PROVO — Tim Brown is a die-hard University of Texas fan. He lives just outside Austin, Texas, and works for a youth development center called Pegasus. He was in town over the weekend to see his Longhorns play his adopted team, BYU.
Brown regularly tunes in to BYUtv from Texas and watches the Cougars. After he got into town last weekend, Brown, a big soccer fan and former soccer coach, learned that the BYU women's team was hosting archrival Utah and obtained tickets near midfield. In the 86th minute of a 0-0 match, Brown, decked out in his burnt Orange Texas shirt, stood up and yelled: “We believe. We believe. We believe.” After about 30 seconds, others around him stood up and took up the chant. Two minutes later, BYU won the game on a penalty kick.
“I think BYU could beat Texas in a close game if they had the chance,” Brown told his hosts at Why Try, a Provo company he associates with. “Yeah, but I wouldn’t pick it that way and if it’s a blowout by somebody, it definitely will be Texas doing the blowing out.”
Then came the game. BYU 40, No. 15-ranked Texas 21. And it wasn’t that close.
BYU rushed for 550 yards, something the Cougars had never done against anyone. Not the 0-11 UTEP teams, not the 1-10 New Mexico teams, not Colorado Mines, North Texas or Denver University back in the day.
And nobody had ever done that to Texas. Not Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Nebraska or anybody else one would care to research.
Those 550 rushing yards got Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz fired within 24 hours.
Because Texas nation wanted somebody’s head to roll. If not head coach Mack Brown, then Diaz. Giving up all those yards was unacceptable — totally unacceptable — for a school that has the nation’s top athletic budget in excess of $138.2 million, some four times that of BYU's.
Plus, the talent at Texas is considered among the best in the country, drawing from a deep recruiting well that is as impressive as any school in the U.S.
Going by Scout.com recruiting rankings, Texas has the projected No. 3 recruiting class in 2014 behind Alabama and Tennessee. In 2013, Texas' class was only ranked No. 23, but a year earlier, the Longhorns' 2012 class was ranked No. 1 in the country with seven top 100 players (BYU ranked 60th that year). In 2011, scout.com ranked Texas' class No. 3 behind Florida and Auburn.
That Texas recruiting class in 2011 included No. 2-ranked running back Malcolm Brown, No. 2-rated middle linebacker Steve Edmond, No. 5-ranked defensive tackle Desmond Jackson and No. 6-rated wide receiver Jaxon Shipley.
In 2012, the Texas recruiting class included the nation’s No. 7 offensive tackle (Kennedy Estelle), the No. 2 running back (Johnathan Gray), the No. 1 defensive tackle (Malcolm Brown), the No. 3 receiver (Cayleb Jones) and the nation’s No. 2 offensive guard (Curtis Riser).
This is why the number 550 got somebody fired.
And this is why BYU’s 550 is, take your pick, so perplexing, so impressive, or so second-guessed by folks.
Bottom line is that a far more talented Texas team got embarrassed by the Cougars in LaVell Edwards Stadium and people are still trying to figure it out after BYU's dismal showing at Virginia.
Diaz is the scapegoat.
You either dump on Diaz for totally having his defense unprepared. Or you credit Taysom Hill, Jamaal Williams and BYU’s defense for breaking the will of the Longhorn squad within 19 minutes of that delayed kickoff.
There’s plenty of blame/credit to spread around no matter what argument you want to take.
One thing that is not debatable is the complete mismatch of talent that was on both sidelines that night — if you believe in recruiting services like scout.com.
Texas gets whomever it wants. BYU is extremely thankful to get athletes the caliber of Kyle Van Noy and Ezekiel Ansah once a decade or so.
So, the difference in this game had to be coaching; the work by BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall and offensive coordinator Robert Anae and the preparation and execution they instilled in players.
The proof is the number 550.
Even Mr. Brown would never have guessed it.
Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.