- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 3, 2009

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. | The Texas Longhorns came to the desert determined not to let disappointment ruin a good season.

But they can’t forget that if not for one play and the slimmest of margins in the Bowl Championship Series standings, they would be in Florida getting ready to play for the national title.

So many things went wrong for the third-ranked Longhorns (11-1) in the last month of the regular season that it’s hard to imagine they’re not feeling a bit sorry for themselves heading into Monday night’s Fiesta Bowl against No. 10 Ohio State (10-2).

“We were disappointed. We’re human,” quarterback Colt McCoy said. “But that’s not how it turned out, and great teams overcome that.”

Consider all that has happened:

cTexas was No. 1 when McCoy rallied the Longhorns to the lead late in the fourth quarter at Texas Tech - only to watch the Red Raiders’ Michael Crabtree score the winning touchdown with one second left. One play earlier, freshman safety Blake Gideon dropped what would have been a game-clinching interception.

cThe loss at Texas Tech ultimately put Texas in a three-way tie in the Big 12 South. Conference rules sent the team with the best BCS rating to the league title game. That ended up being Oklahoma, the team Texas beat 45-35 on Oct. 11. After crushing Missouri, those same Sooners are in the BCS championship game against Florida.

cMcCoy was runner up for the Heisman Trophy, losing out to … Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford.

It all added up to a feeling among some Texas players that they were denied a title shot they deserved. The team had two meetings to clear the air. The first came the day the BCS rankings were announced. The second was when they started Fiesta Bowl practice.

“The first one was ‘All right, it happened,’” senior receiver Quan Cosby said. “The second one was ‘All right, let’s get over it.’”

But Cosby said he’s not sure he’ll be able to stomach watching the BCS title game.

“Being a sports fan, I probably will watch some of it, but I definitely won’t put too much into it,” he said.

Texas can’t let hurt feelings and frustration linger. Many good teams have lost when they thought they deserved better than their bowl destination. It happened to Texas in 2003, when the Longhorns thought they were going to the BCS but got bumped to the Holiday Bowl. The dispirited Longhorns lost to Washington State in Texas’ most recent bowl defeat.

The Longhorns said there’s still a lot to shoot for in the Fiesta. To begin with, the pride of eight senior starters is on the line.

“This is our last game wearing the Longhorn helmet,” senior defensive end Brian Orakpo said. “Let’s not hold back nothing.”

There’s also the future to think about. With McCoy’s pledge to return next season, a big win could set the Longhorns up to begin the 2009 season ranked No. 1.

And there’s the distant hope of earning a “split” national championship. While Oklahoma or Florida is guaranteed to claim the BCS title, the Longhorns could finish No. 1 in the Associated Press rankings if the much-hyped Sooners-Gators matchup turns into a dud. If the Sooners win, it’s possible some AP voters will remember that the Longhorns beat Oklahoma on a neutral field in Dallas.

Unlike USA Today coaches’ poll voters, who are required to put the BCS title game winner No. 1 on their final ballots, the 65 AP voters aren’t subject to the same obligation.

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