Cedric Reed blew through the line and slapped a paw from his 6-foot-6-inch frame at Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters. The ball bounded away for a second until defensive tackle Chris Whaley pounced on it with under a minute remaining.
With that, the Longhorn crowd exploded.
Cheers rained down on a Longhorn defense that had finally performed up to expectations, and seconds later the wake of the season’s first inspired “Texas! Fight!” could be heard across Austin.
Why not celebrate after all?
The fumble sealed a Longhorn win, moving them to 1-0 in conference play and, at least for a week, muzzled the fire-Mack-Brown talk. Texas sits at 2-2 on the season, and the players just looked relieved to win.
“This win specifically, after all that we went through the past few weeks, is a great one,” senior offensive guard Trey Hopkins said.
The team’s respite was palpable after the game. Carrington Byndom and Case McCoy spent their entire press conference sharing inside jokes, and even soft-spoken co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite cracked a one-liner that sent around ripples of laughter.
Texas enjoyed the win, and rightfully so. It went through one of the toughest stretches a group can have emotionally during the past
few weeks, and as a human, it’s more than acceptable that the group basks in their victory.
But, as always, perspective is needed. It was up to Brown to provide it.
The 16-year veteran at Texas had a smile spread across his lips. Yet, when questions peppered him about the future of the team, he relented. This win is just the first step.
“This is a start, this isn’t the end,” Brown said. “We had to get this game tonight. We had to get back on the right track. We had to get 1-0 against the Big 12 champs from last year .”
Brown’s right — it certainly is just the beginning. Texas still has eight games remaining against one of the deepest conferences in America. The team’s stated goal is a Big 12 title, and despite the win, the way it played on Saturday isn’t good enough to run the table.
Texas played admirably after the loss of David Ash and Jordan Hicks, but a 10-point win at home against a rebuilding Wildcat team doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.
Lost in the shuffle of the win were the Nick Saban 2014 T-shirts sprinkled throughout the stands, and the school’s reluctance to show Brown on the big screen. But that’s OK, the negatives don’t always have to shine.
The players want to bask in the glow of the win, as they should. But it’s a telling sign. Would the 2005 or 2009 Longhorns celebrate with this vigor over an un-ranked Kansas State squad?
And that’s all you need to know about the eventual result of this season.