AUSTIN, Texas -- Five days after Mack Brown stepped down as Texas coach, the Longhorns' players admitted they were "shocked" and "upset" by the move and never saw it coming.
Ten players met with reporters Thursday for the first time since Brown announced his resignation, and their message was consistent: They're disappointed his 16-year tenure is ending and they want to send him off with one final victory.
"It's been a long season, a tough season," center Dominic Espinosa said. "We want to go out on top, but there's also that factor that it would be great for him to kind of ride off into the sunset."
Brown delivered the news to his team Saturday afternoon following a practice for the Valero Alamo Bowl. His players say Brown hasn't acted any differently in bowl practices, and they're trying to treat it like any other week.
"It was definitely shocking," defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat said. "Just the timing of it, we didn't expect it. You always hear things floating around, always hear rumors, but you never really pay attention to it until something happens.
"It really upset us when it happened. He made his decision and he's still coaching for this game, so we've got to get ready for this."
They'd like nothing more than to give Brown a proper send-off to a Longhorn career that began in 1998.
Brown has been coaching Texas since McCoy can remember watching college football, and he can't imagine how it'll feel to see somebody else leading the program in 2014.
"It'll be a different world for all of us," McCoy said. "There are your pros and cons to that. You get new energy in here and everyone will be energized to see what happens. There will be more critiques."
While McCoy acknowledged his teammates were trying to find out the latest about Brown's fate on Twitter a week ago, they're trying not to focus on the coaching search and speculation about who will follow Brown.
Junior cornerback Quandre Diggs has a hard time picturing anyone else as his head coach next season. Both he and his older brother, Denver Broncos cornerback Quentin Jammer, got a chance to play for Brown and are close with him.
"It'll be strange, man," Diggs said. "Just not having him on the sideline with us, not having him running to practices and just seeing him around will be different. But this is what Coach Brown felt like was the best thing to do. We've just got to adjust to it and get ready for it, I guess."
Fellow junior Cedric Reed said he's still considering entering the NFL draft but won't comment on his plans until after the bowl. The defensive end finished with nine sacks and 18 tackles for a loss in the regular season.
To some extent, the players had been preparing for this news all season; they've heard the rumors since Texas started the season 1-2 with losses to BYU and Ole Miss.
Senior offensive guard Trey Hopkins said he and his fellow players can't help but feel responsible. The Horns' 8-4 record is on them, he said, and not their coach's fault.
"We're the people actually on the field," Hopkins said. "There's only so much a coach can do, whether it's in success or in losses, that really contribute to the season. We're the guys out there between the white lines. The losses were on us."
Hopkins and his teammates can't change Brown's decision, but they can send him off a winner.
"We love Coach Brown," safety Adrian Phillips said. "We're just going to fight with Coach Brown to the last straw, and that'll be against Oregon. We've got to send him out right."