Orange Crush

Will the Longhorns finally win another national championship? And if not, will we stop loving Mack Brown before Saturday?

PARTICIPANTS:

CHRISTOPHER KEYES- Texas Monthly articles editor

KIRK BOHLS- Sports columnist for the Austin American-Statesman

CHUCK COOPERSTEIN- Host of SportsNight on ESPN radio 103.3 FM, in Dallas

 

KEYES: I’ll get right to it: Can the Longhorns win a national championship this year?

BOHLS: Absolutely. I think the pieces are in place. They may have had better Texas teams since Mack Brown has been here, but I think he probably has the most favorable schedule he’s ever had.

COOPERSTEIN: And the talent isn’t lacking. The problem with Texas, though, is never about the physical. It’s always about the mental. It absolutely kills Mack Brown when people bring that up, but it seems like whenever they are confronted with some real adversity within games, they don’t respond very well. Do they have the talent to win it? Yes, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

KEYES: But how can Texas avoid being pummeled again by Oklahoma, which has sixteen returning starters?

COOPERSTEIN: Oklahoma has not proven itself to be invincible. We saw that at the end of last year. But to me, what it will come down to is, when stuff goes badly for Texas in the game, what will they do to try and change things? And I think that has been a failing of Texas’s coaches for a long time. They just have a hard time adjusting when things start getting away from them.

KEYES: That’s one reason they call Mack “Coach February”: He’s supposedly a great recruiter but not much of a strategist.

BOHLS: I think there’s truth to that. When he came from North Carolina, some of the people there told me, “You’re gonna love him till Saturday.” That kind of speaks to his personality and salesmanship and enthusiasm. But part of it is [offensive coordinator] Greg Davis, who has been skewered all over the country for being too conservative in big games. I call it the east-west offense that they’ve patented down here, where they throw a quick screen to Roy Williams and hope he breaks one. Against Rice, boy, he can break one, but against Oklahoma, a lot of them go for one yard.

COOPERSTEIN: And I wouldn’t call [Sooners coach] Bob Stoops a riverboat gambler, but he does have a sense of timing. Two years ago, with Texas up 14­3, he went for it on fourth down just before halftime. They made first down and went on to score and then pulled out a close game. Afterward people said that Bob Stoops was the luckiest coach in the world, but I said, “No, he just knows what he’s doing out there.”

BOHLS: And when you try those unconventional plays and they work, your players are going to believe in them. I mean, Texas’s most famous play in its history [in 1969, versus Arkansas] was a fourth-and-three pass, where just one guy goes out—and you just don’t do that. But it worked. And that’s why Darrell Royal is Darrell Royal.

KEYES: And why Mack Brown isn’t. So given all those complaints about his coaching, at what point is his job in jeopardy?

COOPERSTEIN: For me, it’s a two-year process, unless they just completely crater and go and win four games this year. If you can see slippage in the program over two years—say, winning only eight games this year and then eight the following year—at that point, it’s probably going to happen. But I don’t think, for instance, that if he loses to Oklahoma again, they’ll automatically think about firing the guy.

KEYES: What about you, Kirk? Would you consider another loss to Oklahoma a fireable offense?

BOHLS: No. The only way I can see it happening this year is if they have another 65­13 type of loss. Otherwise, he’s done so many good things. He’s won 59 games. The luxury boxes are full. The stands are full. Mack Brown is not as much on thin ice as people say; I just wouldn’t recommend that he walk out into the middle of the lake. To break one, but against Oklahoma, a lot of them go for one yard.

COOPERSTEIN: And I wouldn’t call [Sooners coach] Bob Stoops a riverboat gambler, but he does have a sense of timing. Two years ago, with Texas up 14­3, he went for it on fourth down just before halftime. They made first down and went on to score and then pulled out a close game. Afterward people said that Bob Stoops was the luckiest coach in the world, but I said, “No, he just knows what he’s doing out there.”

BOHLS: And when you try those unconventional plays and they work, your players are going to believe in them. I mean, Texas’s most famous play in its history [in 1969, versus Arkansas] was a fourth-and-three pass, where just one guy goes out—and you just don’t do that. But it worked. And that’s why Darrell Royal is Darrell Royal.

KEYES: And why Mack Brown isn’t. So given all those complaints about his coaching, at what point is his job in jeopardy?

COOPERSTEIN: For me, it’s a two-year process, unless they just completely crater and win four games this year. If you can see slippage in the program from previous years—say, winning only eight games this year and then eight the following year—at that point, it’s probably going to happen. But I don’t think, for instance, that if he loses to Oklahoma again, they’ll automatically think about firing the guy.

KEYES: What about you, Kirk? Would you consider another loss to Oklahoma a fireable offense?

BOHLS: No. The only way I can see it happening this year is if they have another 65­13 type of loss. Otherwise, he’s done so many good things. He’s won 59 games. The luxury boxes are full. The stands are full. Mack Brown is not as much on thin ice as people say; I just wouldn’t recommend that he walk out into the middle of the lake.

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