Brown: 'I've Let Our Team Down' Against OU

Texas coach Mack Brown does not know why the Texas-Oklahoma series is so painfully streaky, with each program historically taking turns at breaking the other's heart. Even so, Brown points the finger solely at himself for the Horns' current five-year skid against their arch-rival.

"I'm not happy that we haven't done better in this game," Brown said. "I feel like I've let our team down, and the school, in this game. That doesn't mean I'm not going to get ready to coach it again."

This time around, Brown is coaching what is arguably the best team he has fielded during his eight-year tenure in Austin. It's been 21 years since a Texas team has entered the OU game ranked as high as No. 2 nationally. Brown brings to Dallas a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate directing the nation's top rushing offense (310 ypg). He's got the reigning national D-I assistant coach of the year (Gene Chizik) running the Big 12's top defense (NCAA No. 10) that's surrendering just 258 total ypg.

He's also got history on his side. No Texas coach has ever lost six straight to the Sooners. It's time for this series to turn.

Brown recalled walking off the field following Texas' 38-28 win in 1999, the last time the Horns notched a 'W' in this series, and his top assistant Bill Little informing him, "This usually goes in streaks of five and this is our fifth win."

Actually, there was a tie in 1995 and a Texas loss in 1996, but there's no denying the cyclical nature of the series. Texas was 8-2-1 in the rivalry from 1989-1999 and Oklahoma, of course, has won the past five.

"I thought then (1999) that if it goes in streaks of five," Brown chuckled, "then it's really bad timing as I'm walking off the field to tell me that. I've reminded (Little) of that the last four years."

I asked Brown what the piece of advice Darrell Royal has given him regarding this game. Sure enough, Royal warned of the vicious cycle characteristic of the series for more than six decades.

"Coach Royal told me that the game goes in streaks and that the momentum changes more in this game than other game he's been involved with," Brown told me. "The streaks change, and they're not sure why. He thinks the momentum changes because it's split down the middle at a neutral site. Somebody's loud throughout the whole game."

The howls persist long after the final gun. Brown was blistered for weeks on his weekly radio broadcast from callers still irate about the 65-13 debacle in 2003. Websites formed, and newspapers were stuffed with letters, calling for the head of Offensive Coordinator Greg Davis. The 12-0 setback last season was Texas' first shutout in 24 years, ending the nation's longest active scoring streak. The 52-point deficit the previous season was the worst in series history, which observes its Centennial Game this Saturday.

"You feel like your team is a reflection of you and, when they don't play well, I do take that personally," said Brown, who added that he tends not to "give myself enough credit for all the wins so I don't kill myself like I used to for the losses. I do understand now that it's not about me and that's it's much bigger than that. I didn't lose all those games but I didn't win all those games, either."

LDT Rodrique Wright defended Brown Monday, stating it is typical of the coach to deflect blame from players.

"That's just the way coach Brown is," said Wright. "He'll take the bullet for the team. He's good about that and we appreciate that. But the players go out there and play the game. We control what goes on. It's on us. Coach Brown is going to get us ready to play but, when we put our fingers in the grass, it's time to play."

Texas entered the game as the highest ranked team just 23 times since the AP Poll was established in 1936. Oddsmakers have made Texas a two TD favorite over the 2-2 Sooners, who have contended with growing pains, injuries and defections. On Monday, Brown employed the coach-speak he typically applies to the next opponent on the schedule, heaping so much praise on OU that it prompted a tough question from Dallas Morning News columnist Kevin Blackistone: "Are you trying to diffuse the dominant analysis of this game among the fans and media that this is absolutely your year, you're looking so good, Oklahoma is looking so bad for the first time and, if you can't beat them now, that's it?"

Brown replied, "They've said that every year. What we do, right or wrong, what we'll say is that Oklahoma is a well-coached team with a lot of great athletes. We'll have to anticipate that they'll play their best game and we need to be the best team on Saturday. It has nothing to do with what they've done in their past. It has nothing to do with what we've done in our past, whether it was four weeks ago or four years ago. If we count their four weeks, we've got to count our four years. Neither one of us are looking at that. It's about this team, this game, this week."

In other words, it's a game where you can throw the history books out of the window. Sort of.

"It's unfair for a team to get the credit for last year's team, or the last five years' teams," Brown continued. "It's also unfair for them to take the burden because the chemistry is different, the personality is different, the team is different. This team shouldn't get credit for last year's Michigan win."

Yet, history has a way of repeating itself in this series. Texas' longest losing streak stretched six painful seasons from 1952-1957. It signaled the end of UT coach Ed Price's tenure and ushered in royalty. Darrell Royal told me earlier this season that his 15-14 upset over No. 2 Oklahoma in 1958 was the most significant victory of his career because it legitimized his program, helped seal the border for recruiting and stopped the bleeding for a looong time. Including that landmark win, Texas would take 12 of 13 from the Sooners from 1958 to 1970.

For now, Brown does not want his troops to be concerned with ending a cycle or starting a new one. This was the essence of Brown's message to his team when they gathered Sunday night: "I told them I wanted this to be fun. They had a lot of fun with the Ohio State game. They really enjoyed the experience in the Rose Bowl. I want this to be the same. Enjoy the buildup. Enjoy the challenge. You've got a chance to do something we haven't done around here in a while, and that's hard to do. You did it against Michigan. You did it at Ohio State. So, do it again this week."

If they do, Texas fans will party like it's 1999.



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