Posted August 29th, 2017
For Texas fans, 2010 will always be remembered as the year things started heading south after the glorious successes of the past decade.
It’s easy to forget that there was still plenty of optimism surrounding the program at start of the season. Out of the heartbreak of the national championship loss against Alabama, it looked like the Longhorns had found the successor to Colt McCoy at quarterback. With Garrett Gilbert and a defense led by Sam Acho and Aaron Williams, the Longhorns were ranked No. 5 preseason.
Kirk Bohls projected 11 wins, with a caveat: “In December, I will write a retraction.”
Things started out fine, with the offense underwhelming but the defense making sure it didn’t matter in wins over Rice (34-17), Wyoming (34-7) and Texas Tech (24-10). The fourth game of the year was against UCLA, which should have been a warning sign in and of itself.
A lot had transpired since the Longhorns were embarrassed by the Bruins in 1997 and 1998, but the bad news bears were back. They heaped pressure on Gilbert, and the offense stalled to just 12 points — not scoring a touchdown until the fourth quarter of an ugly 34-12 loss.
It seemed difficult to imagine at the time, but things were only about to get worse. A lot worse.
The following week in Dallas, Texas fell behind 28-10 against No. 8-ranked Oklahoma before mounting a late comeback. Alas, penalties derailed that effort as the Longhorns suffered back-to-back losses for the first time since 2007.
If there was a bright spot in the 2010 season, it came Oct. 16 in Lincoln, Neb. Unranked for the first time in 162 weeks, Texas faced an uphill battle going in to face the No. 5-ranked Cornhuskers in a rematch of the 2009 Big 12 Championship. It would also be the final meeting between the schools before Nebraska’s move to the Big Ten.
In a surprise move, Texas turned Gilbert loose on the ground, running him 11 times for 71 yards and the Longhorns’ two touchdowns. He only completed 4 of 16 passes for 62 yards, and the offense sputtered to 271 total yards, but the Texas defense was outstanding in the 20-13 win.
Unfortunately, that formula wasn’t sustainable. Texas dropped its next four games, averaging 18.25 points per game in losses to Iowa State, Baylor, Kansas State and Oklahoma State. The only respite was a late-season meeting with Florida Atlantic which allowed the Longhorns to take out some frustration with a 51-17 drubbing.
Reality set in a week later though, as Texas lost to rival Texas A&M at home for the first time since 2006 and finished the regular season 5-7. For the first and last time in the Mack Brown era, the Longhorns would not be going to a bowl game.
The fallout from 2010 would still be years down the road. After all, Texas was only a year removed from appearing in the national championship game. However, the underachieving offense could not be ignored. Longtime offensive coordinator Greg Davis stepped down during the offseason, and questions started to emerge regarding Gilbert’s credentials.
Heading into 2011, there would be an open competition at quarterback. All of the optimism had vanished.