Following another lackluster beginning to the season where a ranked Longhorn team expected to do some damage began instead with losses to Brigham Young and Old Miss and lackluster victories over Kansas State and Iowa State, the Longhorns have done something few expected. Following a huge surprise victory over then 10th-ranked arch rival Oklahoma, the Longhorns put up an impressive win over an unranked but solid TCU team despite a long rain delay last night in Ft. Worth.
The Longhorns are playing well on both sides of the ball, which is particularly important since both were in question. While the offense had not been perfect, there wasn't much doubt as to whether Case McCoy could be an adequate short-term answer to the injured David Ash. The defense, on the other hand, was having serious problems from the beginning of the season, prompting the firing of defensive coordinator Manny Diaz after which Mack Brown replaced him with Greg Robinson. The decision came after BYU ran for 550 yards against then-No. 16 Texas, the most-ever yards given up by a Longhorn defense.
After a strong performance vs. OU, Case McCoy connected on nine of 19 attempts for 228 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions but four of his completions went for at least 33 yards. Meanwhile The Longhorns' running backs rushed for 187 yards on 52 carries against a TCU defense that allowed a Big 12-leading average of just 115.3 rushing yards through its first seven games.
On the other side of the ball, TCU senior quarterback Casey Pachall managed only 139 passing yards and threw an interception on 13-of-34 passing. Texas also limited the Horned Frogs to 45 rushing yards on an average of just 1.9 yards per carry. This follows a week when Texas didn’t allow the Sooners to get on track either, as Blake Bell was sacked four times and had minus-27 yards on seven carries and completed only 12 of 26 passes for 133 yards with two interceptions.
The Oklahoma victory gave Mack Brown a reprieve from questions about his future but the TCU victory reveals more of a burning ember of hope. Of course, the road ahead is more than rocky. With continued solid play the Longhorns shouldn’t have trouble with Kansas but after that they will have to face Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Baylor, all of whom are ranked and Baylor is currently undefeated.
It has long been a mystery as to what exactly has been the source of the Longhorns’ malaise—what caused a team full of highly touted recruits to perform poorly on an ongoing basis. After Colt McCoy went down in the national championship game against Alabama things took a marked turn for the worse. The following season could certainly be blamed partially on quarterback Garrett Gilbert’s shortcomings, although the quarterback doesn’t make the decision to remain in the game long enough to throw 4 or 5 interceptions. Nevertheless, after Gilbert’s departure it became evident the Longhorns had more problems than just their signal caller.
But perhaps a little more McCoy is just what the doctor ordered. Case isn’t Colt but there are similarities in character. Marion Henson of Rant Sports sees it this way:
“Sure, [Case] McCoy may not be able to physically carry the team on his back and win games single-handedly, but he somehow, some way, against all odds, has found ways to win when it didn’t seem possible. Don’t misunderstand me—McCoy isn’t a great quarterback. We all know his physical limitations. Nevertheless, he has the attitude and confidence of a winner, he’s a born leader, and he knows how to make those around him better; that’s something that sometimes even the most physically gifted quarterbacks lack.”
Case doesn’t deserve all the credit for the Longhorns’ turnaround but he surely deserves some of the credit for his play and his inspiration. The bigger question is will the success continue and of course, if the Longhorns don’t run the table through all the serious obstacles waiting for them during the rest of the season, what does that mean for Mack Brown?
As Jeremy Fowler of CBS Sports put it after the Oklahoma win:
“Perhaps more important than a team mired in mediocrity finally showing up on a major stage, Brown feels the Longhorns have cracked the code. They have a football identity. Teams that have one are dangerous. Run the ball and stop the run and Texas can win some games.”
Texas managed to do exactly that against TCU. It’s commonly known as fundamentally sound football and the ability for the Longhorns to execute will be tested in a couple of weeks.
Kansas will provide another opportunity to fine-tune before running up against the trio of Big 12 powerhouses. If nothing else, Mack Brown has certainly made things interesting again and he doesn’t have to win every game to prove that the Longhorns are back on track.
But it would be nice.