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Berry Tramel: Texas' Mack Brown is winning the close ones

by Berry Tramel Published: December 10, 2009
Mack Brown received a raise Wednesday. Now he’ll make $5 million a year.

Hefty paycheck. Mack will be the highest-paid coach in college sports, but don’t begrudge him. Somebody’s got to be.

And here’s how Mack became a Texas giant: His record in close games.

Brown’s UT record in games decided by three points or less is an astounding 21-4.

Bob Stoops’ record in games decided by three points or less is 6-9.

A thousand things determine the outcome of a close game. But you can’t ignore 21-4 and 6-9.

Some of that can’t be coincidence. Some of that has to be one coach better preparing his squad for and handling the waning moments of a hotly contested ballgame.

Then came the Big 12 Championship game, with victory finding Texas more than Texas finding victory. Now, who knows what to think.

Brown’s Longhorns beat Nebraska 13-12 despite the worst clock management since Cinderella. Allowing the seconds to tick off to precarious depths and placing Texas’ title hopes in the hands of officials’ clock review? Brown made Les Miles look like a veritable wizard of last-minute strategy.

So I don’t know what to make of Mack’s ability — and Stoops’ inability — to win a majority of his tight games. Dumb luck?

The Sooners lost tight games this season due to the usual suspects: defensive collapse, listless offense and field goal disasters. In other words, the Sooners weren’t clutch.

Stoops’ other narrow defeats have been more colorful. Dubious video replay at Oregon in 2006 and Texas Tech in 2005. Snookered by Boise State. Loss of mind against Ole Miss in 1999, kicking off to Deuce McAllister in the final minute. Cosmic forces in Bedlam 2001.

Of course, three points is an arbitrary standard. Raise it to seven points or less, and records start evening out. Stoops is 17-15 in games decided by seven points or less; Brown is 27-11.

I also ran the numbers on Pete Carroll and Jim Tressel, the other two coaches who arrived in the Stoops/Brown landing and rebuilt established powers.

Carroll is a virtual copy of Stoops’: 6-8 in field-goal games, 19-16 in touchdown games.

by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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