They're back. The look on Mack Brown's jubilant face told the tale — Texas 31, Texas Tech 22. This victory becomes the most important win for the Texas Longhorns since the 2009 season ended.
Until Saturday, Texas lacked any signature, season-changing win. This is that win. Texas entered Lubbock as an underdog and they leave a confident 7-2 team with designs on a statement season after playing their most complete game in two years.
On defense, the physical, dominating defensive line was backed up by a locked in secondary. On offense, the clock-churning, tough as nails offensive line protected a golden armed quarterback and pushed around a top 20 defense.
This is the 2012 Texas football team Longhorn Nation has been waiting for and the team Mack Brown thought he had to start the season. In the most hostile of stadiums, the Texas Longhorns brought their "A" game and out-played a team that until now was clearly better.
The maligned Texas defense showed up for this one. The Longhorns gave up their share of yards to one of the most prolific offenses in college football, but they avoided giving up the big play and the defensive line that never saw a running back that didn't love them, shut down the Red Raider running game, giving up only 112 yards.
Texas tackling was better, not great, but better. Most importantly, the Texas defense kept the Tech offense in front of them as evidenced by the goal-line stand late in fourth quarter with the game on the line. With Texas leading 31-22, Tech had the ball first down and goal at the two-yard line. Texas didn't only keep Tech out of the end zone, they blocked the 23-yard field goal attempt that would have put Tech just one score away from winning.
Carringtom Byndom played the best game of his career. Taking on Tech's best receiver Eric Ward, Byndom fought Ward on every play, nearly coming to blows on several.
David Ash, displaying all of the appreciation you would expect after getting his coach's ultimate statement of confidence (he started the game after what was one of his worst performances just a week before), played well enough to win, making several outstanding deep throws without an interception.
Texas' leading receiver, Mike Davis, has really come into his own. He caught four passes for 165 yards and two touchdowns. Davis is now a true deep threat and Ash has the confidence to get the ball downfield, hitting him in stride.
It was Texas' running game though that put this one away. In the fourth quarter, Texas Tech's defensive line grew weary and the Longhorn offensive line pushed them all over the field.
Johnathan Gray is special. Texas' true freshman running back will undoubtedly get national attention soon after collecting his second straight 100-yard game. Gray has that special combination of speed and power and he had the Texas Tech defense on their heels all afternoon.
It's impossible to overstate the importance of this win to a Longhorn football program that has reeled since losing its star quarterback in the January, 2010 National Championship game. After weeks of criticism and questions about Mack Brown's job security, the Texas Longhorns decided to quiet the crowd with a win over a huge rival in hostile territory.
Mack Brown was on fire for this game. He got into the faces of his players and his coaches. He ran up and down the sideline and in the end, his ecstatic smile told the tale of a coach under siege feeling the weight of Longhorn Nation lifted off his shoulders.
This Texas Longhorn football team may not be great, but on Saturday, they delivered on the promise and showed fans a glimpse of how good they can be.