AUSTIN, Texas -- When it’s time for coaches to assemble again for their annual convention, the president of the American Football Coaches Association might want to give a seminar on surviving tedious, stress-inducing rain delays.
Mack Brown has now literally weathered storms twice this season, with markedly different results. He found himself, and his team, surprisingly well-prepared for the unusual circumstances of Texas’ 30-7 win over TCU on Saturday.
Back on Sept. 7, he and his players were thrown off by a severe weather delay during pregame at BYU. Once the storm had passed over Provo, Utah, and the wait was finally over, 110 minutes had passed.
“I wish somebody had told me before Brigham Young how to handle that,” Brown said Monday.
His team didn’t respond well. Texas struggled on offense and didn’t show up on defense in the 40-21 loss. Brown blames himself for how his team handled the delay. He thought their wait would be as brief as 20 minutes, so his players prepared accordingly.
Then more lightning struck, and 20 minutes became an hour, then an hour and 50 minutes. Getting fired up to start a game two or three times isn’t so easy.
With that experience under his belt, Brown took a new approach when Texas and TCU were sent back to their respective locker rooms on Saturday. They had no expectations for when the game would resume.
“We told them we’ve got no clue,” Brown joked.
What ensued was a delay of 3 hours, 6 minutes. About an hour in, Brown and his coaches accepted it was going to be a long night.
“It just kept continuing and kept continuing,” Texas cornerback Carrington Byndom said.
This time, when the players hit the locker room, the pads came off right away. The Longhorns approached the break, which came with 6:08 left in the second quarter, as if it were an extended halftime.
They went over in-game adjustments, though both teams were prohibited from reviewing film of the first quarter and a half. They held position meetings. And then they went back to waiting.
“We told them, ‘Do anything you need to do to get yourself ready to go back out,’” Brown said. “Go to sleep. Take your pads off. Listen to music. Walk around. Talk with your buddies. Doesn’t matter.”
That low-pressure approach seemed to help. So did breaking into the halftime PB&Js and the postgame food supply -- copious amounts of chicken tenders -- around 9:30 p.m.
Coaches reviewed and tweaked their plans. Some took naps, though Brown couldn’t. He had to work with game officials and TCU coach Gary Patterson to hammer out a plan for the rest of the night.
For Texas, the locker room vibe was much different this time around. They’d taken a 17-7 lead into the break and had plenty to talk about, and plenty more to feel good about.
“We went in there with some points on the board,” center Dominic Espinosa said. “I think going in there we felt it out already and knew how they were going to come at us and what was going to work for us. That definitely gave us some confidence.”
Brown and Patterson agreed to finish out the second quarter, remain on the field for a brief halftime and then kick off the third quarter. They agreed on a five-minute intermission, which later got cut down to three, and huddled their teams on the sidelines during the commercial break-length intermission.
Finally, around 10:45 p.m., they were cleared to begin warmups. The game resumed at 11 p.m. CT and finished just after 12:30. Despite the slippery conditions and long layoff, no Texas players went down with injuries in the second portion of the game.
And this time, they came out firing. The Longhorns defense forced TCU to punt on eight of its nine drives after the break. Texas came away with 10 points on its first two possessions to put the game away.
Nobody was more relieved after the 186-minute delay than Brown. His coaches didn’t panic. His players didn’t either, and more importantly, they were ready to play.
“I thought the fact that they did not waver, and I couldn’t tell any difference in the attitude in the team when they came back out than when they went in, that’s huge,” Brown said. “That’s huge for your team to be mature enough to handle all of those circumstances and just go play.”