He told the team about last year's UCLA game, where the Bruins led the Longhorns 13-3 at halftime, before the Bruins ran away with it in the second.
"He said that this year … we were going to come back and win it," said freshman receiver Jaxon Shipley.
And win the Longhorns did, using a big second half for the second consecutive week to overwhelm an opponent. This time, Texas won the second stanza 14-3 to take home a hard-fought 17-16 victory.
"This team wouldn't have won this game last year," Brown said.
But the Longhorns did, and they did it while rotating through second-and-third-team quarterbacks Case McCoy and David Ash after a poor start from first-teamer Garrett Gilbert saw him complete as many throws to BYU players as Texas ones (two). Gilbert was replaced by the duo halfway through the second quarter and never returned.
"We weren't off to the start that we wanted to have, and so we just needed to provide a spark," said Bryan Harsin, Texas offensive coordinator.
The Longhorns fell behind 6-0 early largely because of field position. The Cougars started their first two drives on the BYU 42 and the Texas 37. Both times, BYU took the ball into the red zone, only to have the Longhorn defense stiffen and allow just a field goal.
But after the second Gilbert interception, a jump ball win by Travis Uale at the BYU 3, the Cougars finally found the end zone. BYU drove 97 yards in 12 plays, with Jake Heaps capping the drive with a pass to local product and former Longhorn commitment Ross Apo from six yards out. Just like that, the Cougars led 13-0 with 11:41 left in the second quarter.
Later in the quarter, BYU miscommunicated on a route, and Heaps threw the ball right to defensive back Adrian Phillips, who intercepted the ball at the BYU 25, and finally the Longhorns were in business. Texas couldn't punch the ball in after driving the ball inside the 10, but Justin Tucker cut the margin down to a 10-point game with a 23-yard field goal.
This is the same place we were last (year) at halftime against UCLA," Brown said. "We were down 13-3 and didn't respond well in the second half. The coaches were very positive. I was more positive than last year."
And the result was more positive. On the Longhorns' first second-half possession, they traveled 62 yards in seven plays — with all the yardage gained on the ground — and pulled to within a field goal after Cody Johnson dove in from the one. The Cougars responded immediately, going on a drive of their own that again stalled in the red zone. For the third time in the game, they settled for a red zone field goal, and kicker Justin Sorensen booted this one through as well.
But now the offense had found a groove. Aided by a five-yard completion from McCoy to tight end D.J. Grant on fourth-and-four, the Longhorns moved the ball into the BYU red zone. Texas didn't get any points from this trip, as Johnson was cut down for no gain on fourth-and-one from the BYU 14.
"(I was) disappointed we didn't make fourth and one on this end," Brown said. "We thought we were running the ball well enough. We were sitting in a six-point ball game, so three didn't really help us. We felt we needed to roll the dice and get the seven, and if not they weren't moving the ball. The winds had changed, and we really felt like we could get the field position.
"And that's exactly what happened."
Sure enough, the defense held for a quick three-and-out and the offense, blessed with good field position, drove down the field again. This time, the Longhorns didn't face any fourth downs, though McCoy completed a 20-yard pass to Shipley on third-and-nine to keep the drive moving. Johnson gave the Longhorns the lead with a four-yard touchdown run.
The defense also did its part, forcing a quick three-and-out. When BYU got the ball back a second time, cornerback Quandre Diggs picked off a deep throw for Apo.
That gave Texas the ball with 3:39 left and a chance to ice the game. Sitting in a third-and-six with 2:52 remaining, the Longhorns went into the Wildcat and ran a pass play from Shipley to Ash, who found himself wide open. The 23-yard completion gave the Longhorns a new set of downs.
"I think that was something we tried to set up," Harsin said. "In that situation, I think we've run that a few times. (BYU) did a great job on third down. Their third down defense was very good. We needed to get some kind of spark there, and that was an opportunity that we felt would work in that situation."
Texas faced another key third down, this one with eight yards to the sticks, with 1:32 left. This one was converted by Malcolm Brown, who rushed for a 14-yard first down, allowing McCoy to kneel twice and run out the rest of the clock.
After nearly getting doubled in total offense in the first half — 168 yards to 88 — the Longhorns won that category in the second half 201-67. The Longhorns rushed for 166 yards on the game, while passing for 123. But the game might have been decided by the defense, which held three red zone trips to field goals and which allowed just 43 rushing yards on 23 carries.
"You could tell by the second quarter that it turned more into a passing game," said defensive coordinator Manny Diaz. "There was no question that that was the difference in (the game). We knew it was going to be who could impose their will on the other team.
As for the quarterback race, all parties were noncommittal. Harsin said that he wanted to see the film before making any decisions, and Brown said he and the coaches would focus on that problem on Sunday.
"The thing tonight was about this team," Brown said. "It's not about a person. It's not about the fans. It's about winning a football game in Texas the hard way with a really young team against an older team. They came in here ready to play. That's what it's about.
"That's the story," Brown said. "It's nothing else other than we're 2-0 and the guys fought their guts out. And I was really proud of them. What a win. What a comeback win and what a great thing for this young team and this program as we start to put it back together."
Texas (2-0) will travel to face UCLA at the Rose Bowl next Saturday.
BYU — Justin Sorensen 30 FG, 9:33 1Q
BYU — Sorensen 33 FG, 6:45 1Q
BYU — Ross Apo 6 pass from Jake Heaps (Sorensen kick), 11:41 2Q
TEXAS — Justin Tucker 23 FG, 1:44 2Q
TEXAS — Cody Johnson 1 run (Tucker kick), 10:46 3Q
BYU — Sorensen 32 FG, 4:36 3Q
TEXAS — Johnson 4 run (Tucker kick), 8:46 4Q