Texas learns lessons from 2010 loss

AUSTIN, Texas -- It was a year later and the story was the same:

Texas was down 13-3 at halftime. The offense had been anemic. The defense had been decent, not spectacular, but doing their job. The scoreboard, while not in Texas' favor, was manageable.

This time it was BYU on the other side of the field. But it wasn't the Cougars that Mack Brown chose to talk about to his team. It was UCLA.

He implored them to remember what happened against the Bruins in this same situation in 2010. How they had folded. How they were a new team now. How they were building brick by brick. How each teammate should refuse to let the others quit in the second half.

"He said that this year, since we were in the same situation, it was going to be a whole different story.'' wide receiver Jaxon Shipley said.

It wasn't "Remember the Alamo," but the passion and the message were clear. It stirred enough emotions that Texas went out in the second half and came back from 10 points down to win 17-16.

That didn't happen at Texas last season. Five times the Longhorns went into the half trailing by 10 or more points. Five times it lost. It started with the 34-12 loss to the Bruins that would foreshadow the problems that would plague Texas throughout the fall.

Turnover problems? That game had five. Problems on special teams? Two of the turnovers were fumbles on kick returns that set up scores for UCLA. The Longhorns' offense couldn't get anything going, and that led to its defense getting gashed for 264 yards on the ground. But the biggest problem might have been Texas' attitude.

Brown had bragged in the preseason that he had his best defense of all his years in Austin, and he had a quarterback who came off the bench to nearly rally Texas to a win in the BCS Championship Game.

The Longhorns couldn't imagine being beaten, at home, by an unranked team.

"That was one game that we weren't expecting to lose," linebacker Emmanuel Acho said.

"UCLA played an average first half at best," safety Blake Gideon said. "We had a chance. We came into the half saying, 'This is going to be our half. We are going to come out and we are going to put some points on the board. We are going to stop them.' We didn't do any of that.''

They went in cocky and confident. Good qualities, to a point, but qualities that can supersede work ethic and hunger.

This time around, Texas has changed.

"We came out [for the second half against BYU] with that focus and that mindset," Gideon said. "We knew we were going to be able to come out and make something happen in that second half."

Last season it may have been a different mindset, one that Mack Brown fell victim to, and that carried over to his players.

"We were probably too confident last year and that was one of our downfalls," Acho said. "This year we are going into every game humble."

Brown was among the first to change his tune. He has told his charges, and anyone who would listen, that Texas is no longer a favorite when it walks on the field.

"It's more like the NFL for us -- we're probably even with every team that we play from here on out, or an underdog," Brown said.

That suits Texas just fine. Especially if it is an underdog team that is going to battle like the team that came out in the second half against BYU.

"Saturday night did send a message from our team to fans and the other team that this is not going to be a team that's going to lay down and quit," Brown said. "This is not going to be a team that's going to give up. We're not a great team right now, but we're going to be a team that's going to fight and scrap and play hard and give it every ounce we've got every week."

Carter Strickland covers University of Texas sports and recruiting for HornsNation.

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