For all the well-deserved roasting Mack will get this week, I have to give him credit for getting one thing exactly right.
He said we wouldn't know anything about this team until we played in Provo.
Welp - now we know.
We know that tempo, scheme, leveraging playmakers in space and all the other things that fired us up about the Harsin-to-Applewhite transition don't mean a hell of a whole lot compared to something that Harsin would likely have told you on his way out of town - the simple fact that it all starts up front. And the wages of past sins - specifically the 2006-2010 on-the-job retirement by Mack and the entire offensive staff - are still being visited upon the Texas O-line. Three years and two games into The Great Fix-It, Texas' offensive front still can't impose its will on a solid defense. Actually, forget that - they can't hold their own. And that leaves Ash, Gray and the rest of Texas' skill position players holding the bag as holes collapse, throws are rushed and the offense is continually stuck operating behind the chains.
We know - especially if we watched many other college games today - that our collection of weapons may not be as special as we'd love to believe, and that it's certainly not special enough to elevate us past sub-par blocking against strong competition in a hostile environment. Losing Daje was a tough break, and at least a third of the night's offensive playbook likely went up in smoke when he went down. But aside from a few big-time bombs to Mike Davis (who ran past the guy who looked to be BYU's one sub-par defensive starter), no one and nothing made you say, "This is big-time, bad-ass football." Hanging your hat on roasting New Mexico State is like puffing up 2000-2003 Texas for whipping Iowa State while getting slaughtered at money time in Dallas. You are what you do when it counts, and it's hard to find the guys who can do the special, superlative things that we'll need to overcome our OL against top-shelf competition. Maybe we'll luck out in that the Big XII doesn't have a defense as good as BYU's.
But we know it's got some damn better offenses.
And unfortunately, we know that the Longhorn defense still isn't ready for prime time. Getting pushed around some at altitude by 24-year old guys who are running their 50th play of the half or 85th play of the game is somewhat understandable. But committing well over a dozen simple, basic assignment errors on a plain-vanilla Read Option in 2013 is outright inexcusable. This defense is absolutely and unforgivably deficient in basic assignment understanding, and it's happening at all levels and with seniors as sure as with freshmen. If we can't get it taught between March and September, it's not getting fixed on the fly - at least not fixed well enough when Bayor and Oklahoma State are on the schedule.
And we know that not even assignment errors COMBINED with poor effort are enough to get you sat down on this defense. I probably shouldn't have dog-cussed Steve Edmond in the game thread, but on reflection I don't feel the least bit bad about it. If you're out there lacking in physical tools and getting beat at 100% effort, so be it. If you're just not able to process fast enough to execute your assignments consistently, it happens. You should be playing limited to no snaps, but no hard feelings. But if a bona fide Special Forces vet creates a motto for your squad that demands that you play for each other, and you loaf after a runner who YOU ALREADY SET FREE BY BLOWING YOUR ASSIGNMENT, you don't need to wear a Longhorn helmet any more. Especially not when the current helmet design honors Longhorn teams that played to a championship standard.
Finally, we know more or less what to expect going forward. The team will rally - at least to an extent (though all bets are off if Ash is seriously hurt). It will win a reasonable number of games in a down Big XII. In fact, it may do well enough that when you factor in a (minor) bowl win, Texas could return to the vaunted Mack Brown Ten Win Plateau.
But we know that mantra is meaningless. Because the team will get outclassed by a couple of opponents who, in the grand scheme of college football, really aren't that good. And that means that for the 14th time in 16 seasons, the first and most tangible goal of anyone with legitimate standards - a conference title - will likely prove elusive for Mack.
We all know what that SHOULD happen if Texas can't claim a Big XII title this season.
But I wish we knew, for sure and certain, that it will happen.