Great weekend for the baseball team, who went to Minute Maid Park for the Houston College Classic and won the whole thing, beating those jerks Rice on Friday, undefeated Houston on Saturday and a really, really good Sam Houston State on Sunday. And I did say “those jerks” Rice, because I hate their baseball team. I have friends that played football there and I love David Bailiff, but I do not like their baseball team. I could go into detail about their antics in the College World Series when they eliminated Texas (and won the Title) and the same behavior, along with oh-so-clever tee shirts, at the football game the following season. I could, but I won’t. Not a fan. Texas should shoot up the polls after knocking off No.12 Rice, UH (with Frank Anderson as the pitching coach) and Sam. UPDATE: They did. Texas in now ranked No.10. Texas hosts Valparaiso on Tuesday and then the Hawaii Warriors next weekend. Texas seems to be finding their way.
On the court, Texas lost an ugly game in Norman to ou. The Longhorn interior could not be stopped, as Cam Ridley dominated with 19 points and 14 boards, but Texas turned the ball over 16 times and got sixteen combined points from the guard trio of Taylor, Felix and Holland. If those guys hit their averages, Texas gets another 15 points. My limited command of mathematics tells me that might have come in handy in a 12-point loss, yes? While baseball seems to be settling in, the hoops team has lost three of their last four. The good news is TCU and Tech are the two teams left, and while Tech is certainly better than expected and a much better team at home, these are both games Texas can win. Kansas has won the Big 12, but where Nos. 2-5 finish is still up in the air. We will talk about the Big 12 Tournament and where Texas is next week.
Let’s finish up talking about Mack Brown, folks. This week, it’s the post-season, bad edition.
Bowl games are a unique and interesting thing. No other sport, from peewee to the pros, has anything like it. All other sports have playoffs: You win and advance or you lose and go home. None of them take anywhere from three weeks to six weeks off to prepare for a single game. Except college football. In that down time — the coaches and media like to call it “an extra spring practice” — teams spend half the time getting young players reps, trying them in different positions, before ramping up to game week practices later on. Also during this time the rest of the student body takes off for Christmas break while the team stays and practices. Many times “Christmas Break” is a quick run home for an off-weekend before getting back on the field, or it’s spent in a hotel or en route to a bowl game. Oh yeah, and the week before the game the team moves into said hotel and does various activities with THE OPPONENT all week before the game. And while all this is happening, coaches are interviewing for other jobs, seniors and talented underclassmen are thinking about the NFL Draft (many have already declared before their bowl game) and everyone is beat up, hurting and worn out. Everyone can see the finish line and every day that passes another school is done with their season. If the bowl game isn’t for a National Title or a BCS Bowl trophy, you always have to wonder which team/players are truly invested in winning that bowl game and which ones have their minds on the million other things going on. On the other hand, some teams are completely dialed in and see it as one more chance to play the game they love before the grind of the off-season/Combine/real world start. You never know who you’ll get in a bowl game — the focused team or the distracted team. Texas has seen both ends of the spectrum under Mack Brown.
Undoubtedly the Mack Brown era gave us the single greatest bowl game in the history of bowl games … but I am not talking about that game. And I am not talking about the other two Rose Bowl appearances, either. Or the Fiesta Bowl. No, this is strictly the non-BCS games we are talking about. Why? Because the two Rose Bowl wins, the Fiesta Bowl win and the Rose Bowl loss are gimmes. Everyone loves those games/hates that game. But remember, there were 11 other bowl games in the Mack Brown era. These are the ones I want to examine.
Unlike the top 10 regular season games, I am ranking these games by order of importance, starting with the most important. Likewise, I’ll start the bad off with the worst and go from there. Again, this is excluding the BCS games, but it is still an interesting look and a telling sign at where the program was when these games were played.
I like getting the hard part over with first, so let’s take a look at the three worst bowl games for the Texas Longhorns in the Mack Brown era.
2013 Alamo Bowl
No. 10 Oregon 30 Texas 7
Let’s just get the first, and the worst, out of the way. Texas rebounded from their 1-2 start to win seven of their last eight games. A showdown at Baylor in the season finale started shortly after the oklahoma sooners upset Oklahoma State, meaning the winner of that Texas/Baylor game would be Big 12 Champions. It was a cold day. The coldest day I can ever remember and the play on the field reflected that. The Bears were playing for their first-ever Big 12 Title and their first conference title since 1645 or something. The fans really wanted to be loud, rowdy and insane, but it was so cold they just couldn’t do it. It was the perfect set up for a Texas win.
They went to half tied at 3 and the Horns were right there. And then it fell apart. Baylor scored on three straight possessions to start the second half while Texas went 3 & Out on their first two drives. It was 20-3 and it was over. The Baylor Bears were the 2013 Big 12 Champs.
With that loss, Texas limped, literally, into the post-season. The general feeling and thought floating around was Texas needed to win the Big 12 for Mack Brown to return to coach in 2014. As that cold Saturday made clear, Texas did not win the Big 12. Yet no word on Mack Brown’s future, either way, was revealed. The bowl game was announced — No.10 Oregon vs. Texas in the Alamo Bowl. Texas struggled with athletic qb’s all season and now they faced the most athletic in the nation in Marcus Mariota. And as the week proceeded to the football banquet, there was still no word, either way. A large and growing faction of Texas fans were becoming angrier and angrier by the second at how this was playing out. And then that Friday night, banquet night, it started to come out that Mack Brown was coming back for 2014. And as this was starting to circulate, Nick Saban signed his contract extension with Alabama, ending the speculation he was coming to Texas. Fans were mad, confused and angry. No one wanted another 8-4 year that ended in San Antonio. And then, just like that, on Saturday morning, Mack Brown abruptly announced his retirement. The era was over. I don’t think it was completely his call and I think he was asked to retire or be shown the door, but that’s me. While some of the fans were excited, the players were anything but. I’ve been in the locker room when a coach leaves and it’s terrible. Everyone is sad and everyone thinks had they done something different, it might not have happened. And the fear of change coming is on the mind of everyone that is coming back the following semester. And, oh yeah, the No.10 team in the nation was coming to town.
Texas started to unravel a bit. Three players, including two starters, were suspended for the bowl game for grades. The energy was low, the excitement in the fan base was low and the strain and pressure of the last four years showed on Mack Brown’s face.
Texas didn’t have their starting qb, starting tb, starting olb, and their best playmaker. They were also down two ol and now faced arguably the best team they would play the entire year. It needed the best effort of the season for Mack Brown to walk off a winner.
They got a great effort from the defense, but the offense was a nightmare. First play, no gain. Second play, penalty. Third play, interception for a touchdown. 13:32 left in the first, Texas trailed 7-0. The offense had one great drive, but that was it and the defense fought their tails off, but they could not contain Mariota and the result was a loss, highlighted by two interceptions returned for touchdowns by Oregon.
The Mack Brown era ended quietly in a blowout loss, but not many fans stuck around to see his final Eyes of Texas.
On the upside, my family was not flu-stricken this year — like last year’s Alamo Bowl — and we spent a few nights on the Riverwalk.
2000 Cotton Bowl
No.24 Arkansas 27 No.14 Texas 6
The Y2K Bowl! Everyone was freaked out the computers and banks were going to explode, but it turned out to be nothing … much like Texas’ effort in the Cotton Bowl on January 1, 2000.
Ranked No. 5 headed to Texas A&M, the Longhorns had already locked up the Big 12 South Title. A win over the Ags and Texas would be 10-2 and the Big 12 Title Game would be a top 5 showdown. Then the Aggie bonfire collapsed, killing 12 kids. The game took a backseat to tragedy, but the Aggies played inspired and Texas played without starting quarterback Major Applewhite, who got food poisoning at the team hotel prior to the game. Texas lost not only the game, but valuable momentum. Still, Texas went to San Antonio ranked No.12 and knocking off No.3 Nebraska, again, would make Texas Big 12 Champs. Except Nebraska gave Texas a swirlie and beat them up, 22-6. The Horns dropped to a respectable No.14 and were invited to the Cotton Bowl to play Houston Nutt and No.24 Arkansas. In case you forgot, Arkansas HATES Texas and they’d never really found a blood rival in their nine years in the SEC. They hadn’t won a bowl game in 15 years and hadn’t won a Cotton Bowl since 1976. This was a big game to them.
Texas was not in the same place. Kwame Cavil, Aaron Humphrey, JJ Kelly and Jamal Joyner were suspended from the team about 36 hours before kickoff for the always vague “violation of team rules.” The best defensive player, best wide out and a contributor at tight end were gone, and Texas had to adjust on the fly as there was no more practice time to install anything new. They did not adjust very well.
The Cotton Bowl back then was a 10 am start on New Year’s Day. It was a beautiful sunny morning and Arkansas looked excited. Texas looked tired. A close game early turned when Texas failed to score on 4th & Goal. Arkansas scored 17 fourth-quarter points and Major Applewhite, avoiding the withering pass rush, blew his knee late in the game.
The fallout from this loss is the reason it makes the list. The injury opened the door for Chris Simms in 2001, Applewhite’s knee became a point of contention for the Simmists and the Applewhiters, and the division of a fan base over which quarterback should start began immediately.
On a positive note, I did watch my wife almost pummel a guy after the game. She handles a loss much better than I do, but this one guy was all over her walking out of the fair. After about five minutes of trash talk that she ignored, he walked in front of her and went face-to-face. It went like this-
Guy: (to my wife, who was my girlfriend at the time) “How does it feel to lose in your own state?”
Wife: “How would it feel if I punched you in your face?” (takes off watch and necklace and hands it to me)
The guy froze, his friends laughed, he walked off to his friend telling her “He goes to SMU. He’s an idiot.”
2003 Holiday Bowl
No.15 Washington State 28 No.5 Texas 20
Texas was smacked around by ou that season, 65-13, but after that loss Texas found themselves a little bit. They unveiled the zone read against Nebraska earlier that season with Vince Young and reeled six straight to finish off the regular season, including a beat down of the Aggies in College Station. As the bowl selection announcements came out, Texas thought they had an outside shot at a BCS game. After all, they were ranked No.5, were 10-2 and playing as well as anyone. Except they didn’t get it, going instead to the Holiday Bowl for the third time in four years. Seriously, the valet at the hotel REMEMBERED ME that year. “Hello, Mr. McLean, welcome back!” “Thanks, Jimmy, good to see you, too.”
Texas was mad and felt snubbed, expecting better. Washington State also had a shot at the BCS, but lost the Apple Cup in the season finale to Washington, ending their BCS bid. They were not feeling snubbed, instead they were excited to get a crack at Texas. The Horns were thinking about a lot of things in San Diego that week, but none of them were football. Wazzu was ready to play and Texas wasn’t.
Again, a bowl game loss is not the end of the world in the grand scheme, but this loss makes the list because Texas had no idea what they were doing offensively. Vince Young rushed for 62 yards on nine carries … but was benched early in the first half for unknown reasons. A monster pass rush sacked Chance Mock six times and Texas completely abandoned the run, despite having reeled off a 15-play, 71-yard drive that featured 11 rushes for 65 yards, including the score. Cedric Benson had 87 yards on 22 carries, but Texas stopped featuring him and went with the less mobile Mock to throw the ball. It was a frustrating game for fans, because it was winnable. Texas turned it over inside the Washington State 10 with two minutes to play and lost, 28-20. I remember a college coach sitting behind me at the end of the game saying, “That’s the dumbest offensive game plan I’ve ever seen. You got a gazelle on the bench that could win this thing.”
On the upside, I spent a very, very long night in the hotel lobby bar with Softball Ricky and Keith Moreland as my pregnant wife retired to the room. I think we basically went upstairs, packed and left for the airport we were out so late. We slept on the plan, it was fine and totally worth it!
Now shake it off. SHAKE IT OFF! We will get to the better times next week. And those good times were great.
Tell me what you think on Twitter @TreyMcLean or email me- FromTheStands@gmail.com