismisses the impact of history on this game. He said this week that he believes Saturday's game will be won by the team that executes better, that limits its mistakes. It is, like most things surrounding big games, a combination of coach-speak and the truth.
"Losing four times in a row to anybody is stressful, and this has been stressful," Dodds said. "He wants to win that game more than these fans that are complaining, and the [players] want it more than the fans, and I want it more than the fans."
Which is saying something, for the fans want it badly. In acknowledging the impact of the game this week -- "a must-win, for both teams," he said -- Brown said real pressure is when your child is sick, when a friend needs help, "an absolute crisis in your life." Texas-Oklahoma doesn't qualify. He would be lying, however, if he claimed the last four years haven't taken a toll.
"The thing [this streak] does: It hits your pride," he said. "You say that your team is a mirror of you. And the last four years, I haven't been very proud of [myself] when we've walked off the field. . . . I don't feel like I've done the job that I need to do for our players and for our fans."