MANHATTAN — Texas football coach Mack Brown is still trying to get used to all this.
His Longhorns, who less than a year ago played for a national championship, are 4-4 and have lost four of their last five games. Their streak of nine consecutive seasons with at least 10 wins is over. Their streak of 12 straight trips to a bowl game is in jeopardy heading into tonight's game at Kansas State.
For once, Brown doesn't have all the answers. If he did, he says he would have waved his magic wand and fixed the problems by now.
"We've been so spoiled," Brown said. "We've been good every year. This is unfamiliar territory for our coaches, our players and our fans."
No kidding. For years, Texas has been the bully of the Big 12. It has always been in the mix for a conference championship, and often in the conversation for a national title. Outside of the Red River Rivalry, most of its games are taken for granted.
But this year, nothing has come easy. Aside from a narrow loss to Oklahoma, the Longhorns' struggles have been shocking. One after another they lost games they were heavily favored to win.
UCLA, Iowa State and Baylor all traveled to Austin and left with memorable victories. By the end of the Baylor game, many of the burnt-orange faithful had seen enough and began booing.
Few could have envisioned such a scene when Texas began the season as the nation's fifth-ranked team. Many thought the Longhorns would get in gear after winning at Nebraska 20-13. Brown certainly thought things were headed in the right direction. But he asks for patience today.
"When you look at these things," Brown said. "There is a fine line between playing for the national championship and winning the conference championship eight months ago and where we are right now."
There have been some big differences, though. With the departure of Colt McCoy at quarterback, the Longhorns said they would be more run-oriented this year. But Texas has consistently lost the battle for the line of scrimmage, and averages 140 rushing yards. Sophomore quarterback Garrett Gilbert hasn't played well without the balance that a running game brings.
He has thrown nine interceptions, and his teammates haven't helped by losing nine fumbles. That has put pressure on the Longhorns' highly-ranked defense, which is allowing 267 yards and 21 points per game.
"Sooner or later, things happen no matter where you are," K-State coach Bill Snyder said. "You see it anywhere in the country. I think it's a difficult time for them. Those youngsters have never been there before."
So what does Brown tell his team before tonight's game? Nothing he would normally say this deep into a season.
"It's obvious we aren't in the Big 12 South race," Brown said. "We're not in the Big 12 race. We're not in the BCS race. What we are is... We've got to get back and play better."