The late afternoon sun was beginning to free-fall in the distance, far beyond the looming images of the LBJ Library and the Stadium across the parking lot. On the practice field, with his team gathered around him, Mack Brown was making a point.
In the season opener with North Texas, almost obscured by the euphoria over the 65-0 win over the Longhorns' first football opponent, was the fact that Texas left three fumbles on the ground. Even though they recovered each of them, it was not obscure to the Texas coaches.
So there was Brown, with a football in his hand, tucking it away in the crook of his arm, next to his body.
"If somebody throws you a ball, put it away," he said as he tossed the ball to Dick Tomey, who immediately placed the ball securely next to him, and then tossed it back to Brown, who did the same.
"And if you are walking across campus with a teammate, and somebody drops the ball, get on it."
With that, he rolled the ball to Tomey, who dropped to the ground, assuming a fetal position, with the ball secure. And then he rolled it back to Brown, who also fell to the ground grasping the ball. Then it went to Mike Tolleson, who did the same, and then back to Brown.
In the hours and hours the Longhorn defensive staff had spent in their meeting room, they had watched the tapes, over and over again. With coordinators Greg Robinson and Duane Akina, veteran tackles coach (and special teams coordinator) Tolleson and assistant head coach for defense Tomey, they combine well over 100 years of coaching experience.
And they had seen the fine Arkansas quarterback, Matt Jones, do some marvelous things for his team. Jones could run, he could pass, he could evade tacklers, he could find the open man.
But there was one thing: there were times when he didn't secure the football.
And so it was that on a fateful third down in Fayetteville, the juxtaposition of 50-or-60-somethings flopping on the ground to secure a loose ball, and the vision of the video of a quarterback who seemingly had no flaws, came together.
It was not without an immense amount of irony for Arkansas, whose heart-breaking losses to Texas have allowed the Longhorns to dominate the series between the two schools.
The most famous game of the series, the 1969 "Big Shootout," turned on a third down 35 years before, with the Razorbacks trying to get into the north end zone of the stadium. Much has changed physically in the years since. The NFL style video board stretches the width of the field high above. The old stadium has been decked and more than 150 luxury suites have been added. Even the press box has been remodeled, although the fašade is still the same.
But the North End Zone is still waiting for Arkansas to score with the game on the line. In 1969, Frank Broyles called a pass on third down from the Texas 7. A field goal would have given the Razorbacks a safe cushion of 17-8.
As Bill Montgomery lined up to take the snap 35 years ago, the Texas defense huddled and determined "we have to block this field goal on the next play."
This time, Mike Tolleson had gathered his field goal block special teams unit, anticipating that with less than three minutes left, Houston Nutt and the Razorbacks might even try to kick at a go-ahead field goal on third down.
Instead, Nutt called a pass, with the ball resting only a few yards from where it was in 1969. Jones took the snap, and the Texas defense came with full pressure. By the time Michael Huff got to him, he was surrounded. Huff clawed at the ball, and Jones adjusted, just for a split second. Then Larry Dibbles stripped the ball free.
Brian Robison went for it, but it squirted away. Two Arkansas players reached for it.
But just as Tomey, and Tolleson, and Brown had done on the practice field, Michael Griffin jumped in the middle, ripping the ball underneath him and tucking it away as he curled it to safety. It was textbook training, exactly as he had been coached.
Tolleson and the positive Texas coaches believe that the Longhorns would have blocked the field goal, just as the guys in 1969 believed that. But it was a kick that never came.
And just as that 1969 game ended with an interception on the final Razorback drive, so Phillip Geiggar grasped Jones' final attempt after Eric Hall had hit the Arkansas quarterback in the back just as he threw.
As Mack Brown would say after the game, it wasn't a perfect performance, and there is work to do. But what Texas did Saturday was fight to victory in the midst of tremendous pressure. The crowd was electric and alive and very, very, red.
Darrell Royal used to talk about big games, and when people asked him what would determine the outcome, he would always answer, "turnovers and the kicking game."
In its first two games, this Longhorn team has learned the first part of that well. Saturday night in Arkansas, Texas created four turnovers and had none. Two interceptions and the fumble recovery ended the last three Arkansas drives.
What we know about sports is that when it comes to close games, it usually will be the little things that will decide it. The techniques of the game go far beyond just the basics of blocking and tackling.
The Longhorns arrived back at Moncrief-Neuhaus just a little before 4 a.m. Sunday, but less than 12 hours later, they were in the team meeting room and soon they would review the game tapes and go through a light workout.
Texas approached these first two games as a package, a two-game season-within-a-season. Now, with an open date on September 18, they'll learn from these two and move ahead.
Monday was an off day for the players, but not for the coaches. The doors to the video rooms were closed, and the staff was at work, looking for any and everything that might give their team an edge.
It is an old story. We learned it as kids in the Wizard of Oz.
The lion thought he didn't have courage, the tin man needed a heart and the scarecrow wanted a brain. And they each had them, all along.
The lessons of life taught them that. It wasn't about having them, it was about using them.
In a different world, that is called "enlightenment."
In football, it's a frozen moment on a tape, or a demonstration from guys eligible for AARP.
And the bottom line is, Arkansas still hasn't reached that end zone, and Texas had the 22, and they had the 20.