It was the second football weekend of 2004 and the Texas Longhorns took a trip north to Fayetteville, Arkansas hoping for revenge against a team that had embarrassed it the year before. The 'Horns were beaten in 2003 at home by an unranked Arkansas Razorbacks squad on their way to their worst season in a while (10-3 used to be a bad record for Texas. Good times).
Texas didn't play perfect football that night, and ultimately escaped against the Razorbacks. The Horns jumped out to an early lead before Arkansas fought back for a 17-16 advantage at halftime. An iconic touchdown pass from Vince Young to Cedric Benson midway through the third quarter gave Texas the lead back (the 1 hour 25 minute mark in the below video) and an equally iconic forced fumble sealed a 22-20 victory (2 hour 10 minute mark).
The win over Arkansas wasn't pretty, but it was the first thing that came to mind when I tried to place what last Sunday's victory could eventually mean into my perspective as a Longhorns fan.
Texas was by no means perfect in 2004, though much of that imperfection was hidden by a ridiculously easy schedule that I desperately envy right now (just one game against a top-15 team). Texas in 2004 was a relatively young team trying to build a new offensive identify, and there were bumps along the way.
After beating Arkansas, Texas rolled Rice and Baylor before falling to Oklahoma 12-0 in the second-most tense Texas game I've ever attended (after the 2006 Rose Bowl of course). The season had its high moments -- 49 unanswered against Oklahoma State, walloping Tech in Lubbock -- and its low moments -- nearly losing to Kansas, VY's benching against Missouri.
As the year went on, however, the 'Horns began clicking on all cylinders and would go on to win their next 21 games.
There's an alternate universe where Matt Jones doesn't fumble in the red zone and Texas falls to Arkansas. In that universe Texas doesn't make the Rose Bowl against Michigan (and Cal fans don't still have lingering resentment), doesn't get the momentum from that remarkable win, and who knows what happens in 2005.
Which brings us back to 2016.
Texas is probably not running the table any time soon, but the comparison to the 2004 win over Arkansas is about providing a potential barometer of direction rather than a prediction of results. The win over Arkansas was a springboard to bigger and better things, and it's very plausible to believe the win over Notre Dame will do the same thing for Charlie Strong's bunch.
Much like in 2004, Texas is a young team trying to master a new offensive system in 2016. Much like in 2004, Texas will probably struggle in the coming weeks and may even drop a game or two that it shouldn't. Much like in 2004, the pieces are there for a run at some hardware down the line.
The win over Notre Dame will be meaningful if only the 'Horns are able to capitalize on the game and make it meaningful.
Texas won one game on Sunday -- that's it. The 'Horns may be back to being a good team, they may not win another game the rest of the season, or something in between.
If Texas is going to rejoin the ranks of the college football elite, however, it will probably be via a decent/good season in 2016 followed by a great year next year when the young'uns have all grown up.
And if that is going to happen then we will probably look back at Sunday like I look at that night in Fayetteville way back when: as the springboard the let it all happen.