"Go out," Mack Brown had told them at halftime, "and play from your heart."
And they did.
Saturday's Texas-Oklahoma game in Dallas was exactly what the college football world expected it to be. It was a heavyweight slugfest between the nation's No. 2 ranked Sooners and No. 5 ranked Longhorns. Oklahoma was favored, and nearly every prognosticator picked them to win.
That is what was expected, and that is what happened.
It was not what Texas had hoped or planned for.
Going in, Brown had said he really didn't know how good his team was, but that to win, it would have to play well.
When you play from your heart, you allow yourself to be vulnerable to pain, and when you lose, it hurts a lot. Blowouts are embarrassing. Close losses just plain hurt.
Too often in sports today, we forget to give credit to the winner. It is natural for the loser to think of the things it might have done, and to want to have back this play or that.
But the fact is, the story of this game should be about Oklahoma. The Sooners are a veteran team with a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback who made the plays he had to.
They had a fabulous freshman running back who followed a wonderful offensive line against a gallant Texas defense that fought every single play of the game. They had a defense that made the plays they had to, frustrating Texas several times just when it seemed the Longhorns were in range to score.
They played like the nation's No. 2 team favored to defeat No. 5. And No. 5 played as hard as it could to pull off the upset that didn't happen. And there were some absolutely marvelous performances and highlight-reel plays from players on both sides. On another day, it could have been different.
I will always remember my old friend Abe Lemons, who was talking to a young football player in the 1970s. Under Fred Akers, the Longhorns and a whole bunch of teams across the nation got into "visualization."
"Tell me about how that works," Abe asked the young player.
"Well," he said as he switched into a faraway space, "I envision myself taking the handoff at my own five-yard line, and making a quick cut behind a blocker at the line, dodging a would-be tackler at the 15, and outrunning the safety for a touchdown."
Abe thought for a minute, chewed on his cigar, and said, "Well, what about that other guy who is visualizing tackling you?"
The point was, the best of plans come down to execution, and beating the guy across from you.
When it comes to sports, we are an interesting society. The biggest loser in America is the team that loses the Super Bowl. Major league baseball teams are dropping out of the playoffs right now, and to hear folks tell it, they are all terribly flawed. They have won a bunch to get into that playoff space or ranking, but when you lose, that is forgotten.
The most famous sports poem in America is "Casey at the Bat." What we know is, Casey struck out. Anybody remember the name of the pitcher who beat him?
What coaches and players have to avoid in the case of a tough loss is the trap of staying trapped in disappointment.
When you lose, you are sad. Sad is a non-active emotion. It is flat-lined. So to feel powerful, we get mad. Anger is powerful. Some people hit something, others write e-mails. And that is understandable, that's one way some folks feel better about themselves.
"I really told that guy off," is one way to do it.
But what coaches and players have to do is go back to work. That is when you have to coach the hardest, and when players have to shut out everything and zero in on the future.
This is when Darrell Royal says it is important for the family circle to get tighter. For the last four seasons, the Longhorns have done that remarkably well. In the last four years following the Oklahoma game, Texas has lost only one regular season game, and that was to Texas Tech in Lubbock in 2002.
What has defined Texas nationally over the last several seasons has not been its loss to Oklahoma, it has been how it has responded to it. That is why it commands national respect, and why it has been the only team in the country to be ranked in every BCS poll at the end of the last five seasons.
This season is already unique in that by mid-year, the ranks of the unbeaten teams are much thinner than ever before. It is also significant that the Big 12 South Division is a powerhouse, with Oklahoma, Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech all finding their way into the national rankings.
Couple that with the expected performance of Missouri and the surprise of Kansas, and UT's Big 12 North opponents are formidable as well.
Right now, however, there must be only one emphasis, and that is the next opponent, Missouri.
Mack Brown always tells his team "don't let a loss beat you twice," and his Longhorns have been remarkable in taking care of that. Fact is, Texas hasn't lost very often, but when they have, they have bounced back with a win every time since the close of the 1999 season.
So that is the approach coaches and players have to take. Win or lose, you have to put the previous week behind you and move on.
It serves you best to shake hands with the winners, allow yourself to feel positive about what you did accomplish (even though you didn't win), learn from your mistakes, and most of all, you better get ready to play the next game.