If there is an efficiency quota, Texas has met it. If there is a focus factor, the Longhorns have achieved it.
Once again Saturday, in the 63-18 victory over Tulane, Texas did exactly what it was supposed to do. Tulane, as was Rice the week before, was overwhelmed early and tolerated late. For the third time in four games, Mack Brown found himself in the strange position of having his team try not to score.
Against New Mexico State, he had his quarterback take a knee to keep from scoring in the 70s. Saturday night against Tulane, he intentionally took delay of game penalties to stall a drive that surely would have netted a touchdown that would have brought the Longhorns to within a point of 70 again.
For the first time since Ricky Williams' Heisman year of 1998 (and with Williams in the house as a guest on the Longhorn bench), the Longhorns achieved back-to-back games of over 300 yards rushing. In a first half, that was practically perfect offensively, Texas scored 49 points and never punted.
It was the most points in a half since 1974, when Texas tallied 52 against TCU in what turned out to be an 81-16 rout.
Against a team which had shown a potent passing attack complimented by an effective running game, Texas exorcised the demons remaining in Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium from their last outing, the 38-28 loss to Arkansas that snapped a 20-game home winning streak.
For the second week in a row, all three phases of the Texas team -- the offense, the defense and the kicking game -- played wonderfully winning football. Whether it was Texas forcing Tulane to play beneath their expectations or whether it was a melt down from the Green Wave mattered little. The fact was, Texas was lethal and crushingly so.
In a season, which had the strange beginning of an open date following the season's first game, in essence creating two opening games, Texas showed continued marked improvement Saturday. In the Arkansas game on September 13, Texas had looked like a team playing its first game of the year. Now, three games later, a number of facets of the team are showing great growth.
When the 1963 team reunion took place the night before the Arkansas game, team members went over Darrell Royal's pre-game instructions which he used throughout his career as the Longhorn coach. The one they remembered most was, "Press the kicking game, for here the breaks are made."
In the loss to Arkansas, it was a short kick which set up a 35-yard drive that put the Razorbacks ahead and forced the 'Horns into playing catch-up the rest of the afternoon. Saturday night, Richmond McGee showed tremendous progress when he boomed kickoffs into the end zone and averaged 47 yards on punts.
Through McGee's kicks and great coverage by the punt and kickoff teams, Tulane averaged starting at its own 17-yard line. But the kicking game was only the beginning.
The offense, with Chance Mock and Vince Young providing a powerful tandem punch at quarterback, was as explosive as it was effective. Both signal callers continued to show development as they made plays and took advantage of the considerable weapons at their disposal.
Defensively, Tulane presented the challenge of a fine running back and a quarterback who, from all reports, is destined for stardom in the NFL. Texas met that challenge.
With the Longhorns making their first appearance on the Big 12 series on TBS and a crowd of over 83,000 enjoying great Austin weather, the night could not have been much better.
The victory closed out the non-conference season for Texas, and the Longhorns are now 15-2 in their last 17 non-conference games since the second game of 1999. At home in Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, Brown's teams are now 29-3 since he arrived in 1998.
The challenge now begins with league play, as the 'Horns will play eight straight weeks of Big 12 competition beginning with the Kansas State game on Saturday. In his time at Texas, Brown's teams have dropped only one home game to a Big 12 opponent, and that came to Kansas State in 1999.
With the rise of Arkansas after its victory over Texas, and the re-emergence of Nebraska as a national contender, three of Texas' six home opponents -- K-State, Arkansas and Nebraska -- all will likely will have been ranked in the Top 10 at some point during the season.
The pre-conference games have given Texas exactly what it wanted in terms of the styles of offense and defense it has seen. It has destroyed New Mexico State, Rice and Tulane, and got blind-sided by a better than expected Arkansas team. It is a team which has appeared focused and growing over the last two weeks.
Saturday in Austin, Saturday in Austin, with ABC focusing its cameras and ESPN's College Game Day present, the Longhorns have a chance to answer the media's question: Is this a contender, or a pretender?
This much we know: they have done everything in their power to take care of their business over the last two weeks, efficiently and effectively.
Now, they are well aware that business is about to pick up.