LUBBOCK, Texas -- Texas didn't fade.
Not this time. Not like 2011. But that's the point: This isn't 2011. That much was clear when Texas stood right back up after taking Texas Tech's best punches for 15 minutes and delivered a knockout in the fourth. A year ago? Two? Texas hides. But in 2012, after two losses and everyone doubting this team, there the No. 23 Longhorns (7-2, 4-2) were, standing tall and victorious with a 31-22 win against No. 18 Texas Tech (6-3, 3-3) in front of a record crowd of 60,879 at Jones AT&T Stadium Saturday.
"Probably we shocked most people,'' quarterback David Ash said.
The thing is, though, the players didn't shock themselves. That's what can't be lost in this. While shots were being taken after the loss to Oklahoma and less-than-impressive win over Kansas, Texas ducked, covered and came together. Somewhere, within the players, despite all the evidence to the contrary, this remained a team that believed it had the potential to win.
It showed that potential throughout the game against Tech.
Ash, a week after being yanked, was 11-of-19 for 264 yards with three touchdowns. Running back Johnathan Gray posted his second straight 100-yard game. Wide receiver Mike Davis was more wide open than the landscape that surrounds this stadium. He had touchdown catches of 75 yards and 25 yards as well as a 54-yard catch.
And then there was the defense. Tech may have made it to the red zone five times, but it had three field goals to only two touchdowns. Yards, not points. Just like defensive coordinator Manny Diaz had been preaching all season.
"This is more of what we expected to start the season,'' Texas coach Mack Brown said.
"I knew this was the way we could play since two a days,'' added safety Kenny Vaccaro.
Now is not the time to quibble over why it took so long to arrive. Instead Texas has to figure out how to keep it around.
That starts with team realizing that for once each side of the ball held the other accountable and, now here is the important part, each also lived up to that accountability. When the offense failed in the third quarter -- and it did with only 34 yards on three drives that didn't cross the 50 -- the defense was there.
"Find a way to battle,'' Diaz told his defense.
For once, against a quality team, they did. Carrington Byndom tipped away a game-tying two-point conversion attempt. That preserved the lead.
The offense knew it had to expand that lead. That Ash and the rest of the offense did just that points to a cohesion heretofore not seen since 2009.
"It was the best team win we have had all year,'' Brown said.
That's underselling it a bit. Typically not a trait Brown falls victim to. This was the best team victory the Horns have had since Texas beat No. 7 Nebraska in October of 2010. That was the last time Texas beat a ranked team, 10 games ago.
Nobody knew that it would be the high-water mark for nearly three seasons. But in those subsequent seasons, this had become a program pulled down by a malaise in recruiting, coaching changes, questionable leadership and an overall lack of accountability.
Now nine games into the 2012, the talent has started to mature. Linebacker Steve Edmonds is no longer looking to his right or left for the injured Jordan Hicks. Instead the sophomore jumps up and knocked down a crucial third down pass. Defensive ends Cedric Reed and Reggie Wilson aren't as good as injured Jackson Jeffcoat. But combined they had six tackles, a sack and a pass breakup. Byndom, the most maligned player on defense throughout he first eight games, not only knocks away a two-point conversion but blocks a field goal in the final five minutes to preserve Texas' two score lead. And, of course, there was the sophomore quarterback.
"I fell down last week and this week I got back up,'' he said.
The point is all of Texas got back up. Not from last week but from the last two-plus years. Maybe it doesn't last. Maybe Kansas State still lays the wood to Texas to end the year. But, for a moment, expectations were pushed aside and results, real live results, ruled the day. Everybody, for the first time in forever in terms of college football, saw what Texas can be.
"There is no quit in us,'' he continued. "We are going to fight to the end.''
Now Texas has something to fight for and a team that has proven it has some fight in it.