It ain’t A&M, but the Thanksgiving night game against Texas Tech will define the season for the Texas Longhorns. It’s been a strange one, with the Horns starting off 1-2 after two demoralizing drubbings at the hands of BYU and Ole Miss. Mack Brown did something he never does, and we’re not talking about choosing to receive the opening kickoff. He fired defensive coordinator Manny Diaz after BYU quarterback Forrest Gump ran all over a linebacker corps that looks like they shop at Wrong Gap.
Fired two games into the season? Hannibal Lecter had a longer leash.
Many in Austin, Entitle Town USA, were predicting a seven or eight-loss season, and everybody had Mack Brown at ESPN next year. “These Horns have more wasted talent than the Viper Room at 3 am,” I wrote after Ole Miss outscored Texas 27-0 in the second half. “This is a team whose lack of identity is envied by the Witness Protection Program.”
At 7-3, Texas needs this one. More than Tech does, really.
But the 2013 Texas team apparently plays best when no one else believes in them, rattling off six straight wins, including an impressive 36-20 takedown of Oklahoma. The Sooners were favored by two touchdowns, and we were all just hoping not to be slaughtered again in the Red River Driveby, but Case McCoy hit Marcus Johnson and Mike Davis on touchdown bombs, Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown each gained 120 yards on the ground and the defense came up big.
Fire Mack Brown? Hell, boy, he’s the Big 12 coach of the year! And emergency interim D coach Greg Robinson is an absolute genius! After Texas came from behind to beat West Virginia, with the defense nickname going from the Teflon D to the Tons of Anarchy, they had racked up six straight conference wins. What a turnaround. Not since Burt Reynolds went from Dinah Shore to former Miss America Tawny Little …
Then, Oklahoma State happened. Continuing the Reynolds analogy, this game was the Loni Anderson tell-all book. Losing 38-13, the worst home defeat in Mack Brown’s 16 years here, Texas was exposed as a mediocre team that just happened to play bad ones in a row. But even worse for the coach, it was new athletic director Steve Patterson’s first game as the don of UT football. Mack might as well be named Mackovic without his buddy DeLoss Dodds in his corner. Patterson couldn’t have liked the sight of the stadium 70 percent empty in the fourth quarter, with Major Applewhite continuing to call those quick passes to the flat that work about as well as Gatorade removes wine stains.
So now everyone’s down on Texas again. We know Baylor is going to beat us in Waco on Dec. 7, right? After Okie State beat Baylor 49-17, the Bears became Bryce Petty and the Heartbreakers, even after fans pleaded, don’t do us like that.
With A&M gone, Texas Tech is our most-hated in-state rival. It’s gotten even worse since Tech-exes learned how to use social media last month.
Baylor is not going out on a loss to Texas. If that happens, you can just leave a handgun on a pillow and shut the door behind Coach Art Briles. So that leaves Thursday’s Texas Tech game as last salvation for a season of great highs and deep lows. I think Phil Spector and Ike & Tina Turner made a record about this season almost 40 years ago.
With A&M gone, Texas Tech is our most-hated in-state rival. It’s gotten even worse since Tech-exes learned how to use social media last month. The Red Raiders opened the season at 7-0 and were ranked No. 10 in the country. They are still first in the country in passing yardage, with just over 400 a game, but they’ve lost the last four games, including three in a row at home. Tech has no rushing game, and the defensive coordinator could ask Manny Diaz for advice. These Lubbock guys aren’t the Flatlanders; they’re the Flatliners. Tech desperately needs to win against Texas, or Johnny Manziel’s mentor, the coach who looks like Ryan Gosling, may have to get used to drunks yelling for Mike Leach (which sounds like “Miley!” when they slur, so the joke’s on them).
Texas will be without David Ash, who, ironically, gets the season back that Tyrone Swoopes gave up. Also gone, in addition to Gray and Chris Whaley, out for the season, is playmaker Daje Johnson, getting mighty used to the Dajehouse. Number 4 is a good representative for how this season’s gone: thrilling one game and cloud-headed the next.
At 7-3, Texas needs this one. More than Tech does, really. Thursday night’s game (kickoff at 6:30 pm on Fox) is the difference between an 8-4 regular season and 7-5. That may not look like much of a difference on paper, but up in Steve Patterson’s office, those records have a lot of space between them and will dictate how he spends much of his time in the next three or four months.