STEPHEN HAWKINS, AP Sports Writer
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Mack Brown and the Texas Longhorns are hitting the reset button on their season again after a big victory in the Red River Rivalry.
The previous segment — in which they won their first three Big 12 games — was much better than the nonconference stretch that preceded it.
“This team is on a roll now after the OU game,” Longhorns running back Johnathan Gray said. “There is confidence there in the team’s play and you just have to stay with it, stay focused.”
Texas (4-2, 3-0 Big 12) returns from an open date and starts the next portion of its schedule Saturday night with its first trip to TCU (3-4, 1-3) since 1994. The Longhorns, who beat Oklahoma 36-20 two weeks ago, are one of three Big 12 teams without a conference loss.
“The last three games was a season in itself because we had a natural break,” Brown said. “Got a lot of momentum going forward. … The guys have started over.”
After their national championship hopes evaporated with consecutive big losses to BYU and Mississippi to wrap up nonconference play, the Longhorns turned their focus to winning the Big 12 title. They have four games before another open date that leads to their final regular-season games — against sixth-ranked Baylor and No. 10 Texas Tech, the Big 12’s undefeated teams.
“We do believe we have a chance to win the conference championship. We do believe we have a chance to win out, understanding that in college football right now every week we could lose as well as win,” Brown said. “But we put ourselves back in a position where we have a chance. “
TCU, which won last Thanksgiving night at Texas, is off to its worst start since 1999. But the Frogs’ first home game at night is a sellout.
“It’s going to be an unbelievable emotional crowd,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said. “When those kind of things happen, anything can happen. … How do we know that’s not something that can get us over the hump.”
Here are five things to know when Texas makes its first trip to Fort Worth in nearly two decades to play the Horned Frogs:
SLOW STARTERS: TCU has been held scoreless in the first half of all three of its Big 12 losses. The Frogs were tied 10-10 at halftime against Kansas two weeks ago before winning 27-17. “We’ve got to do a better job on offense in the first half,” Patterson said. “Obviously we’ve got to start faster … then we’ve got to finish ballgames.”
GRINDING IT OUT: Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown both ran for more than 100 yards in the win over Oklahoma. “Our ability to run the ball gave us some identity,” Brown said. “(The Frogs) have probably the best run defense in the country year in and year out. I think you’d have to call Gary a defensive genius because of what they do. It’s just amazing.” TCU is the Big 12’s top rushing defense, allowing 115 yards per game.
TURKEY LEFTOVERS, ANYONE? Texas players insist they aren’t consumed by losing at home to TCU last Thanksgiving. “We just have to go out and make sure that doesn’t happen again,” senior cornerback Carrington Byndom said. “No revenge at all. Just another game for us. Another conference game.” TCU players feel much the same way. “It’s just a Big 12 game. It’s a conference game. It’s not really just the fact we’re playing Texas,” Frogs safety Elisha Olabode said. ” No matter who we’re playing, we’re going to have the same focus.”
AFTER THE BYE: Texas is 20-5 in games following regular-season byes since Brown took over the program in 1998. The last such loss was the game against TCU last season. It is the second game in a row that the Horned Frogs are playing an opponent that had the previous week off. TCU will get an extra week to prepare for its regular-season finale against Baylor, a game that will be two days after Thanksgiving.
TURN ON THE LIGHTS: TCU is playing its fourth home game, but has a night game at Amon Carter Stadium for the first time this season. The other three home games have all been 11 a.m. starts, and TCU won all of them. Texas has played all but one of its games so far at night, the only day game for the Longhorns being their last game against Oklahoma at the State Fair of Texas.