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No. 2 Texas avoids Halloween haunting

Sunday, November 1, 2009 | 8:46 p.m. CST; updated 11:04 p.m. CST, Sunday, November 1, 2009

STILLWATER, Okla. — Texas safety Earl Thomas had a feeling that teammate Curtis Brown was about to break his interception drought. Thought he'd score, too.

In their hotel room before Saturday night's 41-14 win at Oklahoma State, Thomas told Brown about his prediction. Later on, he was chasing down Brown in the end zone and screaming "I told you so!"

Those kind of positive feelings are everywhere for the Longhorns' defense. Brown's 77-yard return for a touchdown came on the first of Zac Robinson's career-high four interceptions in another dominant effort by the Texas defense.

"You're never going to forget moments like that," Thomas said.

The Longhorns (8-0, 5-0 Big 12) have survived what was supposed to be the most difficult three-game stretch on their schedule — the annual rivalry game against Oklahoma in Dallas, followed by road games at Missouri and Oklahoma State. In the latter two games, players wore dogtags inspired by defensive end Sergio Kindle and won by a combined score of 82-21.

"The message is we want to play with a swagger. We want to play with confidence, is all it is," coach Mack Brown said. "We talked about it last week at Missouri. We don't want to walk in places on the road and feel like we may get beat. We want to walk in there and send a message that we are good.

"We want to play good and we can get so much better than this team has played. That's what it was."

In the back of the players' minds was their loss at Texas Tech on Halloween weekend a year ago that cost them the opportunity to play for the Big 12 and national titles.

This time around, the Longhorns played well enough that they leaped over Alabama into second in the AP poll Sunday. Oklahoma State fell five spots to No. 18.

"It's an older team, it's more mature. It went through this last year," Brown said. "We actually backed off last year for the Texas Tech game and looked tired to me. This week, we pushed. We pushed hard."

The difference is most evident in the secondary, where the same players burned in the loss to Tech each came up with interceptions — two of them returned for scores.

Even while losing starting cornerback Aaron Williams to a right knee injury just before halftime, Texas confused Robinson — the Big 12's top-rated passer — with disguised coverages and late shifts.

"We probably carried three or four coverages throughout the majority of the night, but it's different adjustments — small adjustments to how they line up. Things that we may not have gotten done last year," said safety Blake Gideon, who dropped a potential clinching pick against Tech but had an interception and a fumble recovery against the Cowboys.

"That's just a year of maturity and a year of all of us playing together, and we trust what each other is seeing and saying, so we're listening to each other on the field."

Longhorn defensive backs routinely jumped in front of Oklahoma State receivers, who were missing ineligible All-American Dez Bryant, and swatted away passes they didn't intercept.

"It seemed like they were all over just about everything that we had," said Robinson, who threw only three interceptions in the first seven games of the season.

The Cowboys came in with hopes of toppling Texas to gain the inside track toward their first appearance in the Big 12 championship, but were overwhelmed on both sides of the ball.

Colt McCoy, a finalist for the Heisman Trophy last year, had a methodical performance as the offense scored on five of its eight possessions.

"I think Texas is a heck of a football team," Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Bill Young said. "I do not think I have seen a better one in the last two or three years."

The schedule now brings a break from conference play for the Longhorns, who host Central Florida on Saturday in a game that fills the hole created when this season's Texas Tech game was moved to September.

Mack Brown plans to hit reset, starting the team's third four-game segment of the season.

"We've got a lot at stake now, and we understand that. When you get past OU at our place, there's some more stuff out there for you. When you get past Oklahoma State, this was a game everybody was looking for, so we can't say now that it's over, we're there," he said. "We have to restart and make sure that we keep our foot on the gas and make sure we move forward."

 


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