FORT WORTH, Texas -- By the time Texas players stormed the field, after a thoroughly convincing win at TCU, almost nobody was paying attention. But that's only because it was 12:32 a.m. CT.
By then, after severe weather delayed this game three hours and six minutes, the rest of the nation either couldn't figure out which channel the game had been moved to or had already gone off to bed.
Many will see only a box score on Sunday morning -- Texas 30, TCU 7 -- and shrug it off, noting that the once-great TCU is now off to a 3-5 start to its season.
In fact, even those who didn't give up on this six-hour affair likely will be too distracted by the game's final five minutes -- when Texas freshman quarterback Tyrone Swoopes made a startling cameo -- to step back and recognize this victory for what it was.
Texas made a statement on Saturday night, even if nobody was watching.
Never mind the fact that, thanks to Oklahoma's tough 38-30 win over Texas Tech, Baylor and Texas are the lone schools atop the Big 12 standings now. The Longhorns, underdogs in back-to-back games, have gone out and proved plenty.
Oklahoma and TCU were picked second and third, respectively, in the preseason Big 12 media poll. They were considered serious Big 12 title contenders. And Texas just stomped both of them, on both sides of the ball, with surprising ease.
Just ask Marcus Johnson, the sophomore receiver who burned TCU's venerated secondary for 120 yards and a touchdown on three catches.
"Oklahoma was a huge game. Obviously that was a monkey off our back," Johnson said. "TCU coming in having one of the best secondaries, especially for our wide receivers, really showed that we can really compete with anyone in the nation. But it's just one of those things where, week by week, we have to stay focused. We can't slack off or be complacent.
"No matter what team you're facing, it's the Big 12 conference. It's a crazy conference. Just have to be ready every week."
As hard as it is to believe, Bob Stoops and Gary Patterson -- two of the best in their business -- could not get their teams ready for this suddenly confident, motivated Texas squad.
Mack Brown said the only message he'll send his team after tonight is this: Beat Kansas. Get to 5-0 in the Big 12. That's all that matters. Still, he savored this one.
"That's pretty good when you go on the road, you win big against a team that beat you last year, that doesn't like you very much, with a three-hour delay," Brown said.
His quarterback, Case McCoy, continues to surprise. His one-two punch at running back is doing all the right things. His offensive line just put together two strong games in a row.
But it's the defense that is stealing the show for Texas. Last time the Longhorns faced this kind of a weather delay, their defense turned in one of its worst performances ever against BYU. It's completely unrecognizable today.
In its past two games, Texas' defense has allowed just two touchdowns. One came on a trick play Saturday. The other came after a 73-yard kickoff return against Oklahoma.
After TCU connected on a double-pass for a touchdown to make it 10-7 late in the first quarter, the Frogs fell into an inescapable funk. The Longhorns' Steve Edmond picked off Casey Pachall in Texas territory on the following drive, and TCU settled for punts on its next nine possessions. Pachall finished 13-for-34 for 140 yards in his first game since Sept. 7.
The game was essentially over when Malcolm Brown's 3-yard touchdown run put Texas ahead 27-7. That came just 5:20 into the second half, and the Longhorns were able to go on cruise control -- except for two McCoy interceptions -- the rest of the way.
And then, at 12:23 a.m., Mack Brown made a decision that folks in Austin will spend the next week debating, and maybe a lot longer. With 4:57 left, he sent Swoopes trotting onto the field for an eight-play debut that woke up anybody who might've started dozing off.
Swoopes had an 8-yard run. Two pass plays were called, but he didn't throw on either. He took a sack on fourth down to end the drive. Anyone who missed it did not miss much.
But the move means a whole lot more than the 29 yards gained. Brown confirmed after the game that David Ash will not play against Kansas next weekend. There's still no timetable on his return.
"We don't know what David's situation is down the road," Brown said. "We know he's not going to play next week, because he was not released this morning. So we want to get Tyrone ready to go. We said we were not redshirting him, we wanted to play him some. Hard to get more meaningful time when you're trying to win."
We'll be hashing out the endless layers of that decision for days to come, no doubt. But the fact Texas, the two-point underdog, was feeling so comfortable with a 23-point lead that it could make a move like that just goes to show how not-close this game ended up being.
Brown fully expected a brawl this weekend. Instead, he got another blowout. His own team is surprising him.
"They are. It's who I thought we would be in preseason," he said. "It's who I thought we'd be in the summer."
After these last two games, there's no telling what this team could be in December.