When Texas and Arkansas were originally scheduled to meet two weeks ago, the Longhorns were coming off a blowout win against an overmatched opponent and the Razorbacks had been buoyed by their second consecutive comeback victory.
While not much has changed for Texas, Arkansas has a new perspective after getting routed at home in its SEC opener.
The seventh-ranked Longhorns look to continue their strong start and send the Razorbacks to back-to-back defeats Saturday when the former Southwest Conference rivals make up a game that was delayed by Hurricane Ike.
Texas and Arkansas were both 2-0 heading into their Sept. 13 matchup at Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin. Severe weather in southeast Texas forced the postponement of that game to Saturday, when both teams had open dates.
The Longhorns (3-0) are still undefeated after a 52-10 win over Rice last Saturday gave them their third victory by at least 29 points.
The Razorbacks (2-1), though, suffered their first loss under first-year coach Bobby Petrino, falling 49-14 at home to then-No. 9 Alabama. Their first big test of the year exposed some weaknesses in a young Arkansas team that had gotten a go-ahead touchdown in the final two minutes of each of its first two games.
“Even in the two wins that we had, we had places where we were beating ourselves,” Petrino said. “We’ve got a lot to learn, a long way to go.”
Despite his team’s early success, Texas coach Mack Brown also sees plenty of room for improvement.
“I would think that we’re pleased with most of the things we’ve got, and they all need work,” said Brown, whose Longhorns returned only 10 starters from 2007. “We’re still the team that everybody said was under the radar and they didn’t know if they were really good and they had all these question marks. … We haven’t changed anything, we’ve just answered the bell three times.
“Each week we’ll know a little bit more about who we are. I don’t know if we’re any good or not.”
The jury may still be out on Texas, but Brown doesn’t have any lingering questions about quarterback Colt McCoy, who completed 19 of 23 passes for 329 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions against Rice.
“He’s just taken over,” Brown said. “This is his team. He’s having fun.”
McCoy’s four TDs last week gave him 62 for his career, two more than current Longhorns running backs coach Major Applewhite, who had set the school record from 1998-2001. A third-year starter as a junior, McCoy has a chance at breaking nearly all of Texas’ passing records by the time he’s done. He insists, however, that he’s not looking that far into the future.
“There have been so many great quarterbacks to come here. I’m playing behind probably the best ever in Vince (Young),” McCoy said. “To be able to have the success that we’re having is a blessing. … I just want to win. I think that’s the most important category for a quarterback is how many wins you have, and that’s all I want to do.
“You dream about those things as a kid and now some of those things are coming true, and I have another year to play,” he said. “My eyes are looking forward, they’re focused on Arkansas. Like I said, the plan is to win.”
The Razorbacks hope to put up a better fight this week, and cutting down on mental errors should help. Arkansas gave up interception returns of 63 and 74 yards in the first half last week, and turned the ball over on downs after marching to a first-and-goal on the 2 on their final drive of the second quarter. Despite outgaining Alabama in the first half, Arkansas trailed 35-7 at intermission.
“I felt like we were moving the ball well. The stop on the 1 and the interceptions really hurt our momentum,” Petrino said. “We have got to get where we don’t beat ourselves. The first part of winning games is not beating yourselves - taking care of the ball, being where you’re supposed to be, not having assignment errors, getting more big plays than your opponent gets.”
Arkansas has defeated a ranked Longhorns team in two of the last three meetings in the series, but lost to seventh-ranked Texas 22-20 in the last matchup Sept. 11, 2004.
The Longhorns are 55-21 all-time against the Razorbacks, including 27-11 in Austin, but have lost three of their last four home games against them.