MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - College football was already having a laugh at the expense of the University of Texas before the words came out of Mack Brown's mouth.
The Longhorns were 1-2 and Brown's job was in the crosshairs in his 16th season, not necessarily because of the losses, but because of the way the losses arrived. They allowed 550 yards rushing and let BYU snap the ball 99 times, then lost at home by three touchdowns to Ole Miss.
Brown changed defensive coordinators before the Ole Miss game and fans booed the sight of Brown's face when it popped up on the stadium's Godzillatron for a public service announcement. Big 12 play was about to begin and Brown, who was 11-15 inside the conference the past three years, was seemingly out of touch, if not out of his mind.
The solution to the team's problems, he said, was to win the Big 12.
"We are not as far away as it looks like after three weeks," Brown said two days after the loss to the Rebels. "Our goal is to win the Big 12 championship. We've still got a chance to do that."
Somehow, some way, the Longhorns will arrive at Mountaineer Field for Saturday's 7 p.m. game at 6-2 overall and 5-0 in the Big 12. The game against WVU (4-5, 2-4) will be televised by Fox. Texas hasn't lost since Brown's proclamation and the team does indeed control whether it wins its first conference title since 2010.
"It's changed completely," he said. "The team now feels like they have a chance to win the Big 12 championship, which is what the goal has been since January."
It all started under a coincidental circumstance.
Texas has been riddled with inconsistency at quarterback and injuries on offense and defense since the first drive of the 2011 national championship game, when Alabama's Marcell Dareus knocked Colt McCoy out of the game. David Ash became the starting quarterback this season, but couldn't stay healthy.
He suffered a concussion against BYU and missed the Ole Miss game and it just seemed like more of the same when Ash returned to play Kansas State, but couldn't finish the game.
A year before, the Wildcats beat Texas 42-24, prompting linebacker Tre Walker to say at Big 12 media day in July that the Longhorns "laid down" in that game. It was another claim made against the toughness of Texas, one lined up next to bad defense and poor tackling.
"With us, we don't really pay attention to all the other things that come out around us," senior defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat said. "We focus on us. We want to improve. Those things are always on us, so nothing else matters. We're an older team with more experience and we know when we have to get better."