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The Inside Track | Chris Dufresne ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Texas' Brown Comes Up With Knee-Jerk Reaction

October 14, 2002|Chris Dufresne

Texas Coach Mack Brown's decision to take a knee at the end of Saturday's first half against Oklahoma was textbook logic and a move every NFL coach except Steve Spurrier would have made.

Of course, this kind of thinking has no place in the college game and might prevent Texas from ever winning another national title.

Situation: Oklahoma had just scored a touchdown and two-point conversion to cut Texas' lead to 14-11 with five seconds left.

Oklahoma botched the ensuing squib kick, however, the ball bounding straight into a Texas player's arms at midfield with no time lost on the clock.

Instead of allowing Texas quarterback Chris Simms one free shot at the end zone, Brown ordered Simms to take a snap and let time expire.

Texas was driving against the wind, Brown reasoned, and was going to get the ball to open the second half anyway.

"We felt like a Hail Mary, at the 50-yard line, into the wind didn't make sense at the time," Brown said.

W-R-O-N-G!

Brown needs to remove his 10-gallon CEO hat and awaken to the reality that national championships are won with equal parts talent, luck and serendipity.

In a sport that has no playoff, the payoff can come with a ball ricocheting off someone's face mask.

In the NFL, five losses get you into the postseason tournament with a shot to win the Super Bowl.

In college, five losses get you fired with a shot to become an analyst for ESPN.

So, when you have a chance to score in the college game, you try to score.

Assuming Simms can heave the ball 50-plus yards, even into a wind, what's the harm? Standing at the end of that Simms pass could have been Roy Williams, a future top-10 NFL pick who stands 6 feet 4, and maybe, just maybe, could have out-jumped a couple Sooners for the touchdown.

Ask Kordell Stewart and Michael Westbrook if Hail Mary plays work.

The difference between Brown and Oklahoma's Bob Stoops is Stoops seems to understand you never leave an opportunity on the field.

Last week, trailing Missouri by a point, Stoops could have taken the lead with a fourth-quarter field goal but instead faked the kick and scored the game-winning touchdown.

Saturday, down by 11 in the first half, Stoops went for it on fourth and two at the Texas eight when a field goal might have been the smart play.

Instead, quarterback Nate Hybl's hard count got a Texas freshman to jump offside, giving Oklahoma first and goal. The Sooners turned three points into eight.

The college coaching creed ought to be: take a shot and maybe we'll be lucky.

Miami has won 28 consecutive games, but would not have won the national title last year if not for a lucky bounce, a Boston College pass that caromed off a Miami cornerback's knee into the arms of a defensive tackle, who turned this plum into an 80-yard interception return in an 18-7 win.

Saturday, Miami escaped with a one-point win when another Florida State kicker missed a last-second field goal.

Is Miami lucky or good?

Miami is both.

Never think it beneath you to win a game because the other team's center sailed a snap over the kicker's head 24 hours after breaking up with his girlfriend.

Trust fate, assume the improbable can and will happen, hope an official's blown call will go your way and, most important, watch the Weather Channel.

In 1998, Tennessee should have lost a game to Arkansas, but got to sing "Rocky Top" when the Razorback quarterback fumbled without being touched. Tennessee went on to win the national title.

In 1997, Nebraska was able to capture a share of the national title because, during the regular season, it won a game against Missouri on a pass that bounced off a player's shoe into the arms of a teammate.

In 1998, UCLA probably lost a shot at the national championship when a hurricane pushed a September game against Miami to December. Miami was not nearly as good in September as it was later.

In 1996, Spurrier won his only national title at Florida only because Texas used a fourth-down play to upset Nebraska in the Big 12 title game. (Note: John Mackovic was the Texas coach then, not Brown.)

The Texas win knocked Nebraska out of the Sugar Bowl and allowed Florida to avenge its regular-season loss to Florida State.

Spurrier was a genius, for sure, but he also wasn't afraid to say, "God smiled on the Gators today."

Saturday, Oregon kept its national-title hopes alive because UCLA missed an extra point and a possible game-winning field goal.

The message? Keep plucking, keep chucking and never play by the book.

When in doubt, take a chance, not a knee.

Weekend Wrap

All those terrific marquee matchups changed little in the national landscape. The only teams eliminated from the championship pool were two-loss Florida State and Tennessee. Not even Texas, despite its loss to Oklahoma, has been eliminated from contention.

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