VERTUNO ON LONGHORNS: Can Brown out-Stoops Bob Stoops?

Updated: October 7, 2003, 5:42 PM ET

AUSTIN -- Texas coach MackBrown finally showed he has a little Bob Stoops in him.

With Saturday's game against Kansas State on the line,Brown took the biggest gamble in his six years coaching the Longhorns -- and won.

Brown let quarterback Vince Young go for a touchdown on fourth-and-inches late in the fourth quarter when he could have settled for a chip-shot field goal that would have tied it. Young's plunge proved to be the winning points in a 24-20 victory.

While the result kept alive Texas' national title hopes, his gutsy call could have a lasting impact, too, if it's the start of a new MackBrown.

There's no better place to find out than Saturday in the Cotton Bowl when the No. 11 Longhorns face Stoops and No. 1 Oklahoma.

It's not just the significance of the game. It's the tense, conservative wayBrown has coached this grudge match the past couple years.

-- 2002

Leading 14-11 with 5 seconds left until halftime,Brown saw danger signs where everyone else saw an opportunity to seize momentum. So instead of having strong-armed quarterback Chris Simms heave one into the end zone from midfield,Brown had him take a knee.

-- 2001

Not thinking freshman Cedric Benson was ready to be a competent blocker,Brown let him on the field for only one play, and even then only because the starter had lost a shoe. Texas lost 14-3, in part because of the lack of a running game. Benson became a regular over the next seven games and became the first UT freshman to run for 1,000 yards.

Stoops, meanwhile, has quickly built a reputation as one of the best coaches in the country.

He did it by winning a national title in 2000, the year the Sooners mauled Texas 63-14. He did it by winning games with crucial play calls, such as fourth-quarter fake field goal that helped the Sooners beat Missouri last season and a fake punt against Alabama last month.

Even when Stoops loses two in a row to Oklahoma State, all anyone seems to talk about is how he wins.

Not so for the risk-aversiveBrown.

He gets beaten up for not winning big games (namely three straight losses to Stoops) and gets labeled "Coach February" for being able to land big-name recruits but not even winning a conference title.

But giveBrown credit when it's due.

Kansas State was a big win for Texas. It was a game the Longhorns had to win to make this week count for something beyond just border rival bragging rights.

By beating the Wildcats, and coming from behind to do it, Texas put itself in position to jump right into the thick of the national title race with a victory over OU.

Brown calls the annual Red River Shootout a "chess match" between the coaching staffs. There already seems to be some gamesmanship going on.

Brown won't say if Young or junior Chance Mock will start. And Stoops may have been trying to forceBrown's hand -- or daring him to start Young -- by saying Young creates the most problems for his team.

The key factor is Young's health and whether he's recovered from a sprained ankle sustained earlier in the K-State game. Texas won't release injury information butBrown's announcement that both quarterbacks will play suggests Young will be ready.

The boringBrown might have stuck with Mock after Young was hurt, even though the freshman was obviously doing better. He could've spun it as relaying on Mock's "experience."

Yet, in the first indication thatBrown was loosening up, he threw out the built-in excuse and went with his gut. He could tell that Young's scrambling ability gave him the best chance to win, even if some of that scrambling ability was compromised by injury.

The first indicator of whether the tightBrown or the loose version is coaching Saturday will be his choice at quarterback.

Mock is the safe choice, especially if Young is healthy enough for Texas to rotate them.Brown could try helping Mock by keeping every available blocker in close, even if that means shrinking the field and hoping a receiver gets open.

If he wants to keep Stoops guessing, he'll start Young, spread the field and let the freshman fly.

Then, when the game is on the line, everyone will be watching to see ifBrown can out-Stoops Stoops.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index

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