"We've got to win out and get the best bowl game possible," WLB Derrick Johnson said. "We've got to take this one game at a time and try to get a win on Saturday."
Four of the past six years, Texas has posted regular season wins against a team that won either the Big 12 North (1999, 2001, 2003) or South (1998). On Saturday, Texas has a chance to possibly extend its streak when it faces Big 12 North leading Missouri, ranked No. 24 in the Coaches Poll.
"Missouri will help us put this (OU loss) behind us because they're really good," head coach Mack Brown said. "Missouri is leading the league in total defense. That will get your attention after you don't score."
Brown's Texas teams have gone 6-0 the week after the OU game and have not lost consecutive games since the 1999 season ended with a three-game skid. But isn't that cold comfort for a team that has been busting its butt since the Holiday Bowl to ensure San Diego is in their rearview mirror?
"Most of the time, when the kids aren't pleased with their overall performance, they come and play harder and play better," Brown said. "That's what I expect this week."
This week begins for Texas what Brown considers to be the toughest schedule in the country. Some of that is post-OU coach-speak but the Big 12 South is making some noise. Texas is one of four ranked southern division teams while Texas Tech is on the cusp of Top 25 consideration after handing Nebraska its worst loss in program history (70-10).
"We're better on defense than we were last year and I'm not sure we've got better players right now," Brown said, "but they're playing so hard. We're running the ball much better, which gives us a chance to win. The kicking game's better. We didn't stop the run as well on Saturday as we need to and we've got to throw better. Last year at this time, we didn't know who we were. It's hard to say that we've improved after a loss but, if you go back and look at last year, we weren't very good. Now, we've got a chance to be really good."
This had the makings for one of those seasons where Texas could have backed into the Big 12 title game (as it did in 2001) had not both Kansas State and Nebraska cratered at the same time. A revenge-minded Sooner team is unlikely to take a misstep at Kansas State (0-2 in Big 12 standings) Saturday. The Mildcats, er Wildcats, lost to Kansas for the first time in 11 seasons this past weekend and are unlikely to trip up the Sooners when they got slapped around on their own grass by Fresno State. Stranger things have happened, of course. It was this time last year that KSU shook off three losses and rebounded to win its first Big 12 title. The difference was that last year KSU had a quarterback.
Five years ago, Nebraska's November 13 visit to Norman would have had the makings of a showdown. These days, we hardly recognize the pass-happy (make that, pass-unhappy) Huskers, who took their West Coast offense to Lubbock Saturday and set a new mark for futility in the program.
That leaves OU's visit to No. 16 Oklahoma State on October 30, followed by a trip to No. 23 Texas A&M one week later, as the key stretch for the Sooners. The prediction here is that the Cowboys spring the upset in the Bedlam Series but will have too little gas in their tank when they travel to Texas seven days later. The Horns corral the Cowboys, OU goes on to roll the improving-but-overranked Aggies, leaving a three-way tie atop the southern division standings. If this scenario plays out, Orangebloods would have to hope that Texas Tech outduels OSU in Lubbock on November 27, that OU blows past what would then be a three-loss, unranked Missouri team in the Big 12 Title game and that Texas wrestles an at-large BCS bid from either the SEC (five teams in the Top 25 but currently just one in the Top 10) or the revamped ACC (three teams currently ranked in the Top 7).
It would have been so much simpler had the Texas offense held on to the football and crossed the goal line at least once last Saturday.
"We're putting the past behind us," Vince Young said. "Especially me because I'm one of the leaders. Everybody's going to be looking into my face to see how I respond, especially the media and fans. I've got to get that (loss) behind me and get the team prepared to play."