- Carter Strickland, Reporter, HornsNation
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LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Mack Brown was poised to hit rock bottom.
Make that Rock Chalk Jayhawk bottom. But backup quarterback Case McCoy saved the day. Not the season. Not even close.
Given how the Longhorns' 21-17 win transpired, they are a long way from doing that.
Sure, they won, but Texas always wins against Kansas. Everybody always beats Kansas. The Jayhawks have lost 18 straight to BCS AQ schools and allowed an average of 37 points. Texas had 21. Make that 7 until McCoy was inserted in favor of starter David Ash with Texas down and down to its final two drives.
"We just needed to move the ball," co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin said.
And McCoy, who was 5-of-7 for 68 yards, engineered two quick touchdown drives to get the Longhorns to bowl eligibility. What No. 23 Texas (6-2, 3-2) didn't do was move anybody off the fence about this team.
The Longhorns continue to be a team blessed with talent but bereft of soul. Against Kansas (1-7, 0-5) talent ultimately wins. Against Texas Tech, TCU and Kansas State it will take so much more.
But what Texas has shown to date is that it doesn't have that much more to give. Sure there have been times, usually when things are desperate, that someone is able to make a play against a lesser team. The two fourth-and-6 conversions against KU and Oklahoma State on game-winning drives are perfect examples.
What's more telling is that Texas continues to get into such precarious situations.
Mack Brown can shake it off with platitudes tossed Charlie Weis' way. Brown went with the "great coach" line again. And maybe someone who has not looked at KU or Notre Dame's records under Weis would swallow such reasoning. But record books are not printed in pencil.
If they were, Texas might go back and erase the past two-and-a-half seasons. But that time period is in ink and is putting an indelible mark on the record book, and on Brown's legacy. Had he lost to KU, a thought he wouldn't even entertain in the after the game -- "you all always talk about losing," he said -- the stain would have never come out.
Instead, because of his eternal optimism, Brown likened this game to one eight years ago.
"I thought it was so similar to 2004 and the 2004 team ended up the Rose Bowl," he said.
That Texas team was in the top 10 with one loss and had a defense ranked No. 23 and an offense that was seventh nationally. Sure, that team struggled against what was a 4-7 KU team. But the difference is this Texas team seemingly struggles against every team.
And what makes it more concerning this week than maybe the 56-50 victory over Baylor or the 48-45 loss to West Virginia or even the 41-36 victory over Oklahoma State, is that at least in those games, a single finger could be pointed at the problem and at the person at the root of that problem -- defensive coordinator Manny Diaz.
Against KU, a team whose only win came against South Dakota State, problems were spread all over the field. The offense, the one thing Texas could hang its Stetson on, scored seven points in the first three-and-a-half quarters.
"We relaxed after that," Brown said of Joe Bergeron's 3-yard score with 10:53 to play in the first quarter. "Everything was so easy."
This isn't exactly a team that deserves a day at the spa. Oh sure, Brown said he has told the team they cannot relax against anyone and expect to win. Clearly, the message did not get across.
Neither did the one about stopping the run. Kansas' James Sims had 176 yards. He is the fifth straight player to set a career high in rushing against Texas. It's a stat the might make one take a pumice stone to their eyes, not the soles of their feet.
Still, when it was over, Diaz was able to applaud his players and state how they made plays in the second half. They did just that, which only highlighted the defense's inability to make plays in the entire first half. The KU run game was so productive that after an incompletion with 20 seconds left in the first quarter, the Jayhawks didn't even attempt another pass until the fourth quarter. Kansas had 181 rushing yards over that time period.
Finally so flummoxed by what was a simple rushing attack, Kenny Vaccaro said he and the defense reverted back to earlier teachings.
"[Guys] were just running sideline to sideline; it was high school stuff," the safety said. "Coach Diaz put me back there and I remember just in high school doing that, see ball, hit ball."
So it's basically the Dick-and-Jane reader stage for Texas. Meanwhile, everyone else is on "Moby Dick" and left wondering if Texas will have the same fate as the Pequod.
Saturday, that didn't happen. Water was bailed. A few holes plugged. And Ahab continued to grip the wheel.