Charlie Strong coaches from the sideline in second half action at Royal-Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas on Friday, November 25, 2016. James Gregg/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

BEVO BEAT Football

TCU 31, Texas 9 final recap: The season ends with a loss — and lots of questions

Posted November 25th, 2016

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It’s over at Royal-Memorial Stadium.

Texas, in last-game desperation mode trying to earn a sixth win to make it to a bowl game and also — maybe, depending on whose reports you choose to believe or not believe — save Charlie Strong’s job, rolled over and showed up flat, falling to a five-win TCU  team that’s in equally lethargic straits, 31-9. Well, almost equally lethargic; the Horned Frogs became bowl-eligible, at least.

So, to recap:

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The season’s over. See you in 2017, Longhorns.

No bowl game for Texas.

The Longhorns very likely will be looking for a new head coach, perhaps as soon as Saturday.

We’ve seen the last of Tyrone Swoopes, Dylan Haines, Paul Boyette Jr., Kent Perkins and the rest of the seniors.

We’ve also probably seen the last of D’Onta Foreman, who’ll probably opt out of starting over with a new coach in favor of jumping into the NFL Draft, which has become interested in drafting running backs in the first and second rounds again.

It took Strong longer than usual to arrive at his post-game presser. And when he spoke, he sounded as shell-shocked on Friday as he did last Saturday in Lawrence.

“When I took this job three years ago, I came here for one reason. Well, several reasons. I came here to win a national championship, and I came here to change lives,” Strong said. “When I took the job, I just felt like I would help impact the players inside that locker room. I knew I would do that.”

Texas fans express their opinion at Royal-Memorial Stadium on Friday November 25, 2016. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Texas fans express their opinion at Royal-Memorial Stadium on Friday November 25, 2016. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Friday was symbolic of what’s plagued the Longhorns all season — and Strong throughout his three years here. It wasn’t a case of what went right, but what went wrong. The yards were there, but the points weren’t. Fourth-and-goals at the 1 should be no-brainers when you have Foreman and Swoopes’ 18-Wheeler package to use, yet Texas had to settle for two short field goals and a stuffed run for no gain. Even the kicker was benched — senior Trent Domingue, who won the Baylor game but was sidelined in favor of a junior walk-on after missing from 37 yards out.

Texas settled for field goals while TCU’s Kenny Hill was running for touchdowns. Foreman had another foray into the UT record books, rushing for his school-record 13th straight 100-yard game and becoming only the second 2,000-yard rusher in school history, but also was stuffed short of the goal line on back-to-back plays in the second quarter.

Tom Herman’s Houston Cougars fell at Memphis the day after reports broke during Thursday night’s Texas A&M-LSU game that Herman-to-Baton Rouge was an all but done deal. Those reports, of course, were followed by others that said Herman would be willing to forego LSU in favor of Texas — if the Longhorns reached out to him, of course.

Where does that leave us? Who knows. Saturday’s the day that ESPN reported could be the day LSU inks Herman. It’s also the first day after the regular season, which Texas athletic director Mike Perrin said on Sunday would be the time to evaluate Charlie Strong’s job performance.

Strong has two years left on his contract. He’s 16-21 with the Longhorns. The Texas malaise is this: The last time the Longhorns failed to make it to a bowl game was 1992 and 1993, John Mackovic’s first two seasons. And this group of seniors who were lauded before the game also have the most number of losses (26) in school history.

TCU #21 Kyle Hicks is stopped by the Texas defense in the first half at Royal-Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas on Friday, November 25, 2016. James Gregg/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
TCU #21 Kyle Hicks is stopped by the Texas defense in the first half at Royal-Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas on Friday, November 25, 2016.
James Gregg/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

On a day when Texas had every reason to play big, the Longhorns were unable to crack the end zone. A first halfTre that saw Texas produce 12 first downs, 254 yards of total offense and an 18:46 to 11:14 edge in time of possession also saw the Longhorns with only six points to show for it at the break.

The second half was even worse. Dylan Haines whiffed on Kenny Hill at the 30 on the way to a critical 41-yard touchdown run that put TCU up 17-9, and even when Hill and tailback Kyle Hicks were taken out, backup quarterback Foster Sawyer — starting at his own 3-yard line thanks to a 74-yard punt from Dickson — sliced the Texas defense along with backup running back Trevorris Johnson, then essentially put the game away with a 28-yard pass to Daniel Walsh down to UT’s 5-yard line. Johnson scored on the next play for the 23-9 lead with nine minutes left.

For what it’s worth, Texas’ drive to answer was a three-and-out. All Buechele incompletions.

Compound that with the fact that the Horned Frogs followed that Texas punt with a 70-yard touchdown scamper from freshman Darius Anderson for a 31-9 lead, and that the Longhorns’ ensuing drive came up short again, and this game ended in a dreary way appropriately on a dreary day.

It was the first time Texas has failed to score a touchdown since the 24-0 shutout loss at Iowa State on Halloween 2015.

Appropriately enough, the final play of the game was a Buechele Hail Mary pass into the end zone — that was intercepted.

Buechele ended the day 16 of 39 for 218 yards and the one interception. Foreman rushed for 165 yards on 31 carries, giving him 2,028 for the year. Four receiver finished with either four or three catches to lead the team.

The Longhorns ended up being outgained, 487 yards to 407. And they were outrushed, 309 yards to 189. Texas was 4 of 19 on third-down conversions, 0 of 3 on foruth downs, and averaged 4.8 yards per play. Time of possession was split evenly (Texas 30:14, TCU 29:46).

How the scoring went:

FIRST QUARTER

TCU: Kenny Hill 4-yard run (Derrick Green kick), 9:48
The drive: 8 plays, 75 yards, 2:21
The key play: Hill found Taj Williams for a 14-yard gain down to UT’s 17-yard line, one of four first downs on the drive.

Texas: Trent Domingue 21-yard field goal, 5:28
The drive: 9-71-4:20
The key play: Shane Buechele found Devin Duvernay for a 48-yard completion down to TCU’s 11. Duvernay was in one-on-one coverage by safety Nick Orr.

SECOND QUARTER

Texas: Mitchell Becker 24-yard field goal, 1:14
The drive: 4-2-1:14
The key play: It had to be the actual kick itself, which came from Becker, not Domingue. The senior kicker was benched on senior day after missing a 37-yarder earlier.

THIRD QUARTER

TCU: Brandon Hatfield 28-yard field goal, 11:44
The drive: 13-79-3:16
The key play: Hill found a wide-open Desmond White for a 25-yard gain in front of the UT sideline, setting TCU up at the 12.

Texas: Becker 31-yard field goal, 9:30
The drive: 6-61-2:14
The key play: Foreman broke loose for a 44-yard down to TCU’s 12.

TCU: Hill 41-yard run (Hatfield kick), 7:49
The drive: 6-65-1:36
The key play: There were several of them, all by Kyle Hicks — runs of 11 and 7 yards and a 9-yard completion.

FOURTH QUARTER

TCU: Trevorris Johnson 5-yard run (Hatfield kick), 9:18
The drive: 8-97-3:45
The key play: On back-to-back plays, Darius Anderson had a 27-yard run and Daniel Walsh had a 28-yard catch down to the 5.

TCU: Darius Anderson 70-yard run (Hatfield kick), 7:32
The drive: 3-86-1:22
The key play: The drive was three plays long. Anderson’s run was the key play.

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