Brown: OU More 'Measuring Stick' Than 'Must-Win'

Texas coach Mack Brown looks to Saturday's showdown against No. 2 Oklahoma in terms of a "measuring stick" to gauge the progress of the 2004 Longhorns rather than as a "must win" game for either his program or his career.

"Texas and Oklahoma are in the Top Five every year at this time (and) every game we play is a must-win," Brown said Sunday. "If we had lost to Baylor yesterday, or if OU had lost to Texas Tech yesterday, now that would have been a must-win. So the question (of must-win) seems a little foolish to me. It's one of the great games in college football. It's a fun game for the fans. It's national attention to both schools, so it is a must-win but so was Rice. So was Arkansas. When, at Texas, is it not a must-win?"

True dat, but some games are obviously more important. One of the things freshman SE Nate Jones told Inside Texas earlier was that Brown told Longhorn recruits that there were two teams on the schedule that Texas had to beat (read: must win). Those teams were Arkansas and Oklahoma.

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"Everybody seems like they're all must-win, so I always thought it was a little bit funny when people ask if this is a must-win," Brown continued. "Well, since I got here, most of the people I visit with think all of them are. If you beat Oklahoma this weekend, Missouri is a must-win. If you beat Missouri the next weekend, Texas Tech is a must-win. So that's the life you live at Texas. And that's a good thing. The standards are high, and you want them high. The season is long now and I think all of them are important."

True dat, but only twice in the 98-year history of this highly cyclical series has a Texas coach lost five straight against the Sooners. That happened to Ed Price (1952-56) and then to the coach who replaced him, Darrell Royal (who went 0-5-1 against OU from 1971-76). Neither coach survived that kind of skid against the Sooners. Given the impact the Texas-OU game has historically had on both the coaches and general direction of both programs, it's little wonder that few reporters were concerned with Texas' 44-14 win over Baylor to improve to 4-0.

"People were wanting to talk to our players about OU through the Rice game and through yesterday's game against Baylor," Brown said. "Those are important games to the players. A lot of those guys got to get into their first game and got to win it. One of the reasons why I think we play well against teams that we're supposed to beat is that we take them as important games. And if you say after the game, 'That was unimportant. Let's go talk about the next one,' then it's really hard for me next time we're a heavy favorite that this is important. They'll have plenty of time to talk about OU. It wouldn't be any different if it were any other game. You need to appreciate a win because they're hard to get. When you get one, you better not be acting like it was unimportant because they are important."

Even if Saturday's affair is not must-win, it remains the annual litmus test to measure the current state of the (Longhorn) union.

"It's a measuring stick for us," Brown said. "We're a better football team than we were this time last year after four games. In fact, three of the last four years we've been 4-0 and we weren't 4-0 at Texas since 1983. Our teams have been good. We've been one of the best in the nation and OU's been really good. We haven't held up our side of this game. Two of the last years have been competitive. Last year's wasn't and this will be a good measuring stick to see how much we've improved."

The Baylor game was indicative of the strides Texas was looking for in its passing game, Brown said. FL Tony Jeffery's two TD receptions were not only a career best but also marked the first time this season that a WR caught a scoring pass. On Saturday, QB Vince Young (15-of-20 for 189 yards) completed balls to eight different receivers who helped account for 204 total yards through the air.

"They're farther along than they were two weeks ago, much less six weeks ago," Brown said. "(Against Baylor), they took a huge step forward. Of course, three of the experienced ones didn't even play at Rice. Well, I guess a redshirt freshman is experienced for us right now. We thought that everybody being healthy yesterday and having a chance to play really helped us."

The argument here all along has been that this year's OU game is not must-win for Brown but, if Texas loses, the 2005 game shape's up as career-saving. And that is simply a statement based on the fact that nearly 100 years of history have proven that no coach on either sideline survives a six-year skid.

"College football has gotten crazy," Brown said. "It's who plays the best on that day. OU's got a great team but our team will be excited about this. This is a fun week. But I have to carry the burden of losing the four games; the kids don't. It's not about them. And three of our coaches have never even coached against OU. I think this team just has a different attitude about the whole thing. Likewise, in games where we've won four straight years, you've still got to go out and prove it every week. There are no guarantees."

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