Remember the old Foghorn Leghorn Looney Tunes cartoons? An oversized, anthropomorphized rooster with a comically over the top Southern accent (“Ah say, ah say, whatcha doin’ boy?”), Foghorn’s primary hobby was tormenting, tricking and teasing a nameless dog.
The overmatched pooch, wearing a collar and tethered to his doghouse, would lie sleeping peacefully when Leghorn (named after a breed of chicken) would walk up from behind, usually mumbling Steven Foster’s “Camptown Races” (“Doo-Dah! Doo-Dah!”), paddle the dog ferociously with a board, then run off-screen to a designated spot.
The running gag was that Foghorn always knew exactly where to stand to be tantalizingly just out of the reach of the dog with his tether fully extended.The dog, giving chase, would run hard and fast at the rooster until hitting the end of the leash, when poor mutt would violently be jerked backwards with his feet and head flipping positions.
I’ve used the dog in those cartoons many times over the years to illustrate various principles, most involving some type of self-destructive activity (“He keeps that up, won’t be long before he hits the end of his rope”).
For some reason, that nameless cartoon dog came to mind when watching Texas pull a rabbit out of a hat with an overtime win in Morgantown last Saturday night. For a month and a half now, I have expected Mack Brown to hit the end of his rope, comically flip ends and end up on the ground, choked and humiliated, the object of laughter and derision.
But a funny thing happened on the way to Mack Brown’s comeuppance: this football team grew a pair. I’m still not sure exactly when or how it happened, but after Texas reversed the curse against the Wildcats and pistol-whipped Oklahoma, the Horns just doggedly kept winning (pun intended). Despite the massive, perplexing number and depth of injuries (ESPN called it a “relentless injury bug” after losing DL Chris Whaley and RB Johnathan Gray in the West Virginia game), in the face of QB Case McCoy’s real and imagined limits, after replacing a defensive coordinator with a retiree, Texas continues to rack up W’s.
Following shameful losses to Brigham Young and Ole Miss (both of whom have had middling seasons after beating us) my beloved, mighty, fighting Texas Longhorns are tied with Baylor for first place in the Big 12.
The critics keep predicting doom and devastation. More than one person at the sparsely attended Inside Texas tailgate before the K State game told me emphatically that the Horns would win no more than two to three games the rest of the year. For a while, it looked grimmer than Charlie Sheen’s chances of locking down a Nobel Peace Prize.
Every week since the Kansas State victory, I thought, “This is the week it happens. This team is talented but poorly coached. This game the magic runs out, and the Horns’ weaknesses are exposed. It was a nice run while it lasted and it was entertaining in a drinking-a-beer-outside-the-prison-when-they-execute-somebody kind of way, but there’s no way we keep this up much longer. This week Mack finally reaches the end of his rope.”
Boy, was I wrong. Mea Culpa.
Turns out, Mack Brown is not the dog; Mack is the rooster.
He’s Foghorn Mackhorn. We’re not taunting him; we’re the ones being taunted, with Brown firmly in control of the situation. He knows exactly how much to win to keep all the critics, naysayers, armchair coaches and Unfriends of the Program hooked to their leashes, with Mack strategically positioned beyond our reach. There coach stands, clapping incessantly, smiling a smug, self-contented smile just inches beyond the grasp of those who would tear him down faster than a Saddam Hussein statue. Like Walter White in the last episode of “Breaking Bad,” Coach Brown gets the best of all his enemies before ending things up on his terms, giving all the haters and doubters the proverbial finger one last time.
Brown won with a horrible goal line officiating call in Ames. He outlasted TCU in a torrential downpour with enough lightning to be a promo for the new Thor movie. Mackhorn pummeled Kansas into submission with a relentless ground game. He practiced alchemy in overtime in Morgantown despite multiple turnovers in the air and on the ground, eventually turning Case’s lead arm into gold.
So what about Oak State? My instincts tell me the Horns lose a close game. The Cowboys can sling the ball or run it, ranking 13th in the nation in scoring offense. The teams against whom DC Greg Robinsion has had success don’t really fit in the wide-open, quick-hitting spread attack we’re going to see three games in a row from OSU, Texas Tech and Baylor. Our lack of speed at linebacker will hurt, losing a starting quarterback, running back, defensive tackle and linebacker will eventually come back to haunt the Horns and Case has not been hitting the deep throws to Mike Davis consistently.
But I’ve been wrong for almost two months now, so what the hell do I know? Mike Gundy teams traditionally don’t paly well on the road, and I’m starting to suspect Foghorn Mackhorn has already played all the angles out in his head. It wouldn’t surprise me if Brown paddled our collective butts, made us chase him for three quarters, then pulled victory from the jaws of defeat at the very end of the game just for the pure satisfaction it gives him.
And if the Horns beat Oak State, Tech looks very beatable, especially in Austin, leaving Baylor-UT to decide the conference crown. After that, who knows what might happen?
Foghorn Mackhorn, that’s who.
“Ah say, ah say, anybody out theah got a contract ex-ten-shun?” A 1986 graduate of the University of Texas, Jeff Conner has held many jobs in his life: husband, brother, uncle, son, oil field roustabout, short-order cook, sandblaster, irrigation pipe mover, musician, retail assistant manager, attorney-at-law, public school teacher, preacher, cartoonist and writer. While he does have a hot, young wife, Conner is neither as clever nor as good-looking as he believes himself to be. Jeff is currently teaching 8th grade math and Pre-A.P. algebra in Taylor, Texas, home of the Fighting Ducks. Conner’s regularly submitted commentary appears in InsideTexas.com and Inside Texas Magazine. The opinions presented do not necessarily reflect the views of the Inside Texas editorial staff.