Mack even trotted out a self-critique that would make any football coach cringe. Texas became “softer.”
Of course, that's been a theory in Longhorn Land for years. That the UT football culture fosters a softness. That the Longhorns have an entitlement attitude.
I don't know if I buy it; I don't know if I buy the current lack-of-toughness claim. But Mack is stressing it and selling it to his team.
“That's the identity we want to have,” said UT guard Mason Walters. “The physical play at times, we could be better at.”
OK. Maybe. Can't really tell it from the games we pay close attention to in Oklahoma. Neither OSU nor OU pushed around the Longhorns on the line of scrimmage last autumn, though the Cowboys won 38-26 and the Sooners 55-17. Both OSU and OU just had better ballhandlers, who made fewer mistakes.
But even the Texas defense, which last season stood tall despite little help from the offense, is talking toughness.
Cornerback Carrington Byndom said the 'Horns need to “physically beat people down. It all comes down to becoming mentally and physically tougher.”
Now that, I'll buy. In the last two years, Texas has lost to programs that clearly have inferior athletes: Iowa State, Kansas State twice, Baylor twice.
So sure, that's a toughness problem. And the toughness problem might be a cultural problem. Perhaps emitting from the head coach.
The first question of the Mack press conference, I posed. To the cheerleaders.
“Who do you guys think should be the Texas quarterback?”
And just like years ago, when during another period of Texas softness Mack interceded and answered a tough question for quarterback Chris Simms, Mack didn't let the cheerleaders respond.
“They would want the worst one,” Mack said.
Like I said, you can't make this stuff up.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. 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.