The key, they had been told, was to withstand the surge.
And here it is important to remember the very first theme of this season.
And so it was that Texas, the team that folks once maligned for their ineffectiveness in the third quarters of their games, scored 48 unanswered points and crushed Oklahoma State, 55-16, Saturday night. Twenty-seven of those points came in the third quarter.
It was the fifth team the Longhorns had played, which at one time had been ranked in the nation's top 10, and it came on the road after a rousing home win in Austin over Nebraska. Make no mistake. Oklahoma State, like the Cornhuskers, is a very good football team.
Their purpose was to hit Texas with a varied offense, using quick, short passes, a good running game, and an occasional deep ball. Most of all, they wanted to keep the football, and tire the Longhorn defense.
It almost worked. In the first half, the Cowboys ran an incredible 50 plays. Seventy a game is pretty good average. Texas ran only 53 against New Mexico State. And they controlled the clock, owning over 19 minutes of the 30 minute half. With excellent field goal kicking and an effective mixture of the run and pass, the Cowboys seemed to take control of the game with a touchdown with 5:23 remaining in the first half that gave them a 16-7 lead.
They had the Texas defense on the field too long, and the plan almost worked.
And that was when things began to change. Three plays later, Vince Young found Roy Williams racing down the right sideline, and hit him in stride. Roy broke a tackle, and 67 yards and a Dusty Mangum extra point later, Texas was behind, 16-14.
Ever since the colleges changed the coin flip rule and allowed the winner of the flip to defer its choice until the second half, there have been those who wondered which was best. If you win the toss, should you make a decision to choose the ball or the wind in the first half, or wait?
This time, the waiting paid off.
Texas had won the toss and deferred, so it got the ball to start the second half. And darned near didn't ever turn loose of it. The 'Horns opened the quarter with a 12 play, 80 yard drive for the lead at 20-16. On the next series, they drove 79 yards for a touchdown, and on the third play of Oklahoma State's ensuing drive, Michael Huff intercepted a pass and took it in for a score.
In a little over 10 minutes in the third quarter, Texas had scored three times and Oklahoma State had run just nine plays.
While Williams was massive on a 42-yard pass from Young when he dragged six tacklers 10 yards, the formula for success for Texas was simple. It was Darrell Royal who said, "We're gonna dance with who brung us," and that is exactly what Texas did offensively.
They used the running of Young and Cedric Benson, mixed in some passing and some straight ahead power runs by fullback Will Matthews. Defensively, they got after Josh Fields, Nathan Vasher did a great job of covering the all-American Rashaun Woods, and in the space of a few minutes on a cold night in Stillwater, completely turned the momentum of the game.
The explosiveness of the young team again was amazing. A week before, Texas lost the turnover battle and broke even in the kicking game and still beat a good Nebraska 31-7. This time, the Longhorns lost all phases of the kicking game and still won, 55-16.
The long day in Stillwater, and the short night that would follow a 2:30 a. m. arrival in Austin Sunday morning, resulted in another big road win for a Brown team that has been amazing on the road. Texas has now won 16 of their last 17 road games, and the Big 12 mark has stretched to 12 of its last 13, with the only loss coming at Texas Tech last season.
It was that defeat that drew most of the conversation as the resurgent Longhorns began to put away the great memories of a fine performance in Stillwater. Last year, Texas was poised for a BCS bid when the Raiders derailed the Longhorns in Lubbock. Now, the 'Horns have again thrust themselves into the nation's top 10, and are in position for an at-large berth in the BCS.
But what we have learned about this year in college football is that it is folly to take anything for granted. Other than the apparent invincibility of No. 1 ranked Oklahoma, nothing seems certain.
That's why coaches who got home at 3 a. m. were back at work just a few hours later. And the Longhorns held a conditioning workout on the Walter Fondren Roof under the tent outside the south entrance to the Moncrief-Neuhaus Athletics Complex.
With one more road trip left, to College Station to play Texas A&M on the day after Thanksgiving, Texas has acquitted itself well. A season that began with high hopes, only to see them almost dashed by a couple of stinging early losses, now has turned around where a lot of really nice things could happen.
The offense has been revamped to darned near explosive even as the season was in progress. The defense has succeeded despite a lot of youth and some critical injuries.
But at 8-2 and with two games against old Southwest Conference foes left, there is still one challenge out there for Texas, one that has been ever-present since the goals for the year were established.
Finish. Simply, finish.