We're to the point in Mack Brown's career—and we've been there for a while—where even a win sparks a discussion about his future as Texas' head coach.
The Longhorns narrowly escaped Iowa State on Thursday night with a 31-30 win. It was an eventful, weird game, complete with a Hail Mary, a cheap shot and controversial officiating.
Just another week in the Big 12, right?
But after nearly a 14-day lull, the conversation about how many of those weeks Brown has left at his job has been revived. Thursday's game was unnecessarily close for Texas, who had to come from behind in the final minutes to pull ahead. That alone should be cause for concern, but the situation was incredibly dire, largely in part because of how poorly Texas coaches called the game.
For reasons still unbeknownst to anyone outside UT coaching offices, Brown and offensive coordinator Major Applewhite put the task of moving the football squarely on the shoulders of backup quarterback Case McCoy.
McCoy's a senior, so he's been around plenty of games. And, to his credit, he's worked some strange miracles before in relief of starter David Ash. Texas A&M in 2011 and Kansas in 2012 immediately come to mind.
But the win two years ago against the Aggies was an anomaly. Before Thursday, Texas was 1-6 when McCoy threw 16 passes or more in a game. Against the Cyclones, McCoy threw it 45 times.
Both Applewhite and Brown said after the game that Iowa State had stopped the run, hence the reason for all the passes.
Asked Major why he passed so much. He said the run stopped working. "We had some matchups outside we wanted to take advantage of."— Mike Finger (@mikefinger) October 4, 2013
Mack is talking about a game that I guess I missed. Said they couldn't run, so they had to pass.— Mike Finger (@mikefinger) October 4, 2013
Fifteen consecutive passes were called in the third quarter. None of them went for points.— Mike Finger (@mikefinger) October 4, 2013
And after Joe Bergeron ran three straight times for 30 yards and a TD, UT went three-and-out on its next drive. All passes.— Mike Finger (@mikefinger) October 4, 2013
But a look at the stat sheet shows Texas had no problem moving the ball on the ground. The Longhorns' three running backs combined to average just under 5.8 yards a carry on the night. Between Johnathan Gray and Joe Bergeron, the rushing attack was difficult for Iowa State to stop.
Texas lost one fumble, and arguably should have lost two more, but putting the game in the hands of a quarterback not known for being an accomplished passer was odd. Yet, somehow, the fact that McCoy can lead a game-winning drive, no matter how inept he's looked to that point, throws quite a wrench in the "game manager" argument.
It is truly one of college football's more perplexing cases, but it doesn't instill confidence that Texas can reverse recent history in its next game on Oct. 12 against Oklahoma. If starter David Ash still can't play because of concussion-like symptoms, will Texas put the entire offense in McCoy's hands again?
What about freshman quarterback Tyrone Swoopes? With each game that goes by, the calls for Swoopes to burn his redshirt and see some playing time grow louder.
There are a lot of reasons to believe Texas has no chance against the Sooners. Poor tackling once again hurt UT against Iowa State, as Cyclones quarterback Sam Richardson scrambled his way to 83 yards.
blake bell will might qb draw himself into the heisman race next saturday, way texas deals with qb’s on the run.— Bomani Jones (@bomani_jones) October 4, 2013
The Sooners running game is one of the best in the conference, Blake Bell has been a complete quarterback and there's a lot of team speed on defense for OU.
Point being, Texas is going to have to have to play the best football it's played all year. If not, things will get ugly for both the 'Horns and Brown. Even if Texas wins out the rest the year and manages to go back to a BCS bowl as the Big 12 champion, there's the question of how many more times UT can take a licking at the hands of OU.
Does Mack Brown need to beat OU to save his job?
One game doesn't make a season, but the Red River Shootout is about as close as it comes. It's now more important than ever for Brown to beat Oklahoma.
It seems unlikely that Brown would ever be fired midseason if he doesn't beat Oklahoma. DeLoss Dodds may be retiring next August, but as long as he's around, Brown stays until season's end.
What happens after that remains to be seen, and next week's game against the Sooners could very much play a major role in that decision.