Nov. 2, 2008
Bill Little, Texas Media Relations
The clock in the car had not been changed, so it was tardy in its recognition of the demise of Daylight Savings Time. It read "a quarter-till three."
All the way home, I was thinking of a writer for the Omaha World Herald, who, in a day when sportswriters were not ashamed to be for their home team, had been covering his beloved Cornhuskers as they carried their No. 4 national ranking into Oklahoma. It was the mid-1960s, and the Sooners were struggling. But that day, Oklahoma pulled the upset.
Faced with writing the story, he simply telegraphed his paper, "The wrong team won...use the wire story."
Halloween had stayed an extra day in Lubbock as far as the Texas Longhorns were concerned, and the culmination of the trip had turned out to be the meanest trick of all.
Mack Brown had told his team after the game that football is a hard game, vicious, in fact. But it is, after all, a lot like life.
You don't always win.
When I finally got home, it was another early morning for a Texas team that had played at El Paso and Colorado and had made that long trek back to Austin in the middle of the night. A columnist's job is to try to make sense of what he has seen, and as I thought of the trip to Lubbock, I knew that the guy in the press box at Oklahoma, and Mack, had pretty well summed up the moment.
Over and over again, Mack Brown has repeated the words of his friend, Dick Tomey, who said, "It isn't the best team that wins, it is the team that plays the best that day."
And when you lose with one second left on the clock, you are left with a sack full of "if onlys" and "what ifs."
All of that was running through my mind when I sneaked into the back bedroom to quietly get ready for bed. And there, on the dresser, in a burnt orange leather frame, was one more of Brown's favorite sayings: "Don't let yesterday use up too much of today."
It serves no purpose to mope over what happened in Lubbock. The guys in black made the final play. Time ran out on an unbeaten season. What is important now is, "Where do you go from here?"
This team has lived, since the victory in the Holiday Bowl, with the mantra of "Earn The Right." It has done that. It has earned the right to retain national respect for a strong run through the toughest schedule in school history. Only once in NCAA history, in the war season of 1943, has a team ever played and defeated four straight teams ranked in the top 12. Texas had made it through three of them.
It is a squad that came from out of the top 10 to No. 1, in beating Oklahoma, Missouri and Oklahoma State. And the Texas Tech game, which the Raiders won, 39-33 when Michael Crabtree pulled away from two defenders to score on a 28-yard pass with only a second left, ended the third quarter of the season.
Texas and Tech are playing in the toughest conference in America, and both have three games remaining in the regular season. Anyone who is bold enough to predict what will happen from here in the conference, or the national scene, is simply guessing.
Coaches and players will go over and over the game, looking at what happened, determined to fix it. Just as they did after the victories over UTEP and Colorado when they returned in the middle of the night, the coaches went straight to their offices to look at the videos.
The difference now is that the Longhorns, in their quest for the Big 12 title, no longer control their own destiny. That, as always, remains the goal.
It was, to be sure, not the best of games for Texas. There were uncharacteristic things that happened. But it would be wrong to leave Lubbock and not pay tribute to the single quality of this team which has endeared it to Longhorn fans, and won national respect: its heart.
When almost everything seemed to go wrong, this team never quit. Twice it trailed by 19 points, and still they kept fighting, trying to find a way to win. Injuries took away key players from both the offense and the defense, and still they kept fighting.
And to the very last, when Tech students charged the field after the go-ahead touchdown and two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties forced the Raiders to kick off from the 7--even with one second left--Mack Brown believed his team could still win with an improbable kick return.
With Quan Cosby out of the game and critical dropped passes, Colt McCoy turned the game around in the second half by finding Malcolm Williams for touchdown passes of 37 and 91 yards. And then he drove the Longhorns 80 yards for a go-ahead score at 33-32 with 1:29 left in the game.
Tech won the game because they got into a rhythm offensively. They ran 81 plays to 62 to Texas, and held the ball for 37 minutes to barely more than 23 for UT. The Longhorns were out of sync, almost from the beginning offensively, but turned it around in the second half.
As Colt McCoy and the Longhorns went through the security at the Lubbock airport, checkers tried to put on their best face and assure the team it was a "good game." It had been a showcase of the immense talent in the Big 12 Conference, and fact is, it probably was a great college football game--if you didn't care who won. But the Longhorns weren't buying it.
When you play games, there are no "good" losses. The hardest, however, are those where each player and coach and staff member goes back to the "If I had only...."
That is not a bad thing, because you learn a lot from "If I had only...." And games, after all, are microcosms of life.
Sometimes the hardest lessons are learned from mistakes. But they are also often the best lessons.
Perhaps Mack Brown's best philosophy now enters the equation for Texas, and that is, "Never let a loss beat you twice."
The dynamic is impacted because there is still so much to play for. The Longhorns will be very much in the BCS picture as they enter that "fourth quarter" beginning with Baylor on Saturday.
It is therefore important to make sure that, "Whatever happens in Lubbock, stays in Lubbock."
You can't change what is; you can only affect what lies ahead.
Or--and I know you have heard this before--"Never let yesterday use up too much of today."