DALLAS – Mack Brown didn't get all giddy as he wandered the Cotton Bowl turf.
His Longhorns had just hung a stunning 36-20 defeat on the Sooners, a verdict nobody saw coming except maybe some beleaguered burnt-orange ballplayers, whose coach got them to believe.
Mack estimated there were 97 cameras in his face as he strolled the grass that was such a curse early in his career and was again, until Saturday.
“I couldn't even see the band,” Mack said. He knows you have to sing “The Eyes of Texas” after games, but in Dallas victories, you also have to get the Golden Hat Trophy.
“Which I hadn't done in awhile,” Mack said, “so I really wasn't sure what to do and needed them to show me.”
Soon enough, Mack held the Golden Hat and Sooner fans were faced with their worst nightmare.
A stinging defeat, and maybe not even the consolation prize of Texas keeping Mack as coach.
Some say the momentum to change coaches is too strong in Longhorn Land. Of course, Texas now leads the Big 12; win the conference, and it'll be hard to run off Mack.
OU fans swarmed Dallas this weekend wearing crimson shirts proclaiming “KEEP MACK,” but if Brown and staff are going to outsnooker Bob Stoops and Co. the way they did Saturday, maybe it's in the Sooners' best interest to take their chances with someone else.
The Sooners were double-digit favorites and had routed Texas two straight years. Most predicted another OU romp.
Strange things happen in rivalry games, but Mack wasn't sold on this upset being rivalry-related.
“I think it says more about the state of college,” he said, “and that anybody can beat anybody on Saturday if you play better than the other team.”
Texas certainly did that. Mack won this game back on Sept. 8, when he fired Manny Diaz as defensive coordinator and brought in ringer Greg Robinson from the analyst's booth.
Robinson curtailed Texas' crazy blitzes, put his defenders in proper position and, after some hairy moments against the likes of Ole Miss, Kansas State and Iowa State, shut down the Sooners.
In two OU-Texas games, this one and 2004, Robinson's defenses have allowed two touchdowns total.
Saturday, it was Mike Stoops who brazenly blitzed, often late and always ineffective. Case McCoy — Case, not Colt — answered the Sooner pressure with a solid performance. No sacks, one bad interception, but two huge plays.
The real difference in this game was that McCoy threw touchdown passes of 59 yards to Marcus Johnson and 38 yards to Mike Davis, both on deep throws that fell perfectly into ‘Horn hands. And McCoy is not even Texas' quarterback of choice; injured David Ash is.
Meanwhile, Blake Bell, OU's quarterback of choice, produced no such plays, though it would have helped had Brennan Clay not dropped what would have been a 24-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter, and Jaz Reynolds not dropped a pass that would have gotten the Sooners inside the Texas 5-yard line with six minutes left and at least made the game interesting.
But even so, the truth was apparent.
“They came with their best,” OU linebacker Eric Striker said. “The better team won today.”
Despite dominating most of the day, Texas still hadn't put away the Sooners late. OU was on the ‘Horn 11-yard line, midway through the fourth quarter, in a two-possession game.
Then came four plays that defined OU's futility.
First down: A two-yard gain by fullback Trey Millard, who had open running room but the ‘Horns closed fast. A talent issue.
Second down: Incomplete pass to Reynolds on a fade pattern, the international distress signal for offensive ingenuity.
Third down: Reynolds dropped that slant pass that might not have been a touchdown but would have had the Sooners close. Basic mistake.
Fourth down: Delay of game penalty. Total breakdown in game operations.
Fourth down: Sack on fourth-and-13.
“It seemed as though things like that were happening all game,” Bell said. “When we're in the red zone, we need to score.”
So Texas went home a winner and suddenly a contender for the Big 12 title. OU went home a loser and not knowing what kind of team it has, but knowing it doesn't have the team it thought it had.
“The one thing the outside can't predict is the will and determination of young people,” Mack Brown said. “I knew we would play really hard and I knew we would play really well. I didn't know if it would be good to win.”
Turns out, it was plenty good enough to win, and Mack Brown lives to coach another day. Stay tuned if he'll be back for another OU-Texas.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.