It's a story they tell in the twilight, when discussions of games and heroes abound. The legendary Texas baseball coach Billy Disch, in a post game locker room speech 80 or more years ago, began his talk with, "men, the Lord was with us today."
From the back of the room, Bibb Falk, whose home run had won the game, said, "yeah, but ole Falk took over in the ninth."
His message was clear. God does not get involved in the outcome of athletics contests. The Lord makes the day, but it is up to you to make the play.
So it was Saturday when the Texas Longhorns faced their toughest home challenge since stunning Nebraska in 1999. Oklahoma State had just driven 99 yards to score a touchdown that brought them within two points of the No. 2 Longhorns. Its best receiver, and one of the best in the country, Rashaun Woods, had run an out pattern on the two-point conversion attempt.
In a game of what Mack Brown has called the "ultimate team sport," it was now up to two people to determine whether the score would be tied at 17-17, or whether the Longhorns would lead, 17-15, with barely four minutes left in the game.
Woods leaped for the ball, with Texas senior CB Rod Babers right behind him. If he came down with the ball breaking the plane of the goal line, then it would be a tied score. If he didn't, then the Longhorns would hold on to a two-point. Babers hit Woods as the ball arrived and drove him to the ground just short of the goal line. Later in the game, Babers again would step up, with an interception as OSU drove for what could have been a game-winning score.
As the Cowboys got the ball back for their final drive before the Babers interception, there was one collective thought running through the nervous full-house crowd in Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium — somebody needs to make a play.
Babers and the Texas defense did.
For the moment, the unfortunate thing about Saturday's game is that the media and the fans have failed to give credit to Oklahoma State. This is a good football team and they left every single ounce of energy on the sweltering turf in Austin. Too often, in a game such as this, people are critical of a narrow winner like Texas, rather than recognizing the tremendous job done by the opponent. This is an Oklahoma State team worthy of respect.
What we know about that, is that years from now, this game will be merely an entry in a media guide, a simple score amid a thousand scores. The importance of the game for a program, however, is the nature of the victory. In every great season, there comes at least one moment when a team is tested. Championships are won because somebody stepped up to make a play to save a victory that might save a season. Saturday was about playing for the Big 12 South Championship. That's the goal that is out there when you play your first league game.
The coaches and the players tried as hard as they could to concentrate on OSU. The media and the fans ignored the Cowboys. Media questions began, "I know you are not supposed to be thinking about OU this week, but …"
The Dallas Texas Exes bought at least three PA announcements to be read at the Oklahoma State game promoting their activities in Big D next week. Even the TV guy who does the weather on the scoreboard said, "of course, on our shows next week, we'll be keeping you up to date on what the weather will be doing in Dallas next weekend."
So is anyone surprised that the media printed, "Texas was looking ahead?" The same fans who chanted "Beat OU," after the victory at Tulane grumbled that the Longhorns just weren't ready for the Cowboys.
Again, nobody gave Oklahoma State credit for the game they played.
The fact is, Texas won its first conference game of 2002 and its 16th consecutive home game and will head to Dallas for the Cotton Bowl matchup with Oklahoma. The Longhorns will take a 5-0 record into the game, entering it unbeaten for only the second time since 1985.
The important thing to remember is that Saturday's game had all of the ingredients for an upset, an upset just like the Cowboys pulled off against Oklahoma in Norman in the final game of 2002. Unless they are beset with injuries, this OSU team will prove at the end of the season to be far superior to the one that stunned the Sooners last year.
What is important to understand about Texas' season this year is that the Longhorns are a perfect 5-0 without being perfect. Each week, there have been issues that the coaches could take to the practice field in a effort to improve the team. Isn't it amazing how many times fans will say, "well, they can't play like that and beat You Name It U."
Fact is, You Name It U wasn't there that day. Oklahoma State was and Texas played well enough to win. The last time I checked, you play the game for just that reason.
So, analyze this. Here is a team with tremendous individual talent, which will be challenged every week. There is not a team on the schedule that Texas can't beat and there is not a team on the schedule which, if everything falls right, cannot beat Texas.
The difference in good and great will be defined by players who make plays when everything is on the line.
It was not an accident that Friday Brown was asked to speak to the Longhorn Foundation Advisory Council. That's the guiding board of the entire Texas donor base. He talked about how teams succeed and he used as an example the 2002 National Champion Longhorns baseball team.
"What was so impressive about them was the way they picked each other up," he said. "If somebody wasn't going well, somebody else picked them up. That's the mark of a great team and that's the way champions are made."
The Cowboys were the best team Texas has played this season. Saturday, the Longhorns were challenged from a lot of different directions. The offense was challenged, the defense was challenged and the special teams were challenged. Most of all, their spirit and resolve were challenged, and in the end, those were the things which came shining through.