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Mack Brown and Bowl Games: The 2001 Season (Part 2 of 3)

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We opened the look at the 2001 season with a general recap of the season. While Horns fans were disappointed that we didn't back into the national title game because of the Colorado loss, the season was a very good one on Texas' and Mack Brown's climb to the top. Part 2 of our series looks at the two losses from the 2001 season - Oklahoma and Colorado.

Let's start with the OU game. The 14-3 Oklahoma win is pretty much permanently remembered for one fateful play. For Longhorn fans, it's a painful one to remember, but as with most things, time heals. If you can't look back at the years as Mack Brown and Texas learned to be champions, then 1) you aren't appreciating what it takes to get there and 2) you never will. So take a deep breath, grab the arm rests of your chair, wince a little, and watch The Play with me.

Okay breathe again, swallow, compose yourself, remind yourself - 41-38 - and let's talk about it.

Everyone blames Chris Simms for that play, but the real culprit was Nathan Vasher. Many have forgotten, but the only reason Texas was pinned on the 3 yard line was because Vasher was fooled on a pooch punt by OU, thinking it was a fake pass. Instead of letting the ball bounce into the end zone, he caught the ball and dove to the ground, thinking he was securing an interception. Either way, it was dumb, and put Texas in a terrible position.

Even fewer remember that Roy Williams, the OU super safety who made the fateful hit, had made a wild dive at Simms earlier in that game, only that time it had left a big gap in the middle that Texas ran through. Stoops had explicitly told Williams after the first dive -not- to try anything like that again. Great players make great plays, though, and Williams deserves a ton of credit for the decisive play.

After the game, Stoops even went so far as to joke, "I guess it's good we're not disciplined." In a related note, Longhorn fans may recall the Rose Bowl and 4th and 2, when Michael Huff was told -not- to blitz. He did anyway, and helped stuff LenDale White. Great players make great plays.

Texas fans learned a couple things from this game - both related, and both important in understanding why the Chris Simms-led Longhorns didn't reach a national title game.

First, we learned that Chris Simms wasn't at his best in the biggest games. But equally important, we learned that the coaches didn't -trust- Simms to be great in those games. It's tough to figure out exactly how much one affected the other, but both were true, and both were reasons why these particular Texas teams never quite scaled the mountain.

Texas ran the table after the OU game, setting up the Big 12 championship game, in which a victory would have put Texas in the national title game after an unbelievable set of events unfolded over the last week of the season. Back in December of this past year, Travis walked us back through that mind-blowing week of events. Take a moment to relive that week and come back to this story.

At the end of it all, 2001 seemed like a disappointing year because of these two games, but the road to the top is just not very easy. It takes years like this. It takes painful losses. It takes hard lessons learned. The expectations at Texas under Mack Brown have been sky high, and for good reason, but it was unrealistic to expect it to happen overnight, without growing pains.

Mack Brown got things turned around so quickly that people wanted the ultimate prize right away. But getting that close is an accomplishment of its own. And it laid the foundation for the Vince Young era, and we all know how that story ended. Texas sits on top of the world right now. Mack Brown is sitting on top of the world right now, no matter what blinded `Pologists may say.

And just as the Red Sox Nation could finally rest in peace after ending that frustrating title drought in 2004, so too should Longhorn fans be able to finally look back at what was so frustrating at the time with appreciation for what it was and how it contributed to where we are today.

We'll conclude our look at the 2001 season with the memorable Holiday Bowl win over Washington.

--PB--