As you recall from the 1998 review, Mack Brown's first year as head coach ended on a good note. The Cotton Bowl victory was Texas' first postseason win since the 1994 Sun Bowl, which the Longhorn faithful will remember as the Priest Holmes Party.
Expectations for 1999 were pretty high, with fans expecting Texas to contend for the Big 12 South title, it not the outright conference championship. The big question mark, of course, was on offense, where 2,000+ yards of offense had just departed to play on Sundays. With Ricky Williams gone, the rushing duties were handed to Hodges Mitchell, but the Horns were obviously not going to replicate the success on the ground that Williams had anchored.
Texas fans' worries were realized in the season opener against NC State, as Mitchell was ineffective, gaining only 37 yards rushing on 14 attempts. Victor Ike chipped in another 48 on 12 carries, but Texas was forced to throw the ball 46 times. Applewhite completed one long touchdown, but threw a costly interception and Texas was defeated 23-20.
Texas managed four wins in a row after that before getting hammered by Kansas State 35-17. Texas then went on an impressive five game winning streak which included a thrilling 24-20 upset over then #3 ranked Nebraska. But in the season finale, Texas lost in College Station in Chris Simms' first collegiate start. After Nebraska exacted revenge in the Big 12 championship game, Texas landed a Cotton Bowl invitation to play Arkansas.
The 2000 Cotton Bowl: Arkansas 27 Texas 6
This was a painful game for Longhorn fans, as Arkansas completely shut down the Texas offense. Even before the game was played, Texas got off on the wrong foot, as stars Kwame Cavil and Aaron Humphrey were suspended for violating team rules. Without Cavil, Texas deep passing threat was totally neutered. Humphrey, while not nearly as heralded as his colleagues on the defensive line, had a terrific 1999 season.
That defensive line, we should note, was perhaps the best in school history. This year's crew might make a run at that distinction, but the 1999 group was a nightmare. On the ends, Aaron Humphrey, Cedric Woodard, and Corey Redding took turns wreaking havoc in the backfield, while tackles Shaun Rogers and Casey Hampton ate up blockers in the middle. Consider these remarkable stats: Hampton led the team in tackles with 101, including 21 tackles for a loss. Rogers had an unbelievable 27 tackles for a loss, while Humphrey led the team with 30 quarterback pressures.
Casey Hampton anchored the 1999 Texas D-Line, the school's best ever.
Even without Humphrey, though, the defense was stout for the first half of the Cotton Bowl. Arkansas barely got anything going on offense, but Texas was never able to generate anything on their end, either. The game was tied at half 3-3, with the teams combining for just 171 yards of total offense between them.
The game turned after a controversial two-play stretch in which Arkansas appeared to have been tackled for a safety. In both cases the referees spotted the ball on the one instead, and on 3rd and 12 the Hogs completed a 47 yard completion to open the field. After a 30 yard touchdown to Cedric Cobbs, Texas was done.
The Horns had one more opportunity, marching on the ensuing drive down to the Arkansas one yard line. The Horns were stuffed three times in a row, settled for a field goal, and never scored again. Worse, Applewhite tore his ACL in the 4th quarter, and Simms failed to generate any offense in relief.
It was a sour ending to the season that had looked so promising at one time. The loss was the third in a row for Texas.
Mack Brown versus Oklahoma: 2-0
Mack Brown in Bowl Games: 1-1
Next up: The 2000 season and the 2000 Holiday Bowl: the Horns get quacked.
Looking back: 1998 Review