Granted, it’s early in the season. We’ve only reached the quarter pole in this 12-game marathon. But this week presents yet another pivotal moment for the Longhorns in their quest to become relevant again.
Texas (2-1, 0-0 Big 12) is coming off a huge, momentum-building 37-14 win over USC. The Horns did it in front of a record crowd at Royal-Memorial Stadium. The student section was full well before kickoff. It was the program’s 900th all-time victory, and it was a night few will soon forget.
That’s great and all and fine and good. But none of it matters if Texas comes out and gets embarrassed at home by 17th-ranked TCU (2-1) this week in both schools’ Big 12 opener. None of it matters if the Horns stumble through the first three weeks of Big 12 play against TCU, Kansas State and Oklahoma.
Bottom line, none of it matters if Texas can’t build on the USC win.
Win, and Texas fans will start to believe this truly is different. Lose, and it’s back into the rut of mediocrity.
The Longhorns have been here before. Multiple times, actually.
The 2015 win over No. 10 Oklahoma sure seemed like a corner-turning moment. Texas followed that with a victory over Kansas State. But then the Horns lost three of their next four. That 2016 win over Notre Dame in the season opener was terrific. Texas followed that with a win over UTEP. Then came three straight losses. Last season, Texas bounced back from a heartbreaking loss to USC by beating Iowa State and Kansas State. Then came three losses in the next four games.
Yes, TCU has owned Texas the last four years, and we will get to that. It’d be great if the Horns could face a lesser opponent this week in its Big 12 opener. That’s not how the scheduling gods determined it would be, though.
“It’s a team that quite frankly has had our program’s number for the last few years,” UT coach Tom Herman said. “If we want to achieve the things that we want to achieve long-term, we’ve got to go 1-0 this week and we’ve got to be able to put last week’s game behind us, learn from the positives, learn from the mistakes, apply them and then move on.”
Yes, the USC win was big. The TCU game is much, much bigger.
On to this week’s mailbag:
This team is two weeks removed from losing to Maryland. It’s outrageous that coaches have to “plead” with players to move beyond winning against a team that has lost two of the three games they have played so far.
— David, via Facebook
Under normal circumstances, I might agree with you. But this is a program that hasn’t handled success all that well. Texas started 2-0 in 2016 and then lost at Cal the following week. I still remember offensive lineman Kent Perkins telling me that next Monday, “All these people were telling us how good we were.” Well, Perkins probably didn’t have that problem the following week. So yes, Herman probably does need to beg, plead or do whatever is required. Fortunately for Herman, the Frogs are 5-1 over the Horns since joining the Big 12. The last four games haven’t even been close. TCU has won by an average of 25.4 points. That’s a lot of motivation for the UT coaching staff. That’s simply where Texas is right now.
Maybe I’m just getting old, but I’ve been going to UT games the past five years, and it sure sounded like the music was cranked up to an unprecedented ear-shattering high decibel level during the USC game. It completely drowned out the USC band on the north end of the stadium, not that they had many opportunities to play their fight song anyway. But more importantly, the tunes really seemed to overwhelm the stadium during timeouts and split seconds before the Trojans’ QB took third-down snaps. New home field tactic or maybe it was louder in the stands than on the playing field?
— Jeff, via email
Honestly, I don’t know about the loudness of the music. I’m surprised I haven’t gotten emails about the type of music being played. You know what’s funny? The stadium folks really didn’t play as much country music as people generically think. I have heard comments from people sitting in the north end zone saying they could not hear the Texas band. I also like the Bevo that comes on the screen just before third downs and snorts. It’s like a siren song to fans to get up on their feet and scream.
Good win. Glad to see the turnout. I think Chris Del Conte said they adjusted how Texas got people to different gates at DKR so that the flow into the stadium didn’t bottleneck and more people would be inside before kickoff. Sounds like it worked.
— Pastor Luke, via Facebook
These last two weeks, Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte has walked around Bevo Boulevard like a rock star. Fans are constantly stopping him and either congratulating him or giving him ideas for changes. I do know there was a focus on getting people into the games to prevent that bottleneck that you addressed. Hey, I think the guy deserves a raise just for coaxing students to the games. The southeast corner and south end zone sections were full prior to kickoff, which alone was amazing. Give some credit to Drew Martin, Del Conte’s director for external operations. Del Conte oversees the vision of Bevo Boulevard; Martin handles the specifics.
When can we expect to move past (offensive coordinator) Tim Beck ?
— Seth, via Facebook
Man, Beck can’t catch a break, can he?
Unless they get a huge lead early in a game or something drastic happens, I’d stick with Sam. No need to waste Shane’s eligibility unless absolutely necessary.
— Ed, via Facebook
Statesman columnist Kirk Bohls asked Herman Monday about whether he thought about getting backup quarterback Shane Buechele some action the last few weeks. “He’s awesome,” Herman said. “That guy will be ready, there is no doubt in my mind. He will not be rusty. He’s bouncing around, coaching the heck out of Sam on the sideline, talking to Coach Beck and myself on the head set during the series, right after the series on what he saw.”
Buechele has played 21 games at UT and thrown for almost 4,400 yards with 28 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. My guess is if Ehlinger gets hurt, Buechele could easily get through the rest of the game. Then the Horns would have a full week of practice with him before the following game. When it comes to rust, that’s something I wouldn’t worry about with Buechele.
Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t the O-line of TCU a weakness for them?
— Paul, via Facebook
From a rebuilding standpoint, that’s probably fair. TCU lost four players up front to the NFL, either by draft or free-agent pickups. But the Frogs have still rushed for 200 yards or more in each of their first three games. Doesn’t sound like much dropoff to me. And they’re allowing an average of just one sack per game. Not many people are getting to quarterback Shawn Robinson. The Frogs are 89-6 under coach Gary Patterson when the team rushes for 200 yards. When you look at the depth chart, sophomore center Kelton Hollins is the only underclassman listed as a starter. It’s an older group, to be sure.
This team is no where near ready for TCU. Just stating the obvious. Over the last 4 years they’ve beat us 153-33. Let that sink in a minute. It’s sad to be beaten that badly by little brother the last several years. You want a signature win, then beat TCU but I don’t see it happening.
— Jeremy, via Facebook
This stat from TCU’s Mark Cohen is just mind-boggling. Offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie, who declined an offer to become UT’s offensive coordinator in 2016, has posted some crazy offensive numbers. Since 2014, TCU, Baylor and Ohio State have all produced 300 passing yards and 200 rushing yards in 15 games, which leads the nation. Granted, each year is different, but KaVontae Turpin had a big hand in that. He’s a big-time Texas killer. Jaelan Austin was in the mix, too. The Frogs know how to score, and they’ll look to do it a lot this weekend. It’s up to Texas to stop it.
Have a question for the Whys of Texas? Contact Brian Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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