Posted October 4th, 2017
The Texas football program dates back to 1893. Each day, we look at a little piece of Longhorn history. We’re starting by looking at each Longhorn football season.
Charlie Strong’s second season was his most chaotic.
It was also a brave new world for the Austin American-Statesman, which launched Hookem.com (shameless plug) a month before the season started!
Texas was demolished on the road at Notre Dame to start the season, 38-3.
It was the first of three blowout road losses that season. A month later, Texas lost to TCU 50-7 in one of the worst games in program history.
Between those losses was one of the most dramatic months in Texas football history. After losing to Notre Dame, Texas fired its offensive coordinator, Shawn Watson. They promoted Jay Norvell for the rest of the season.
But the big move came a week later. Athletic director Steve Patterson had pushed out two of the winningest coaches in their sports at Texas, Mack Brown and men’s basketball coach Rick Barnes. He had laid the groundwork for a new basketball arena, he had set up wild games in China and most importantly, he had brought either unpopular or somewhat controversial changes to Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.
He raised ticket prices on season tickets, which were loathed by longtime season ticket holders. Then he pushed for alcohol sales in the stadium, which was, by some, frowned upon. In reality, Patterson dragged Texas into the future with those moves and was striving to make Texas an even more profitable athletic department–otherwise known as doing his job. But he reportedly rubbed people on the 40 Acres the wrong way. A new university president, Gregory L. Fenves, hurt matters. Patterson was on the outs long before the mid-September firing.
On Sept. 15, 2015, Hookem.com saw its biggest traffic spike since launching (shameless plug) when Brian Davis and Kirk Bohls broke the news that Texas was firing the athletic director.
Patterson was out. Former Texas linebacker turned attorney Mike Perrin was named interim athletic director.
Four days later Texas special teams collapsed and the Longhorns lost at home to California. Kicker Nick Rose missed a game-tying extra point as Texas’ late rally ended in a 45-44 loss.
The next week it happened again, when Texas mishandled a snap on a punt that allowed Oklahoma State to set up a game-winning field goal. The Cowboys won 30-27.
TCU made it one of the worst three-week stretches in Texas football history when the “Cowtown Beatdown” occurred and TCU beat Texas 50-7.
No one — no one –– gave Texas a chance the next week in Dallas against Oklahoma, but Texas pulled off one of the biggest wins of the Charlie Strong era. Texas beat the Sooners 24-17.
A 23-9 win the next week against one of Texas’ biggest thorns, Kansas State, had the Longhorns trending in the right direction. Making matters better, Texas was about to play Iowa State — a struggling team that would fire its coach at the end of the season.
There were a lot of bad losses under Charlie Strong. The (spoiler alert) Kansas loss in 2016 was the worst. But the Halloween nightmare that was the 2015 Iowa State game is possibly the second worse loss of the Strong era.
Iowa State beat Texas 24-0. Texas had never been shutout by Iowa State. In fact the thought of Iowa State ever shutting out the Longhorns would only occur in video games with Iowa State’s players being edited to a 99 ranking. What I’m trying to say is Iowa State has never been great at college football — only slightly better than the Kansas football program — and Texas lost to the Cyclones in most embarrassing way.
Three weeks earlier Texas had beaten a ranked Oklahoma team. It was not good.
The next week Texas beat Kansas 59-20. Back-to-back losses to West Virginia and Texas Tech eliminated the Longhorns’ bowl chances.
The last game of the season was against Baylor in Waco. The Bears were 9-3 but also down to their fourth string (if you want to call him that) quarterback named Lynx Hawthorne. After a near brawl earlier in the game, Texas led 20-0 at halftime. Baylor outscored Texas 17-3 in the second half but the Longhorns hung onto their lead for a win.
It was terrific way for Strong to end the regular season with a win against a bowl-bound Baylor team. But 2015 was a disappointing season that saw Texas and Strong win fewer games than his first year. The coach’s job security would be a never-ending discussion for next 12 months.