FORT WORTH — Nobody trolls Texas better than TCU’s Gary Patterson.
His defense had been beaten black and blue before the Horned Frogs met the Longhorns in 2015. Defensive injuries? Ah, so what?
“We’ve beaten better with less,” Patterson famously told ESPN’s Todd McShay before the game. TCU went out and walloped Texas 50-7. That game was over in the first quarter.
Patterson wasn’t holding back Saturday, either. His lunch pail crew, with its .500 record and freshman quarterback, tuned up Texas again. This time, the Frogs won 37-27. It was Patterson’s sixth win over the Horns in the last eight games.
TCU (4-3, 2-2 Big 12) ignited its bowl chances. Meanwhile, Texas (5-3, 3-2) is spiraling and now looks like a program on the verge of a massive step backward this season. The Horns fell out of the Associated Press Top 25 on Sunday.
Mack Brown, Charlie Strong, Tom Herman. It doesn’t matter who’s coaching Texas. Since TCU joined the Big 12, Patterson’s crew typically has come out on top against the state’s flagship institution.
“I like my job. It helps me if I beat Texas; I can usually keep my job longer in this state. It helps me,” Patterson told reporters afterward. “We hear it all the time that we’re not good enough, we’re not this, and we just keep proving people wrong.”
Patterson said this idea that TCU can’t compete with Texas is “fake news.”
“It’s fake news that we’re lesser,” Patterson said. “So we’ll just stay with what we’re doing. I figured you guys needed a sound bite. You keep asking the question, so I give you something you can run with, right?”
Reporters keep asking Herman the same questions about his defense, but his answers aren’t likely to satisfy the Texas fan base.
“Obviously not to the outcome that we had expected or prepared for,” Herman said.
Referring to UT’s offense, Herman said, “That’s a really, really good defense with a bunch of seniors in the secondary and as good a defensive tackle as we’ll play. We did not play to the level that we had expected on that side of the ball.”
As for the defense, Herman said flatly, “We’re not good. And we need to be better.”
This team is full of contradictions.
The secondary was supposed to be so good and so deep, defensive coordinator Todd Orlando devised the third-down “Cowboy” package specifically to get eight defensive backs on the field at once.
Caden Sterns, Jalen Green and Josh Thompson got hurt, but Herman said, “I got to be honest with you. I haven’t lost a lot of sleep over it.” Herman was confident in the backups. Suddenly, the pass defense falls to the bottom of the Big 12. Texas allows 305.4 passing yards per game.
Orlando promised this would be the fastest defense Texas has fielded in his three seasons. He cautioned that it would be young, needing to replace eight starters, but the replacements were upgrades in certain places, or so the coaches thought.
The defensive line, headlined by team captain Malcolm Roach, has only three sacks in eight games. Roach got his first sack of the year against the Frogs.
These Horns can generate pressure only through blitzing. But what happens if they can’t get to the quarterback? The unit was credited with only one quarterback hurry against TCU’s Max Duggan, who had his best day of the season.
Good special teams are always a sign of a well-coached team. They show serious attention to detail.
Texas went into Saturday ranked dead last nationally in punt returns with minus-5 total yards. Somehow, the Horns went backward. Jake Smith muffed a return and lost 7 yards in the process. Now Texas is ranked 130th nationally with minus-12 yards in eight games. Oddly enough, that’s not a historic feat. UNLV (minus-1) and Kansas (minus-10) were negative in 2016. East Carolina finished with minus-4 yards in 2017. Those three teams won nine games combined.
Texas’ previous record low was 97 punt return yards in 2012.
Saturday was not the ideal time for quarterback Sam Ehlinger to have one of his worst games. He threw a career-high four interceptions. But Ehlinger also connected with Devin Duvernay and Collin Johnson a total of 15 times for 274 yards and a touchdown.
The Horns had been touting Ehlinger’s ability to spread the ball around to multiple receivers. He completed passes to three receivers (Duvernay, Johnson and John Burt) and two running backs (Keaontay Ingram and Roschon Johnson). That’s it.
Brennan Eagles was suspended for missing Tuesday’s practice for an undisclosed reason. “The right thing to do when you miss a practice around here is not go into the game,” Herman said.
The Longhorns are expected to get a slew of players back after the bye week, including Sterns, safety DeMarvion Overshown, nickel back B.J. Foster, linebacker Jeffrey McCulloch and possibly running back Jordan Whittington.
This team might need more than some extra healthy bodies. UT’s next opponent on Nov. 9, Kansas State, just knocked off previously undefeated Oklahoma. Then come road trips to Iowa State (Nov. 16) and Baylor (Nov. 22). The regular-season finale against Texas Tech (Nov. 29) won’t be a cakewalk, either.
Mathematically, Texas is still alive in the race to the Big 12 championship game. There must be radical changes in November if the Horns are to get there, though.
“We got to work and try as best we can to reach our human potential work capacity,” Herman said. “I got a great feeling our guys, after letting this one sting a little bit, will be excited to go back to work.”
Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.