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November 15, 2013

Brown, Longhorns face Pokes in thick of Big 12 title chase

AUSTIN, Texas — After a 1-2 start, the No. 23 Texas Longhorns have rallied to contest for the Big 12 title with three games left.

It starts Saturday against No. 12 Oklahoma State, the team most had pegged for the league crown until an early stumble on the road at West Virginia. But like the Longhorns (7-2, 6-0), the Cowboys (8-1, 5-1) regrouped to keep the Big 12 title and the BCS bowl berth that comes with it in sight.

For Texas, this position seemed unthinkable after two blowout losses in September that got defensive coordinator Manny Diaz fired and the Longhorns punted out of the national rankings.

And coming off a home loss to Ole Miss, coach Mack Brown was jeered for immediately starting talk that Texas could still win the Big 12. The fans mostly wanted to talk about whether Brown would still have a job after this season.

“Our guys know we’ve got three games left to win the conference and they understand this one is the only thing they can do anything about. They’re proud of themselves,” Brown said.

Leading the resurgence has been quarterback Case McCoy, the backup who took over the starter’s job in September when David Ash sustained a concussion. McCoy’s gunslinger attitude and uncanny ability to deliver big plays in the clutch kept Texas from losses at Iowa State and West Virginia.

Texas rallied against six teams with a combined record of 23-33. The last three opponents — Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Baylor — are 23-4.

While the series history with Oklahoma State is lopsided in Texas’ favor, the road team has won each of the last four meetings.

“I don’t think there’s any question that we are a much better football team than we were a month and a half ago. That’s a credit to the players,” Cowboys coach Mike Gundy said. “They’ve made a decision to work hard together and improve, and they have. I like our leadership and I like the maturity of our team right now.”

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