The Hunter Becomes The Hunted

The Burnt Orange carrot dangling as an incentive in front of Texas since spring football was the perception that all of college football was discounting the Longhorns this season. So, what happens now that the previously overlooked program has become college football's top-ranked team?

In a word: nothing.

"We don't approach any game differently," said defensive coordinator Will Muschamp. "They're all the same. They all count for one. It was a good victory last week, but it's on to next week. There's a 24-hour rule. You enjoy it for one day, and then it's on to the next game."

But offensive coordinator Greg Davis conceded he would be less than honest if he said there was no fear of complacency among the players, or if there was no danger of a post-Oklahoma emotional letdown.

"The veteran in me says that you worry about that," Davis said Monday, "but I have great confidence that won't happen."

It can be easily argued that no Longhorn team, regardless of its inexperience and perceived lack of play-makers, flies completely under the radar. After all, the program is college football's third-winningest in both total victories (826) and winning percentage (71.7 percent); Texas' 109-25 mark during the Mack Brown era is the NCAA's best during that stretch.

"We're going to get everybody's best shot no matter what," said Texas QB Colt McCoy. "We all know that. It's been like that since I've been here. It's probably always going to be that way. We look forward to that. We know we have to play the best we can play every time we step on the field. If you let up at all, that's when you get beat. The good thing about this team, so far, is that we're focused on how good we can be."

Evidence of the team's focus was DT Aaron Lewis' statement last Tuesday that he genuinely, honestly and truly did not know who Texas was playing the week after Oklahoma. A wounded, yet explosive, Missouri team comes to Austin after its surprising 28-23 home loss to Oklahoma State. The Tigers rank third nationally in total offense (549.6 ypg), passing offense (378.0 ypg) and scoring (48.3 ppg).

"It would be hard for our kids to turn on the tape today and watch Missouri and not get excited as explosive as their offense is," Muschamp added. "I would not understand how a kid could watch tape and not be excited about coming back to Darrell Royal Stadium and playing at home."

The Horns have not played a home game since a 52-10 shellacking of Arkansas on September 27. Since then, McCoy has emerged as a Heisman Trophy front runner among the tracking services that publish weekly updates from several Heisman voters. Saturday was no ordinary day at the office for McCoy. The junior literally received 126 text messages for orchestrating the 45-35 triumph against previously top-ranked Oklahoma.

"People even texted me during the game to say 'Good play!', McCoy laughed.

Fans had plenty of plays from which to choose after McCoy connected on 80 percent of his passes (28-of-35) for 277 yards, one TD and no INTs against a unit that was leading the nation in pass efficiency defense. For his work, McCoy was named the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week for the third time in his career. Teammate and housemate Jordan Shipley was named Special Teams player of the Week after his 96-year KO return for TD erased an early 14-3 Sooner lead.

"We've have as focused of a team as we've had since I've been here," Shipley said. "The deal is we've got only 13 or 14 games each year. We should be able to focus on that many days. Guys have bought into what's going on. The main thing about this team is we have a lot of unselfish guys. You can't put a value on that. Nobody cares who gets the credit or who gets the most accolades as long as we win football games."

Recent history has shown that there may be no position more precarious than college football's top ranking. Eight teams were rated No. 1 for at least one week during the topsy-turvy 2007 season. The fact that the Horns are the fourth team to be ranked No. 1 this season, combined with the fact that Texas plays four ranked teams in the next five weeks, puts the top billing in proper perspective.

"It means nothing unless you're No. 1 at the end," McCoy said. "That's our focus. Our goal right now is to beat Missouri and take one game at a time. That's what we talk about every week. We're not going to change, or stray, from anything that we've done so far."

For now, the trend that bodes well for Texas is that no Mack Brown-coached Longhorn team has ever lost the week after playing Oklahoma.

"That says something about the way these guys have gone back to work," Davis concluded.


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