Culpepper's Commentary: Texas-Iowa State

Arkansas players used the word "soft" to describe Texas and it became a stigma. Oklahoma reduced the Horns to jelly in Dallas -- again. Those two games exposed every problem in the UT football program to the light, and it was an ugly sight. But after Iowa State, do the Longhorns finally have something that gives them a positive identity on both offense and defense?

Before the 40-19 win over the out-manned Cyclones, what a week the sports world had at the Longhorns' expense. Coach Mack Brown and his program had become an object of ridicule nationally and locally. (As a former player, I can't imagine the humiliation of facing my classmates after the Oklahoma disaster, year after year after year after year.) Coach Brown's references to 9- or even 11-win totals ring empty now that his team has been destroyed by Oklahoma yet again. Along with the mishandling of Major Applewhite and the absence of Cedric Benson against the Sooners three years ago, the 63-14 and now 65-13 scores must haunt the Texas head coach and go bump in the night, even as Athletic Director DeLoss Dodds bravely comes to the front to shield off any talk of coaching changes at the top.

We also found out in the newspapers last week that defensive coordinator Carl Reese was contemplating retirement last year. And the Texas coaching staff, "amazed" at how Vince Young had improved, decided to elevate to their starting quarterback against ISU the only threat the Longhorns' possessed against OU.

But, as with each of the previous three seasons after the Horns had gone through a chamber of personal horrors after the Oklahoma game, Texas emerged a better looking football team the following week. (Which makes one wonder what in the world was done during spring practice, summer workouts and early fall to make the football team have absolutely no idea what it had to do to be a championship-caliber outfit before the Red River Shootout.)

With distractions and questions swirling like a forest fire out of control, Coach Brown and his staff went about the business of putting the broken Longhorns back together in a week's time. After Oklahoma, Humpty Dumpty seemingly had a better chance of looking good than did the Longhorns at Ames, Iowa. They had to win big to regain any measure of personal pride.

It was a miracle.

Benson got the football 32 times. The defenders (mostly) tackled like their lives depended on it. Before halftime, Roy Williams actually got a ball over the middle down the field instead of horizontally within five yards of the line of scrimmage. Vince Young began to look relaxed and fit nicely into the spread offense, which was mixed with I formation plays and the thundering lead blocks of Will Matthews. Even the Texas secondary looked fundamentally sound in man coverage with a free safety.

So at the moment, the Longhorns are the butt of a joke to most everyone except Iowa State and its fans. But don't try to tell them Mack Brown can't coach and that the Texas players lack toughness.

Over the next five games, the Longhorns have the opportunity to convince a whole lot more folks, including a legion of Orangebloods, that they aren't spoiled and over-rated, starting this week with the Baylor Bears and their fans in Waco. I think Texas will do just that, 44-10.

But we still won't know whether this football team has settled down to take dead aim on second place in the Big 12 South. We won't find that out until Nov. 1 when a heavyweight football team wearing a big red 'N' on its helmets comes to Royal-Memorial Stadium.

Pat Culpepper played for The University from 1960-62 and graduated from UT with a B.A. degree with honors in history. He coached college football for 12 years as an assistant at Texas, Colorado, Tulane, Baylor and Memphis State and was head coach at Northern Illinois from 1976-79. He also spent 16 years as a high school coach in Texas at Midland, Lufkin, Galveston Ball, Westfield and his hometown of Cleburne. He was selected to the Longhorn Hall of Honor in 1991. His commentary will appear regularly in the Inside Texas magazine and at

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