It would be easy to take a ton of nasty pot-shots at today's victim -- err, I mean, expert panelist. I mean, when you've gone 10 years without beating another team, there's not a lot you can fight back with... and there's eight other schools in this conference who like few things better than to see Manhattan take Austin down a peg.
But K-State and Texas have a very strange relationship. It's a non-rivalry that's liable to erupt into one once Texas actually wins a game, if K-State turns around and avenges it the following year. Our fanbases have every reason to throw grenades at one another over various issues, and yet we seem to be on the friendliest of terms. And if we're being honest, piling on the Longhorns just seems downright unsporting of me.
After all, they inflict enough suffering on themselves. I don't need to add to it.
So we'll be taking the high road here in our conversation with Nickel Rover from the always awesome Texas blog Barking Carnival, and hopefully we can uncover the answers to some perplexing mysteries.
Jon: The K-State/Texas non-rivalry has been pretty strange, and I don't think I need to explain the truly odd interaction between the two schools' fanbases to anyone bothering to read this. How on earth can we reconcile the clear reality of Longhorn Nation being both painfully self-aware and endearingly self-effacing about the streak with the "arrogant entitled T-sip" stereotype? If it were Tech beating y'all every year, would you be as nice to them? And perhaps more importantly, is the Texas fanbase coiled up like a rattler waiting to exact their revenge when the Horns finally win one?
NR: I can’t speak for every interaction between KSU fans and Texas fans but in my experience KSU fans have always taken great pleasure in dominating our football (and basketball!) teams but just don’t seem to be the kind of folk who are looking to twist the knife in. I sometimes sense a reluctance from KSU fans to really lord it over Texas fans, perhaps like you noted, because we already have such pitiful expressions on our faces.
For myself and other Longhorn fans, the series with KSU has become this semi-amusing phenomenon that we annually watch with the expectation you have when waiting for the other shoe to drop on George Costanza.
Many of our fanbase have memories of the KSU series that only go back to the Mack Brown era. Snyder set the tone early on with a 48-7 victory over Mack in 1998. My first Texas vs KSU game was 1999 when you administered a 35-17 beatdown.
I was infuriated in 2006 when you knocked Colt McCoy out of the game and wrecked our chances at a national title and then a conference title as well. When you beat us again in 2007 I remember walking back to my car in a monsoon, hurt and confused while visiting KSU fans looked on at the dejected and soaked Longhorn faithful as if we were Zoo exhibits to be observed but not disturbed.
After the shellacking in 2010 it became clear that there are magical powers at work. So we just accept it as a sad fact of the Mack Brown era.
It would be impossible for Tech fans to enjoy this level of dominance over Texas because they would become so unbearable that it would awaken our players, coaches, and fans to become obsessed with putting them in their place. Or our coaches would have been fired. With KSU, we’ve become so beaten down that all we can do is accept it.
If we beat KSU this year in what is likely Mack’s last season, I think we might all just weep and rejoice as you might after finding a lost child. Then we could settle back into our comfort zone of affected snobbish indifference. Losing to Texas and putting up with Longhorn fans, which I imagine most KSU fans are unfamiliar with, is like trying to cover the check on a dinner with a rich relative only to see them smile, shake their heads, and insist on paying for it while making a cutting remark about your inferior income.
"No really, I can get it/we were really close in the 3rd quarter," you attempt. We shake our heads and smile, "No! We want you to join us in Maui this year/Seriously? We sacked your QB three times in the 4th quarter."
Jon: Over the last couple of weeks, we've seen Mack Brown's situation go from sort of amusing to, sadly, not funny at all anymore -- even to the opposition. Is he already done at the end of the season no matter what, or is there one more domino to fall before the plug gets pulled? And is there anything specific (well, outside of a major scandal) that would see him riding off into the sunset before December even gets here, leaving the mess for someone else to finish cleaning up?
NR: We agree, it is sad. I’m not even angry with Mack or Texas football anymore, just curious to see how bad it gets. I suppose if we won the Big 12 conference like he’s been blathering about he might stay, but the team that has played the last two weeks will struggle to manage bowl eligibility against the Big 12 schedule, and we have clear expectations about what the Cotton Bowl holds for us this season.
Thanks to a Major scandal with Applewhite this offseason that probably disqualifies our Offensive Coordinator from assuming interim duties if Mack were removed, I think the most likely outcome is that Mack rides out the season before stepping down with AD Deloss Dodds. They would then be quickly replaced by a new AD and Head Coach as a quietly prepared plan unfolds.
Jon: Sticking with Mack a moment here: Is the conflagration in Austin a result of a failure to recruit properly, a failure to coach Xs and Os, a failure to instill a certain attitude in the players, a failure to properly manage his subordinates... what exactly do you think has gone wrong down there, and is it even something he could fix at this point given the chance?
NR: Our culture is broken beyond what the current regime can repair. The schemes for this year have overall been pretty good, standard Big 12 strategies. The execution has been anything but standard.
For the last few years Mack has struggled to realize that his process is broken, or how to repair it. He knows what he wants, which is a balanced offense and a fast, turnover creating defense. However, as a "CEO" Coach his only answer for how to achieve those goals is to bring in motivational speakers and hire new people to install new plans. The problem is Mack himself, the distractions and lack of accountability within the program, and his own failure to know what a good process should look like so he can intervene and play the role of quality assurance.
Bill Snyder, for instance, is obviously very involved in gameplanning on offense and defense and in maintaining quality in recruiting, development, etc. He’s built a culture that demands the accountability and discipline a team needs to thrive. Mack’s assistants are at a disadvantage against teams with Coaches like Snyder, Patterson, or Stoops who provide extra innovation and strategy on a weekly basis.
Our DC this week is gameplanning against both Snyder and Dimel and receiving minimal input or assistance from Mack in doing so.
There’s also a lot of evidence now that when Mack doesn’t recruit guys who are self-motivated and personally driven to achieve their best while confident enough to demand the best from their peers, that his teams languish and underachieve. The Coaching staff isn’t offering the necessary leadership for our players to actualize the talent that earned them high recruiting rankings.
Jon: What, in general, can we expect to see from the Longhorn offense Saturday night? And is Case McCoy a sure thing, or has there been talk of yanking the redshirt off Tyrone Swoopes in the hope of paying Snyder back for that whole dirty Collin Klein trick he pulled on the Horns in 2010?
NR: The Longhorn offense features very dangerous athletes, a quick but soft OL, and probably a very physically limited QB in Case McCoy. From what I gather, Tyrone Swoopes would benefit tremendously from a redshirt season and putting him in with the hopes of shocking KSU would be a fairly selfish move on the part of the Texas coaching staff.
At any rate, there isn’t exactly a mountain of evidence to suggest that the OL, which couldn’t budge New Mexico St’s DL, would benefit enough from inserting Swoopes in as a running threat to overcome the loss of the passing game.
The Texas offense has sustained injuries in the last two weeks to the entire right side of their OL, the most dangerous downfield receiver, starting QB, and most explosive play maker. I would expect a Texas offense that uses heavy misdirection and spreads the ball around with the run and pass in the hopes of keeping KSU from locking down on our few remaining threats.
Jon: Statistically, the Horns defense was obviously a lot better last week than in The Game We Won't Mention Ever Again. Of course, stats can lie, too. Did the defense show any signs of *actual* improvement Saturday night? How worried are you about the K-State offense?
NR: The defense wasn’t good against Ole Miss. The dip in rushing yards allowed from 550 to 272 didn’t do anything to buoy confidence in our ability to stop the run. Additionally, Ole Miss ripped us up a bit with the passing game as well. The option in particular has a strange power over us, probably relating to the fact that our defense plays with zero discipline.
The KSU offense features a fullback, a diverse collection of running plays, a running QB, and heavy incorporation of option football. These have all been nightmare fuel for the Texas defense since the beginning of the 2012 season.
Assuming our new DC is able to successfully motivate the already de-motivated members of the Texas defense to play hard and disciplined in a week’s time and break habits that have formed over the last year or more…we have zero fears relating to stopping your offense.
Jon: So, final analysis. Does Texas finally get some justice, or does K-State steal all the cattle and stampede back up the Chisholm Trail?
NR: We don’t know if David Ash will be playing in this game, but even if he does, Texas really lacks the weapons to get "explosive plays" and finish drives right now. It’ll be hard for Texas to get in the end zone very often if the KSU defense is anywhere near as disciplined and sound as they were last season.
The KSU offense is probably not a great worry for many other teams, but it happens to be based around all the concepts that give us fits. Unless Mack finally finds the motivational and gameplan button to push to get these guys to come alive ala the Nebraska game in 2010, I anticipate KSU winning a low scoring game by virtue of running for 300 yards.
Jon: Great stuff here from Nickel Rover, whose time and assistance is greatly appreciated. Clearly, the Texas fanbase isn't brimming with optimism this week, and without even trying to be snarky it's hard to blame them. This week looks to be the conjunction of everything that's gone wrong with Longhorn football, and given all the working parts involved in the overall situation... well, a Texas win would seem to be flying in the face of every single expectation.
Which of course means they're going to win, right?