Finding heart on the heartland

AUSTIN, Texas -- They tried to play for respect and lost by 42 to rival Oklahoma.

They tried to play for each other on senior night and lost by seven to TCU.

Now this Texas team will try and play for pride, heart and the future of the program. In other words, big stakes in the Little Apple, against a Kansas State team ranked No. 6 that the No. 18 Longhorns have not beaten in their last four tries and only twice in the Mack Brown era.

"The big thing will be seeing how we respond in this game that will help us going forward to see what kind of team we are," said junior guard Trey Hopkins. "Don't just say there were problems. Actually come out and say, 'We are not going to lose again.' "

To do that, Texas has to put its ticker on the table. It's not something this team has shown it is capable of doing against teams that are not supposed to be bigger, stronger and faster than they are, but somehow always end up being bigger and stronger and faster than Texas.

But Texas does have a quarterback under center who plays with his heart on his sleeve. The issue is everybody else's is in their collective throats every time Case McCoy drops back to ... well, pass is somewhere on the list of options, but history has shown with McCoy it is rarely that routine.

Still, his value as a leader and speaker, while maybe out of place in the locker room after the Oklahoma game where he exhorted or excoriated the troops following his brief appearance in mop-up time, cannot be underestimated for a team that has often found itself left for dead.

"When Case comes in he is a little spark," said guard Mason Walters. "He always has a little something to get the guys riled up."

In that sense he's Texas' own defibrillator.

But McCoy cannot be the collective pulse for this team. It's too much and too unrealistic to think one player could change the beat that this team has walked to for an entire season. It will have to be a collective effort on either side of the ball.

And while the words sound positive now, Kansas State wasn't the one asking the questions. The Wildcats will do that Saturday.

If the responses on that day embody and reflect those responses Quandre Diggs had Monday, then maybe Texas will survive.

"We play for pride every week," he said "I have big pride. I don't like taking losses. This week is all about going on and playing football and winning with your brothers. We get this win this week and hopefully things will turn around good for us."

There is long, hard road of work and sweat between having hope and showing heart. Texas has three days of practice. Most doubt that Texas can make that journey in that amount of time. Not when the opponent and this team's brief history are factored into the equation.

This was the team that did not respond after losing to West Virginia. Instead it laid down to Oklahoma the next week. Now here comes Kansas State, which beat Oklahoma in Norman, right after a devastating loss to TCU that has taken Texas out of a BCS bowl game picture.

"That is how we can evaluate ourselves going into next season, is to see how we respond to this now that we have seen this situation before," Hopkins said.

Everybody else has seen this situation before as well. It's been the situation at Texas for going on three years.

But if somehow the Longhorns, a team with more individual skill still searching for a collective heart, manage to use the former and find the latter, the situation around Texas might finally change.