"I never thought we'd lose. I even thought with 41 seconds left when we got the ball back we still had a chance," said Brown. "I just wasn't going to happen today."
The Texas run defense, which had been the rock of their team in the toughest of times, was run over and around by Texas A&M (9-3, 5-3) to the tune of 244 yards on the ground.
"That's not our standard here," said defensive tackle Frank Okam after the game.
Coming into the contest, the Longhorns were giving up only 42 ypg rushing (No. 1 nationally), but the Texas A&M coaching staff decided to attack the Longhorn D at its strongest point.
"We felt that there were some things we could do against Texas' defense and we knew if we were going to win the game we had to have some rushing yards," said Texas A&M head coach Dennis Franchione, elated to have the win (and also to have his continued employment affirmed, I imagine).
Texas A&M quarterback Stephen McGee only threw 13 passes (7-of-13 for 58 yards) and instead did his damage on the ground with his compatriots. Three Aggies ran for more yards in the game than the total the Longhorn D had been giving up per game: McGee (95 yards), Michael Goodson (86 yards) and Jorvorskie Lane (60). The speed and elusiveness of Goodson coupled with the power attack of Lane was too much for Texas to stop.
"They have a great offense," said cornerback Aaron Ross. "They have a big back, a skill back and a great quarterback."
As much as the defense struggled to hold the A&M ground attack, the most surprising aspect of the game was Texas' inability to score. Coming into the contest, the Longhorn offense was averaging an impressive 39.5 points per game and even managed to put up 42 in the loss to Kansas State with their starting quarterback on the sideline. Yet on Friday the Longhorns could only muster seven points, despite starting multiple drives inside the Aggie half of the field. But the Longhorns were killed by poor third down execution.
"We didn't do a good job of converting on third downs," said Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis, whose unit successfully converted only two out of nine third downs in the game, compared to Texas A&M's 10-of-16.
Davis made no excuses after the game.
"A&M did a nice job, and it's my responsibility to get us to convert in those situations," said Davis.
But, it's not that the offense couldn't move the ball down the field. The Longhorns churned up 230 yards during the game, but were stopped cold when they made their way into the red-zone.
The first stop came on the Horns' first drive and set the tone. The Longhorns had moved, almost unchallenged, down the field on the opening drive, but then faced a fourth and inches on the Texas A&M 8-yard line. They Texas was moving the ball, it should have been a simple conversion. All Texas has to do is plow ahead with their big guy and they'd be in the endzone in no time. 270-pound running back Henry Melton trotted out, lined up in the backfield and was promptly stuffed by Aggie linebacker Mark Dodge, turning the ball over on downs. It was a tight game throughout and there were several plays like the Melton stop that could have changed the outcome.
"Make a 4th and 1…as close as that game was, you win the game," said Brown, point-blank.
It wasn't the only momentum-shifting mistake for the Longhorns, either. Late in the first half, Texas was down 6-0 and driving. On the A&M 5-yard line, Texas quarterback Colt McCoy dropped back and threw a fade route to WR Limas Sweed, who caught it for the touchdown.
Or so Texas thought.
An offensive pass interference call pushed the Horns back to the 20. On the next play, McCoy tried to hit Billy Pittman as the receiver strided into the endzone, but the ball was under-thrown and Texas A&M SS Melvin Bullitt intercepted the ball on the 1-yard line, preserving the Aggie lead.
"Those two opportunities slipped away from us," said Davis with a sigh.
The game also ended with a couple of interceptions, but the final one was not by McCoy, it was by his back-up Jevan Snead. This was because McCoy was knocked out the game with a blow from Texas A&M defensive end Michael Bennett on the final drive. McCoy laid motionless on the field for several minutes and the replay on Godzilla-tron, shown only once, brought a cascade of boos from the fans in Burnt Orange.
As the cart with the Texas quarterback stretched out on it rolled off the field, McCoy lifted his arm to show the assembled 89,102 that he was OK. According to UT, McCoy was strapped down for precautionary reasons and the injury is not as serious as first feared. Specific details on the injury and McCoy's playing status are not available.
Snead came in with 20 seconds remaining on the clock and hurled the ball up for grabs. Someone did grab it, but it was Texas A&M rover Japhus Brown and the game was over.
It was an especially difficult loss for the Longhorn seniors, who were playing their final game at DKR.
"It was a difficult game to swallow, obviously," said senior running back Selvin Young. "I felt like everybody went out and tried their best, we just fell short."
In the end, all the Texas Longhorns can do is look to the future.
"It's disappointing, but I guess the best way to look at it is that we have at least one more so we have to make the best of it," said senior defensive end Brian Robison.
On Saturday, Oklahoma takes on Oklahoma State in Stillwater. With a win, the Sooners lock up a trip to Kansas City and the Big 12 Championship. If OSU pulls the upset, the Longhorns will find themselves backing into the conference title game and will still have a shot at the conference crown and a berth in the Fiesta Bowl.