After Texas' dramatic Alamo Bowl comeback, Mack Brown sat down and explained the significance of the win to his team. After winning eight games in 2011 following a five-win disaster in 2010, reaching nine wins in 2012 was important.
Sure, it signified progress. It also wasn't enough.
"Nine’s not enough at Texas. They understand that the last three years are not acceptable," Brown said. "They’re not the standard that we set forth for many, many years. They’re not who we want to be. We want to go back and win the conference championship and get back in the mix for the national championship, and at Texas, our expectations are obviously to win every game."
Brown is done calling his team "young" for a while. He still lacks a huge, experienced senior class, but quarterback David Ash, receiver Jaxon Shipley and running back Malcolm Brown have matured into juniors entering their third seasons as starters, and four starters return on the offensive line. Texas' 17 returning starters are the most in the Big 12.
"It’s been a fun couple of years and a tough couple of years for us getting it back on track, but I think we’re about to reap some rewards for those hard Saturdays," Brown said.
Brown would love to string together nine consecutive 10-win seasons, as he did earlier in his career, but has said on several occasions that while the losses aren't enjoyable, the process of rebuilding is more fun for him than trying to maintain an established team. Still, re-establishing the program and winning big is the end goal, and entering 2013 that looks like a realistic goal.
"That’s the reason (our players) came to Texas. That’s what they expect. They know that they want to please their fan base, and coaches understand as well that they didn’t come to Texas to win nine games," Brown said. "Everybody’s on the same page and everybody wants to win every game."
Lopsided losses to co-Big 12 champions Oklahoma and Kansas State showed how far Texas had to go to reclaim its status as a Big 12 title contender. The Longhorns can't afford close losses like they had to West Virginia and TCU last season, both at home.
The rebuilding job has been a success in filling the depth chart with quality talent and depth, but the Longhorns still have to prove they can be the best team on the field in every game (or close to every game) as they did for much of the 2000s, when Texas won a pair of Big 12 titles under Brown and played for a pair of national titles, winning one.
"We hope we’re getting ready to start that kind of run again," Brown said, "but it’s easier to build one than to keep one."