Brown Has Sooner-Sized Chip On His Shoulder

At what point does an otherwise successful and likeable Texas coach simply <I>have</I> to beat Oklahoma? Two words: <B>Blair Cherry</B>.

Cherry’s four-year stint as Texas’ head coach culminated with his 1950 Longhorn team that finished No. 3 in the nation. That year, Texas upset top-ranked SMU, and became the first Southwest Conference team to sweep its league opponents. Yet Cherry later revealed that he decided to quit coaching two weeks after a one-point loss to the Sooners. Keep in mind that Cherry’s teams won the Sugar Bowl, won the Orange Bowl, and never lost to Texas A&M. He was the first native Texan to coach the Horns. Yet, Cherry received a barrage of abusive mail and insulting phone calls throughout his final season -- not to mention heightened media criticism and alumni pressure to resign -- despite the fact that his team won the SWC title for the first time in five years.

The reason: Cherry had just lost three straight to the Sooners.

Mack Brown does not need a history lesson. He’s reminded of the recent trend against Oklahoma every time a reporter sticks a microphone in his face. Especially this week, as the Horns prepare for Saturday’s season-defining showdown against the top-ranked Sooners, 2:30 p.m. (CDT, ABC). In fact, Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Huguenin wrote this week that "Bob Stoops vs. Mack Brown is like Shaq vs. the 13-year-old down the street from you who can’t make a layup."

"I don’t worry about (criticism) anymore and just try to do the best job I can week to week," Brown said. "There’s a whole lot of people that are really happy that we’ve won 11 (games), back to back, for the first time. We’re at a point in America where a lot of the focus is on those that aren’t."

Added Brown, "If you look at it across the country, everybody that loses did a bad job coaching that day. That’s what we’ve got; it’s just that way. If you lose a couple of games, you’re a horrible coach. What we’ve done is we’ve won 11, we’ve lost two, and those two are big. The only thing we can do better is win them all. I understand what’s in front of us. People have opinions and if that (11 wins) is not good enough, then that’s fine. That’s their opinion. It’s a free country. I’ve grown up a lot since I’ve been here. I know where I am and I know who I am. All my focus is trying to beat Oklahoma."

The Texas-Oklahoma series has been a vicious cycle where one program takes turns beating the other for an extended period of time. While Texas is 0-for-the-21st Century against the Sooners, the Evil Empire went 2-7-1 (and went through four coaches) against Texas during the previous decade.

"It’s been a real strange series," Brown said. "It’s been really, really streaky. I don’t think anybody knows why. It’s been a different series than most other series across the country. Certain teams get really, really good at times. Oklahoma has been really, really good the past three years."

But at what point does the beating stop and a previously cornered opponent rise up and, in essence, proclaim, "I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!" At what moment, to paraphrase Saint Darrell, do "angry men win football games"?

Brown said he thought his team was at that point in 2001, after getting slapped around to the tune of 63-14 the year before.

"I was really disappointed in what I did three years ago because we didn’t do well at all," he said. "I don’t know what I did wrong but I did everything wrong. The last two years, we’ve played hard and the game has been a great game. It’s come down to the fourth quarter. Give them credit: they made the plays in the fourth quarter and we didn’t. But our guys played really hard and we (coaches) have got to do a better job of helping them."

It has been a relatively subdued week at practice, given the opponent, and maybe that’s a good thing. Always one to emphasize the positive, Brown remains more cheery than Cherry. Still…

"Unless you win all the games here you’re not going to be happy, and that’s something we strive to do each year."

True dat. But not every game is the same. Just ask Blair Cherry.

WEDNESDAY INJURY UPDATE

Texas trainers do not release injury reports until Thursday, but when you see players practicing (or not practicing) you get a pretty good idea of who’s going to be on the field Saturday.

QB Vince Young hasn’t missed a day of practice since overcoming what initially appeared to be a nasty ankle injury against KSU. In fact, he seemed just fine when he filed past me as players exited the indoor practice facility at Denius Field. When reporters asked if Brown told Young to appear as if his ankle were completely healed, the coached smiled and nodded. Later, Brown said there is nothing about the pressure-cooker Oklahoma game that makes his hesitant to play Young at any point in the contest and said, "We just need to get him healthy."

RB Selvin Young will play Saturday, Brown said, and that is good rockin’ news for kick-off returns.

MLB Garnet Smith was in full pads Wednesday after suffering an ankle injury in the season opener, although you gotta love the serious wood that backup Aaron Harris brought to the KSU game. Reese’s attitude is that if the trainers clear them to practice, there is no reason not to play them.


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