Football

Not for the squeamish: A look back at Texas’ 10 worst losses over the last 50 games

Kansas, UCLA, Cal, Oklahoma State... sometimes it feels overwhelming how many crazy losses have happened in the last 50 games

Posted August 29th, 2018

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The last 50 games have elicited more heartbreak for Texas fans than jubilation. Going back through the last four years requires a cast-iron stomach.

And what’s most interesting about the big losses over the last 50 games: Most of them can be boiled down to a single play or a single moment. All you have to say is “botched coin flip,” and most Texas fans can spit out four letters — UCLA. Or, one missed extra point. How about three blocked extra points? And of course one word says it all: Kansas.

There are so many crazy losses over the last four years, it’s easy to forget that TCU is 4-0 over Texas in that span. The 2015 game was over in the first quarter.

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Read on if you dare, but the following is a look at the 10 worst losses over the last 50 games:

No. 10: Oklahoma State 13, Texas 10 (2017)

It might be easier to say the Oklahoma State loss in 2015 was worse. How about that defensive holding call on Poona Ford, eh?

But the 2017 matchup in Austin was a heartbreaker, to be sure. Fans will remember Sam Ehlinger’s game-ending interception in the end zone in overtime. But there were mistakes all day long. The Cowboys had the nation’s No. 1 offense but were held to just 13 points. That should be a winning formula. But one miscue after another cost the Longhorns a chance at a momentum-building victory.

No. 9: Texas Tech 48, Texas 45 (2015)

Leave it to the Red Raiders to ruin Thanksgiving. Coach Kliff Kingsbury brought his group to Austin from Lubbock and what resulted was an old-fashion Southwest Conference shootout. Tech won on a 40-yard, gadget-play touchdown run by Jakeem Grant. “It was a midget play called Hook ’em,” Grant said of the play’s name. The loss ended Texas’ bowl chances.

Texas Longhorns (32) Johnathan Gray fights for yardage as Arkansas (6) JaMicheal Mitchell tries to pull him down by the shirt in the NCAA college Advovare Texas Bowl football game at NRG Stadium Saturday, Dec 29, 2014. (RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN- STATESMAN)

No. 8: Arkansas 31, Texas 7 (Texas Bowl, 2014)

Did Arkansas coach Brett Bielema give the much-despised “Horns down” hand signal at a pre-bowl press conference? Social media was set ablaze trying to figure it out. The Razorbacks had no problem giving the Longhorns the business all night long at NRG Stadium. Texas managed a school-record low 59 total yards in a total fiasco. “Texas has gotta mean something, right now it doesn’t mean much,” Strong said afterward.

No. 7: UCLA 20, Texas 17 (2014)

It all started with a botched coin flip. Somehow, team captain Desmond “Tank” Jackson got confused and told the referee Texas would kick off both halves. It was an honest mistake, and the Longhorns actually were poised to come out OK. But bad punt coverage and a stutter step move on UT cornerback Duke Thomas led to a UCLA score that clinched the win.

No. 6: No. 11 Notre Dame 38, Texas 3 (2015)

There was renewed hope in 2015 that the Longhorns would get things turned around. Strong had just signed Mesquite Poteet linebacker Malik Jefferson, rated the state’s best prospect. A huge sea of burnt orange took up residence in Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Ind.

But the biggest season-opening loss since 1988. Texas managed 163 total yards, only 60 of those on the ground. Swoopes was 7 for 22 for 93 yards. Strong said he gave serious thought starting backup Jerrod Heard but was glad he didn’t. Strong was fearful that if Heard started and got shellacked, his confidence would be shot.

The next day, Strong took away offensive coordinator Shawn Watson’s play-calling duties.

Texas #1, Shiro Davis, left, and #33, Steve Edmond, right, try to corral BYU #4, Taysom Hill, center, during the first half of action held at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas, on Saturday, September, 6, 2014.
(RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

No. 5: BYU 41, Texas 7 (2014)

Years from now, maybe even decades, BYU will still be showing highlights of Taysom Hill hurdling Texas safety Dylan Haines at the 5-yard line and scoring at Royal-Memorial Stadium. That play in a blowout loss was a signature moment in Strong’s first season. The coach called the whole effort “embarrassing” multiple times.

The previous week, Texas had lost quarterback David Ash (concussion) and center Dominic Espinosa (fractured leg) to season-ending injuries. The BYU game was Swoopes’ first start.

“I could tell in warmups we weren’t ready to play,” Strong said. BYU put 28 points on the board in the third quarter alone. 

No. 4: Cal 45, Texas 44 (2015)

Boink. That was the nightmarish sound coming from the upright in the north end zone of Royal-Memorial Stadium when kicker Nick Rose missed a critical extra-point attempt. It was an excruciating moment with 1:11 remaining that ruined Heard’s electrifying night.

Heard took the Golden Bears by surprise with an explosive running-and-gunning display. His 527 total yards surpassed the school record set by Vince Young (506 yards Oklahoma State in 2005). The Horns scored 20 points in the fourth quarter but needed one more to tie things up.

“I don’t really try to think about that,” Heard said this month. “I let that go on by. That was in the past.”

No. 3: Maryland 51, Texas 41 (2017)

Herman promised wholesale changes after taking over for Strong last season. After all, he was the hotshot coach with a 22-4 record the two prior years at Houston. Herman claimed he didn’t even watch any game film from the 2016 season. Maybe he should have.

The Longhorns scored on an interception return and a punt return and still somehow lost to an 18-point underdog. “Why can’t we get out of our own way?” Herman asked in the postgame press conference. It kick-started a 7-6 season.

Oklahoma State receiver Jalen McCleskey (1) scores against the Texas Longhorns on October 1, 2016 at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The Cowboys defeated the Longhorns 49-31. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)

No. 2: Oklahoma State 49, Texas 31 (2016)

The Longhorns had two weeks to prepare for their Big 12 opener. But the defense looked totally unprepared on the first two drives. The tackling in the first quarter was laughable as OSU’s Justice Hill and James Washington sliced and diced their way to the end zone.

Strong took over some of the defensive play-calling from Vance Bedford and would later making all the defensive calls. But there were massive special teams breakdowns. Texas had three extra points blocked, and one was taken the other way for a score.

Afterward, then-sophomore Breckyn Hager was visibly shaking in the postgame press conference. “I’m not a loser,” he said. “I don’t want to be a loser.”

No. 1: Kansas 24, Texas 21 (2016)

Texas was a 24-point favorite going on the road to face Kansas, a team that had lost 19 straight Big 12 games. Charlie Strong’s job status was teetering back and forth, but everyone expected UT to take care of business. Had the Horns won, they would have become bowl eligible. That alone probably would’ve been enough for Strong to earn a fourth season. 

From the beginning, things looked just fine. On the game’s first offensive play, Jacorey Warrick caught a short swing pass, shook his defender and raced 75 yards for a touchdown. It was over, right? 

Instead, the Horns turned it over six times and gave up an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter. Kicker Matthew Wyman hammered a 25-yard field goal in overtime and delirious Jayhawks players came running onto the field.

In a four-minute press conference, everyone in that cramped equipment room knew what was coming next. Strong’s wife was in tears. “When you had the blown opportunities we had, it’s hard to win a football game,” the coach said.

It was one of the most embarrassing losses in UT history. School officials who stood outside the locker room that chilly night were mortified.

The next day, the American-Statesman reported Strong would be fired. UT President Gregory L. Fenves was torn about the decision and even considered keeping Strong if UT fared well in the regular-season finale against TCU. But the Frogs won 31-9 on Thanksgiving Day, and Strong was informed the next day. Within hours, Texas was ready to hire Herman from Houston.

Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email bdavis@statesman.com.

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