What they did, in terms of their theme for the season, is "finish" the beginning.
A commitment of this 2003 Longhorn football team has been to win in the fourth quarter. In the four losses in the previous two seasons, Texas had a chance to win those games in the final quarter, and didn't get it done. Against Arkansas this September, the same thing happened.
But as Texas began its critical drive to a goal of the Big 12 Championship, against one of the true powers of the league, this time, they did it.
In what is arguably the toughest home conference schedule in its history (Texas will play Kansas State, Nebraska and Texas Tech in Austin), the 24-20 come-from-behind victory over Kansas State was the most glorious part of college football. It was about kids making plays.
On an afternoon where ABC-TV and ESPN's Game Day had featured Austin, everybody responded. The world saw a gorgeous Autumn afternoon, and from the vantage of the LBJ Library grounds, folks were treated to a perfect star-lit night and an Orange Tower on the cut-ins from the ESPN set.
But it was in the stadium, in the arena where dreams do come true and hopes remain alive, that a team was challenged and came shining through. And everybody played their part.
The burnt orange crowd, challenged by the Kansas State fans who scarfed up all of the tickets the Big 12 allocation allows, might have been the loudest since the famed night in 1990 when Texas effectively caused the end of the feared Houston run-and-shoot offense.
"They (the fans) were a lot louder than we thought they would be, and a lot louder than I had anticipated them to be," said Wildcat defender Andrew Shull.
In 1999, Kansas State trailed Texas 17-9 at halftime, and came back to win. This time, after the Longhorns posted a 17-3 lead at half, the Wildcats again responded and fought their way to a 20-17 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Through spring drills, in the summer of Texas heat, and into the fall, these Longhorns had promised themselves that when the game came down to the fourth quarter, this season would be different. In the second game of the season, they were too far behind, and Arkansas played too well, to let that happen.
In life, there are those spaces where we all stand in a state of suspension, with the turns that we take often described as defining moments. The great part of a team is that it is a collection of individuals who come together in that space. Mack Brown says that Darrell Royal once told him that teams don't quit, indviduals quit, and if enough individuals quit, the team loses.
It fits then, that games are won by teams because enough individuals make plays that make the difference. So it was on Saturday, for it was a wonderful combination of people and units picking each other up. Baseball coach Augie Garrido defines it best, when he talks of his actor friend and a small group of buddies they called "the Ride Back Guys."
In the old West, when a guy got shot off his horse, the Ride Back Guys were the ones who would ride back and get him. Picking up their brother.
The reason this game was so satisfying went beyond the obvious fact that it was a great win over a national power and a Big 12 contender. It was satisfying because everybody played a part. It was Michael Huff blocking a punt, and Tony Jeffery recovering for a touchdown. It was Roy Williams, in the not the best of his days as a receiver, walking onto the field to encourage the defense. It was Chance Mock hitting Sloan Thomas in perfect stride for a touchdown.
When you face a great offense like Kansas State, playing defense is all about accountability. With a tremendous quarterback and running back against you, it comes down, so many times, to man on man.
Make the play. You know you can't do that every time against great players, but you have to win enough individual battles to win the game, and they did.
It was a massive game for defensive tackles Marcus Tubbs and Rodrique Wright, as well as ends Kalen Thornton, Tim Crowder and Austin Sendlein. It was a superlative game for Derrick Johnson, but you could mention every single player on the defense, and at some point in the game, each made a play that helped Texas win. The game, and possibly the season turned when Phillip Geiggar literally took the ball away from Ell Roberson as the Wildcats were driving for what could have been a game clinching touchdown.
In the end, all three phases of the game rose to the occasion. The offense scored, the defense held, Richmond McGee punted the ball out of harm's way, and the defense held again.
And then, there is Vince Young. In sport, there are those people who have talent, and those who have "the gift." Vince Young has the gift. Coming off an ankle injury which seemed to have ended his game, if not his season, Young came back in and led Texas on a dramatic drive to the go-ahead touchdown.
After the Longhorns tried twice from the one-yard line, and as they prepared for a fourth-and-inches play that could put them ahead with still over five minutes left in the game, Young urged for a surge. He told his offensive linemen to push, and he would get the ball over the goal, and he did.
Mack Brown never even flinched when he considered what turned out to be the game winning call. A field goal would have merely tied the game, and an offense which had pretty well had its way in the third quarter would come back on the field for Kansas State.
The touchdown and Dustin Mangum's extra point make a four point game. Brown has said many time that if his team can't make six inches, it probably won't win the game. So in that moment he placed his faith right where he has in his 20 years of coaching -- in the hands of his kids.
That is why there was an Orange Tower Saturday night, and why Austin was alive and buzzing long into the Texas night.
Fact is, however, it is, after all, only a beginning. Texas' goal is to win the South Division of the Big 12, and the whole world and most of the extended universe knows that Oklahoma comes up next week. It would not be all that unlikely, if the Longhorns succeed in the dream, that they would see the Wildcats again. Kansas State and Nebraska, as usual, appear to be the powers in the North.
Brown told his team to enjoy the K-State victory for a day, and then get ready for Oklahoma.
Everything those two teams have shown to this point indicates college football is in for one heck of a ride next Saturday in Dallas.
But as Texas fans partied long into the night Saturday, this much was clear. This is a team which on this day, in this space, in time, was called on to be accountable, and it was.