Somebody started it, a single voice, as if a gentle breeze would become a strong wind across the plains.
"The pride and winning tradition of The University of Texas will not be entrusted to the weak or the timid. The Pride And Winning Tradition Of The University Of Texas Will Not Be Entrusted To The Weak Or The Timid. THE PRIDE AND WINNING TRADITION OF THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS WILL NOT BE ENTRUSTED TO THE WEAK OR THE TIMID!"
They were shouting then and the locker room in the northeast corner of KSU Stadium resonated with the chant.
By the time head coach Mack Brown spoke emotionally to his team about tenacity and heart and proving something, if only to yourselves, the tension of the final moments of the 17-14 victory at No. 17 Kansas State had transformed to a very special joy.
"Remember this moment because you are the lucky ones," he said. "Very few people get to experience this feeling that you have tonight."
He wasn't talking about victory, redemption or vindication. He was talking about that unique togetherness that only a band of brothers, or sisters, or any combination thereof, can feel when they bond as a team for one common purpose.
This was a Texas team which went to Manhattan, Kan., surrounded by a lot of detractors and doubters. The critics discounted their talent and completely underestimated their heart and resolve.
"It isn't the fact that you get knocked down, but to lie there, that's disgrace," the poet said.
This was a team, challenged with injuries and bruised with bitter defeat, that absolutely and completely willed itself to get up and win.
A team, we have been told, is a collection of individuals who, in order to win, come together as one heartbeat. Saturday night in the plains town they like to call "The Little Apple," a bunch of Longhorns did just that.
Make no mistake about it, this was a big game. Kansas State is an excellent football team and they have brought something tremendously special to the people who believe in them. Just as Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium has been transformed to a sea of orange, so it is that the people who don purple have engulfed and exuded pride in their Wildcats.
Everything, it seemed, pointed to a K-State victory. The odds-makers had established the 17th-ranked Wildcats as a two-point favorite over the No. 8 Longhorns. A season that has been scarred by an inordinate amount of injuries got even stranger when senior tight end and placement snapper Chad Stevens twisted a knee during Friday's walk-through. All week, the Longhorns had planned to use a power running game, with a formation that included two tight ends, junior Brock Edwards and Stevens. With the loss of Stevens, half of the offensive game plan went out the window.
It is important to remember that this game mattered a whole lot to both of these teams. Kansas State entered the game with a Big 12 North Division loss to Colorado. Texas entered with a South loss to Oklahoma. Another league loss and one of the teams was going to be on the ropes with its chances to win the conference. Both had entered the season with hopes of winning not only the league, but all of their games.
Following the Longhorns' final practice in Austin, where they took advantage of their new indoor facility with an artificial surface similar to the one at K-State, Brown sent the bulk of his team back to the team room for their traditional Thursday pregame meeting. He kept with him the seniors, those guys whose careers as college players were now down to six regular season games.
In the spacious cavern that is the new "bubble," they talked alone. Earlier that day, the kickers had worked on the artificial surface. The hold, the spot, the measured steps and footing that can be different from grass had been explored.
Then, Friday morning, the team departed for Kansas.
For a handful, such as senior Beau Trahan, there were bad memories of KSU Stadium, for it was there in Brown's first season, that the Wildcats had crushed the Longhorns, 48-7. That loss had come a week after a good UCLA team had beaten Texas in Los Angeles. The setup was the same. The results needed to be different. Brown spent a good 15 minutes, much longer than usual, talking to his team after Friday's walk-through.
There is little more frustrating in football than a night game on the road. Coaches plan for them and everybody dreads them, but this season, the Longhorns have caught a break. Their night game routine, both home and away, has been the norm, rather than the exception. In fact, of their first seven games, the Horns have played four of them at night.
For 10 consecutive road games, not including the neutral site games such as the OU game in Dallas or the playoffs or bowl games, Texas had worked its road plan successfully. Not since the Stanford game, the first road trip of 2000, had the Longhorns lost on the road.
However, this time the odds were against them. No one connected with the program believed the Longhorns would not be emotionally ready for the game. That was about emotion. Logic said that ready or not, this was an excellent Kansas State team that would be hard to beat.
At that moment, emotion stepped up and hammered logic.
When it was over, it would be impossible to name the stars. You could talk about the defense, which bottled up the dangerous Ell Roberson and the offense, where senior QB Chris Simms had some wonderful throws and junior WR B.J. Johnson had one of his most significant games as a Longhorn, with four catches for 132 yards that either made or set up every score.
Mention a name on either side of the ball and on special teams and you'll name a player who did his part to win.
Senior DE Cory Redding and sophomore LB Derrick Johnson led the Longhorns tacklers, but the others who saw action weren't far behind.
Senior Brian Bradford punted exceptionally well and he and the cover guys limited a potent K-State return unit to only nine yards on two returns.
Sophomore PK Dusty Mangum booted the first game-winning field goal of his career and it came only weeks after he had been maligned and doubted. The measured steps and the work on the artificial turf in the new facility paid off.
However, the most impressive part of this college football game between two really good football teams was that nobody went down easily. Kansas State played tough defense, and at the end, when the game was on the line, the Wildcats made plays that put them in position to win, or at least to send the game to overtime.
With seven seconds left in the game came the play that will be forever known as "the block." Elsewhere on this Web site, you can find Chris Carson's classic photo of the play. It will show a leaping Jackson, sailing high despite a sore ankle. It will show junior DE Kalen Thornton reaching, and in the middle, there is junior DT Marcus Tubbs.
The Texas defensive line had moved the battle front. With their surge, they penetrated and annihilated the Wildcats line. Another angle shows a K-State lineman, desperately clutching the back of the jersey of Wright, who had pushed by him.
With his big left hand, Tubbs swatted the ball away. Celebration roared on the UT sidelines, across the field from the ball, which seemed to be trickling harmlessly away. In the midst of the joy, assistant coach Mac McWhorter and others were still engaged in the battle.
"Get on the ball," McWhorter shouted.
With one tick left on the clock, junior CB Nathan Vasher did.
It was one more moment where team figured into the win.
You see, it was third down. Had K-State recovered the ball with time remaining, they could have tried again.
The late trainer Frank Medina had a sign in his training room in the old Longhorns locker room under the graying Memorial Stadium stands and it was there until Texas moved into the football complex at the south end of the field in 1986. A similar sign has hung for years in the Texas baseball locker room at Disch Falk Field.
When they remodeled the facility that is now known as Moncrief-Neuhaus, Jeff Madden changed the wording just a little and posted it in huge letters at the south end of the strength and conditioning room.
It reads, "the pride and winning tradition of The University of Texas will not be entrusted to the weak or the timid."
On Saturday night in Manhattan, it wasn't.