Strength in Numbers: Standing Tall In Texas

Not to become confused with what should always be the Horns' main objectives–conference and national titles–but with annual competition from within the large Lone Star State, Texas must control its own borders to move to those bigger goals. Not only does it carry heavy weight on the field, of course, but it translates to the recruiting prowess Orangebloods may take for granted due to Mack’s yearly success in securing many of the state's top prospects.

Too recently for comfort, Texas couldn’t go unscathed through the state’s terrain during a season and even took frequent beatings (see results at bottom). As a result, it often lost out on top blues from within. Former Longhorn coaches would probably agree the losses to home state opposition contributed to their eventual ousters.

Though Oklahoma is unquestionably Texas’ most tormenting adversary, Texas A&M traditionally has given UT the most in-state resistance. Yet prior to Jackie Sherrill’s dominance of the Longhorns beginning in 1984, it could have been termed a rivalry only by Aggies. Leading to that era, Texas had blistered A&M by a 3-to-1 margin in the series’ 90-year history. But before the NCAA could crash his party, Sherrill bolted with a five-game winning streak, the Ags’ longest ever in the series. The momentum and talent carried over the next several seasons, culminating in 1994 with an unimaginable 10-1 run for the College Station crew. John Mackovic guided Texas to wins in 1995 and ’96, but A&M won the next for his send-off package.

Enter Mack Brown. New at this in '98, he cut down the Ags and their No. 6 ranking, 26-24, while watching Ricky Williams break the NCAA all-time rushing record. Other than a surreal, sympathy-charged loss in College Station the next season, Texas under Mack has dominated Texas A&M. He’s run off the best streak since the days of Darrell Royal and has beaten the Ags two straight at Kyle Field. Though it’s not the same invincible palace like under Sherrill and R.C. Slocum’s first several years, the Longhorns hadn’t accomplished that in two decades. Several of the wins have been Royal-like: 43-17, 50-20, and 46-15.

Baylor, proud under Grant Teaff, handled Texas 10 times in a 19-year period (1974-92). Included, need you be reminded, is David McWilliams’ own version of "Rout 66"–a 50-7 drubbing in Austin in 1989. The Baylor Baptists gave Mackovic "holy" cordiality, greeting him and seeing him depart with bookend losses in his six years at Texas. Baylor hasn’t won since.

True, the Bears no longer bite, or even growl, but in the past they could defeat Texas even in weak years. In 1978, after dropping a contest to a one-win Rice team, the two-win Bears hammered the Horns 38-14 in the "Worm game," named for Teaff’s psychological ploy of eating a worm in the locker room before kickoff. It prevented a superior Texas team from claiming its second straight conference championship. In 1982, a four-win squad gave the hottest team in the country all it could handle before losing 31-23. In 1984, the Bears staggered in with four wins, including over 1-10 Rice by just six points, yet whipped Texas 24-10. In 1989, Teaff had just lost at home to a near-winless Rice team, before shaming Texas 50-7 in Austin.

Now, though, six straight wins by Mack Brown, including 62-0, 49-10, and 56-0 in Waco (where Texas won only twice in the two-decade period above), eradicates that curse.

Despite prior difficulties with Texas A&M and Baylor, Texas Tech is the most troublesome of the state teams now. Since 1986, the Red Raiders have upended the Horns eight times. Only A&M, with ten, has more victories over Texas. The team from Lubbock has handed Mack Brown two of his only three in-state school defeats. A Chance Mock miracle drive this November prevented Brown’s six games from being split equally between the Horns and Red Raiders.

With that additional ‘W,’ Mack has owned his in-state opponents. He’s now 15-3 (83.3%) versus other Big 12 schools from the Lone Star State and a near-perfect 11-1 his last four years. Against all teams from the state of Texas, he’s 22-3. Conversely, in the 14 years prior to his Austin arrival, Texas managed a meager 52-32 mark (61.9%) versus Texas-founded conference competition.

Not in two decades has UT dominated in-state competition to such a degree. Unquestionably, some of these opponents don’t possess the power they once enjoyed. But how much of that is due to Mack molding it that way? Between his recruiting and on-field mastery, he’s contributed heavily to their demise. Slocum, "retired" by the Aggies after last year, can attest to this.


Losses listed, then overall W-L vs. in-state conference competition (year where new coach arrived in bold; the first three years listed are the last three years under Darrell Royal, when his teams started slipping):

1974: TT, Bay 4-2
1975: A&M 5-1
1976: TT, Hou, Bay, A&M 3-4
1977: 7-0
1978: Hou, Bay 5-2
1979: A&M 6-1
1980: SMU, TT, Bay, A&M 3-4
1981: Hou (tie) 6-0-1
1982: SMU 6-1
1983: 7-0
1984: Hou, Bay, A&M 4-3
1985: SMU, A&M 5-2
1986: TT, Bay, A&M 4-3
1987: Hou, A&M 4-2
1988: TT, Hou, Bay, A&M 2-4
1989: TT, Hou, Bay, A&M 3-4
1990: 7-0
1991: Hou, Bay, A&M 4-3
1992: TCU, Bay, A&M 4-3
1993: TT, A&M 5-2
1994: TT, Rice, A&M 4-3
1995: 3-0
1996: 3-0
1997: Bay, TT, A&M 0-3
1998: TT 2-1
1999: A&M 2-1
2000: 3-0
2001: 3-0
2002: TT 2-1
2003: 3-0

Bert Hancock has owned two college football-related web sites and was designated "Lead Writer" of one of the first independent web sites dedicated strictly to UT sports. At the University of Texas, where he received a Bachelor of Business degree, his area of specialty was in statistics and probabilities. His "Strength In Numbers" column appears occasionally on and in the Inside Texas magazine.

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