DALLAS — The pass was short, just a dump off by Oklahoma’s Landry Jones. Two Texas defenders had it mostly sniffed out. They were there for the tackle.
It never happened.
Sooners running back Trey Millard hurdled one Longhorns defender and easily shook off an arm tackle by another, bouncing off the rest and finally going down 73 yards later. And a couple of plays later, Blake Bell just plowed over more passive Longhorn defenders for a touchdown and a definite starting point to what ended up a 63-21 Sooner rout of the annual game at The State Fair of Texas.
“It’s just unacceptable for Texas to lose like that to anyone, not just Oklahoma, especially two years in a row,” Longhorns coach Mack Brown said. “It’s not a proud moment for us.”
All of this should beg the question in Austin how the bestest recruiting, money-makingest college football program (or at least really close) with its very own network to broadcast every delicious second has so much trouble being good at the football part lately.
OK, that last part is slightly unfair. They are good-ish.
They win games. They go to bowls. But Texas is a team that should be great, or at least flirt with it with more regularly. It’s certainly not a team that should get run by its biggest rival or lose nine of the last 13 of these meetings as the Longhorns have done. So what the bleep is wrong with Texas football?
The defensive players will be blamed for not tackling and quarterback David Ash for not being as Vince Young or Colt McCoy. The more cynical will suggest that this Longhorn team quit, though that suggests a level of engagement I am not sure was ever there on offense and is in my opinion unfair. There certainly will be calls for the jobs of Longhorns defensive coordinator Manny Diaz and offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin for failure to perform any of the duties for which they were hired.
There already were calls for Mack to be retired, willingly or otherwise.
The idea is preposterous, not because Mack deserves eternal job security but rather because Texas just gave him as much with a big-time contract extension and bigger-time money.
The problem is not that Mack is in trouble but rather that he is not.
What is wrong with the Longhorns is on Mack’s boss, Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds. He is what happens when you spend more time taking care of the empire and not enough handling the football.
He was busy rolling in the cash from The Longhorn Network, talking trash about Texas A&M, playing matchmaker between the Big 12 Conference and Notre Dame and just generally celebrating the greatness of all things Longhorn while football in Austin burned.
There is something wrong with this football program, beyond young players. There can be no doubt about this after Saturday at the Cotton Bowl. This is a Sooners team with a patched-together offensive line absolutely dominating the line of scrimmage, a team that only scored 24 on UT-El Paso, hitting that number easily midway through the second quarter, a team where the receivers were literally telling Longhorn cornerbacks “we’re running it” because it was unstoppable. The score was helped considerably by two meaningless Longhorns touchdowns, including a somewhat gratuitous and degrading one as time expired.
What we saw Saturday are hints the University of Texas is becoming Dallas Cowboys South — its reputation and earning potential greatly exceeding its actual performance. There is nothing wrong with making money, although I’d argue The Longhorn Network is one of the dumber ways to do so. The problem comes when you stop taking care of the things that make you a cash cow.
And at Texas — the University of — that is football.
There are lean years for every program but the overall state of the Longhorns seems to be trending the wrong way. There are legit questions that probably need to be asked about Brown, and whether he is the right guy going forward. I am not saying fire him (I rather like him and how his program conducts itself) rather have the conversation.
This is a young Texas team. It has a chance to be good next season. The thought was that could be Mack’s final hurrah, a chance to make a run at a national championship before escaping to greener pastures in broadcasting.
When you are Texas, though, with the money and the network and an AD walking around whipping both out with regularity, you should never show up at the Cotton Bowl and fail to compete against Oklahoma. You should never fail to tackle. And in the event that it happens, the AD should be seriously assessing what is wrong instead of talking dirty to the Leprechaun in his free time.
And if this all sounds like another team in Texas, the professional one in Dallas, it is because it is. DeLoss is becoming the college version of Jerry Jones with the network and all that entails. About the only thing missing is a Victoria’s Secret in Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, and give DeLoss time.
If that and a network is how you judge an athletic department then, well, hell of a job DeLoss. If not, well, the blame has to start with him for forgetting the first rule of Texas.
Take care of the football because it takes cares of everything else.