Texas Longhorns sideline celebrate a 4th down score in the second quarter against Texas Tech Red Raiders during an NCAA football game in Austin, Texas on Friday, November 29, 2019. [RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN-STATESMAN]

Kirk Bohls

American-Statesman Staff

Column

Bohls: The Longhorns go out with a real bang after a real whimper of a season

Posted November 29th, 2019

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Story highlights
  • A resounding, come-from-behind 49-24 blowout of a now 4-8 Red Raiders football team, however, will do little to wash away the profound disappointment of a season gone bad as Texas limped in with a disturbing 7-5 record.
  • The win snapped a two-game losing streak and probably dispatches Texas to the Camping World Bowl unless both Oklahoma and Baylor reach New Year’s Six bowls and the Alamo chooses the Longhorns over Iowa State and Oklahoma State.
  • “Rome wasn't built in a day,” the terrific quarterback said. “If you had told Texas fans three years ago that we would have seven wins and headed to a bowl game and had a chance to win eight, I think people would be pretty happy."

The Longhorns let it all hang out on Friday.

And almost hung half a hundred on Texas Tech.

They ran creative, imaginative plays on offense. Trick plays, even.

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They played all manner of freshmen on both sides of the ball like slot receiver Jake Smith and wideout Marcus Washington and cornerback Kenyatta Watson II, all of whom played well.

They dredged up a goal-line stand, recovered a couple of fumbles and had three critical fourth-down stops.

They had fun.

Kind of like they should have been doing the previous 11 games. It is relative because Texas was drubbing a defense that ranks 121st nationally as the fourth-worst Power Five unit in the country. That said, the Longhorns shrugged off an early 14-0 deficit — shades of the win over Kansas State — and scored touchdowns on four straight possessions and six of seven series.

Heck, even the Longhorn Band got a warning — two of them, in fact — for playing music when Texas Tech’s offense was lining up near the goal line. Everyone was feeling feisty on Friday.

No Thanksgiving hangover this go-around.

A resounding, come-from-behind 49-24 blowout of a now 4-8 Red Raiders team, however, will do little to wash away the profound disappointment of a season gone bad as preseason Top 10 Texas limped in with a disturbing 7-5 record.

The four losses in the last seven games will likely trigger a coaching staff shakeup by Tom Herman, who seriously needs to consider replacing both coordinators. Only he knows for sure if Tim Beck and Todd Orlando are safe, but the makeover could come as early as Sunday, and don’t be shocked if Herman looks into hiring offensive play-caller and former Red Raiders quarterback Graham Harrell from USC.

The win snapped a two-game losing streak and probably dispatches Texas to the Camping World Bowl unless both Oklahoma and Baylor reach New Year’s Six bowls and the Alamo chooses the Longhorns over Iowa State and Oklahoma State. The Texas and Liberty bowls are also possibilities.

“Orlando will be happy,” one bowl executive told me Friday after the Longhorns’ win.

That would be a nice destination for a game against Notre Dame or an ACC team. It’s just not what Texas fans all had in mind in August.

Herman shouldn’t look for Sam Ehlinger for advice. 

“Rome wasn’t built in a day,” Texas’ terrific quarterback said. “If you had told Texas fans three years ago that we would have seven wins and headed to a bowl game and had a chance to win eight, I think people would be pretty happy.”

Uh, probably not, Sam.

The Westlake junior is an outstanding quarterback who threw for 348 yards  and two scores Friday for his fourth 300-yard game this year, but I don’t believe he’s framing this disastrous season correctly. He reads defenses better than he does Longhorn Nation.

Texas Longhorns wide receiver Devin Duvernay (6) celebrates a touchdown against Texas Tech Red Raiders during an NCAA football game in Austin, Texas on Friday, November 29, 2019. [RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
Herman, whose job it is to fix things and probably by September with wholesale staff changes and maybe even philosophically, pointed to his young roster and an elite quarterback and playmakers on defense and pronounced it all OK with a program “headed in the right direction.”

In fairness, Texas has lost to only good to great teams. Save for dropping a road game to TCU, the Longhorns fell to LSU, Oklahoma, Baylor and Iowa State, four teams with a combined record of 38-6. Two of those could be among the four teams in the College Football Playoff.

Texas just thought it might be among them.

Herman acknowledged the need for major improvement after going 7-5 record despite being picked second behind Oklahoma in the Big 12 and beating only three teams (Oklahoma State, Kansas State and Louisiana Tech ) with winning records. Texas put up 49 points Friday after scoring a combined 58 points in the last three games, two of them losses.

“We all know this is not where we hoped we would be to begin the season,” Herman said, “but to send these seniors out (with a win), that was the mission from the time we met on Sunday. Obviously we’re not happy with the totality of the season, but the kids are fighting.”

OK, mission accomplished. Friday’s mission.

Good on the seniors, many of whom had a killer afternoon.

Devin Duvernay, one of the three best Longhorns receivers in history but unjustly snubbed by the Biletnikoff Award voters, dazzled again with six catches for 199 yards and a 75-yard touchdown. Defensive end Malcolm Roach, who was turned loose, had a sack and two tackles for losses. Safety Brandon Jones made 12 stops. Center Zach Shackelford blocked well for an offense that accounted for 610 yards.

“Bittersweet,” Roach called his final game at Royal-Memorial Stadium. “We really had nothing to lose. It was a lot of fun.”

But none of the spectacular play after a 14-0 deficit should obscure what needs to be done by Herman, who has never fired an assistant in five years as a head coach.

He just can’t be lulled into complacency after one good game against a bad team, albeit one that lost its starting quarterback in September and a dynamic linebacker who’s a Butkus Award finalist yet still fell to Big 12 finalist Baylor in double-overtime.

“The future is very bright,” Herman said, “but we’re not oblivious to the fact that we’ve got to evaluate what needs to be fixed and fix it.”

And that means immediately if not sooner.

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