THE SCENE: Trinity Street, a few blocks south of Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, 90 minutes before kickoff. From a river of burnt-orange-clad pedestrians arose the voice of a passenger in one of Austin's distinctive bicycle taxis. ¶ "The Christians are coming!" he repeatedly shouted. The man was not evangelizing—not with that cigar in his hand and the case of beer in his lap. He was simply a Horned Frog from Texas Christian University. And for the first half of last Saturday night's game between TCU and Texas, he was right: The purple-helmeted Frogs were coming. ¶ They were coming through every gap, from every angle. Blitzing on nearly every down, TCU defenders blew up running plays, holding the Longhorns' feature back, Jamaal Charles, to a mere 40 yards rushing at halftime, at which point the visitors led 10-0. Changing coverages on almost every snap, the Frogs also unnerved Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, whose pair of interceptions led directly to TCU's two scores.
McCoy had an inkling that he might be in for a rough outing. At Friday's team Bible study, he later recounted, he learned that he was "going to be blessed," but only after going through a "test."
Had he thumbed back to the Book of Exodus, McCoy might have glimpsed this alarming verse: "I will send a plague of frogs on your whole country."
Texas is 2--0 today because, from the start of the second half, it was the Frogs' turn to be plagued: with dumb penalties (a personal foul and an offensive pass interference call), ill luck (a fumble recovery was overturned when TCU was slow to snap the ball on the ensuing possession, giving officials time to see a replay and call for a review of the play) and butterfingers (a fumbled kickoff set up the Longhorns' go-ahead touchdown).
Shut out in the first half, Texas detonated for 27 unanswered points in the second and coasted to a 34--13 win, proving also that the Horned Frogs, a trendy pick to bust the BCS this season, are not quite ready for prime time.
It also made clear that the Longhorns, after an underwhelming 21--13 win over Arkansas State in their opener, are worthy of their No. 6 ranking. In a moment of candor following last Saturday's victory, Texas coach Mack Brown admitted that in training camp "we didn't spend a lot of time working on Arkansas State." That, combined with the fact that the Indians unveiled "some things we didn't expect"— blitzes, for instance, on nearly every down—resulted in a close shave.
Yet he apologized for neither victory. He and his players have come to understand, says the folksy Brown, that "college football is hard anymore"—a point he'd made in his office the day before.
The discussion had turned to Division I-AA Appalachian State, where Brown was the head coach in 1983. (Of the Mountaineers' opening-week upset of Michigan, he wisecracked, "Nice to see the foundation I laid 25 years ago is finally getting results.") He is mildly amused by the shock that registers whenever an underdog from a non-BCS conference beats a ranked opponent or even puts a scare into one. "Look at Louisville last night," he said of the No. 9 Cardinals' 58--42 escape against Middle Tennessee, which had lost the previous week to Florida Atlantic. "We're all shocked. Well, we might as well quit being shocked. Everybody's got some good players. Everybody's got a quarterback, everybody's got a tailback, everybody's got a receiver. The first-line group of players at most schools is pretty good.
"We've been talking about parity for a long time"—since the NCAA cut scholarship limits to 85 in 1994, preventing traditional powers from stockpiling talent. "And it's finally here. Yes, the stars have to align for [the underdogs]. They have to get a fumble, they have to get a missed field goal, things have to happen. But if you're not on your P's and Q's, you're going to lose.
"I think we are going to keep seeing more and more upsets and near upsets in college football."