Football

TCU 33, No. 9 Texas 31: Another winnable game disappears as ‘this university deserves better’

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Story highlights
  • Herman is now 1-11 in three-plus seasons at UT whenever the Horns are trailing going into the fourth quarter.
  • People were offside on the kickoff, illegal men were downfield on pass plays and there was calls and no-calls for pass interference.
  • Texas faces No. 18 Oklahoma next weekend in the annual Red River clash at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.

Posted October 3rd, 2020

Two September victories somewhat masked the mediocrity of Texas’ running game. There were lots of points, to be sure, but most of those came via Sam Ehlinger’s golden arm.

The Longhorns sorely needed a strong rushing attack on Saturday. Instead they struggled at home and lost yet another winnable game in a way that probably wasn’t all that surprising here in Tom Herman’s fourth season. At the one-yard line, of all places.

It’s easy to blame the officials, who threw a total of 26 flags. Go off on the defense for allowing 457 yards. Heck, the Matthew McCon-i-zation of the north end zone may have even had something to do with it.

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TCU’s 33-31 victory boiled down to ninth-ranked Texas being unable to rely on its running game, play sound football and overcome its own mistakes, all things any talented team should do. TCU’s Gary Patterson, who came to Austin this year as a 13-point underdog, is now 7-2 against Texas since the Horned Frogs joined the Big 12.

“Losing. Losing bothers me the most,” a dispirited Ehlinger said on a post-game Zoom call. It was the type of loss that haunts high-caliber, elite players forever.

“This university deserves better,” he added. “And it’s very frustrating when it’s self-inflicting and it’s preventable by attention to detail and playing the way that we all know that everybody’s capable of playing in this program.”

Herman is now 1-11 in three-plus seasons at UT whenever the Horns are trailing going into the fourth quarter. The lone win came last week at Texas Tech. He’s also 2-12 when Texas trails at halftime.

“We can’t continue to beat ourselves the way that we have these last two weeks and expect to win many more ball games,” Herman said. “That’s on me to get them ready and find a way to make sure that we don’t beat ourselves.”

Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger threw four more touchdowns on Saturday, giving him 14 through the first three games of the season. But he also threw a costly interception at the end of the first half that led to a late TCU field goal. (Ricardo B. Brazziell/American-Statesman)

The Longhorns (2-1, 1-1 Big 12) will “lick our wounds tonight, get back to the drawing board,” Herman said. Texas faces No. 18 Oklahoma next weekend in the annual Red River clash at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. From a Big 12 perspective, you do not want to lose that game.

“We shouldn’t even be thinking big picture right now with the amount of small mistakes that we made,” Ehlinger said.

Looking back, the euphoria over the season-opening beatdown of UTEP was overdone. Then again, it was totally on-brand for the Horns. And Texas struggled with basics like running the ball and 19 missed tackles in the overtime win over Texas Tech. It was going to take dramatic improvement in both areas against TCU, a program that relishes this matchup.

Neither team could get any momentum early because there were so many penalties. With 8:09 left in the first quarter, the two teams had combined for nine penalties and only 11 plays. It was that herky-jerky most of the day.

Some of the flags were obvious, like when UT’s Juwan Mitchell was ejected for targeting early in the second quarter. The language of the rule is clear; anything that goes toward the head is a foul, regardless of true intent. Other flags were funny, like when TCU’s Gary Patterson knocked down an official for sideline interference.

TCU running back Kendre Miller runs by Texas defenders DeMarvion Overshown and Joseph Ossai for the first down in the third quarter of Saturday’s 33-31 Horned Frogs victory. (Ricardo B. Brazziell/American-Statesman)

People were offside on the kickoff, illegal men were downfield on pass plays and there was calls and no-calls for pass interference.

Still, it was a 14-14 game after Brennan Eagles got loose down the seam for a 45-yard touchdown catch. That was just one of Ehlinger’s four touchdown passes on a day where he was off overall. Ehlinger completed just 17 of 36 passes for 236 yards and threw one interception.

The Longhorns got things going defensively midway through the second quarter, holding the Frogs to a pair of field goals. Defensive tackle Keondre Coburn had an eye-popping 11 tackles overall. Defensive end Joseph Ossai got in 11 tackles and a sack that forced a fumble. Caden Sterns had a team-high 12 stops.

“I’m sad. I’m heartbroken right now,” Coburn said. “We still have a chance. That’s the thing, this one loss doesn’t really change anything. It’s a step back, and we’ve got to come right back forward. That’s all I can tell you.”

In the third quarter, Herman went with his gut when TCU got flagged for offsides on UT’s field goal attempt. Instead of fourth-and-7, the Horns now had fourth-and-2. The coach sent the offense back out, and Ehlinger hit Roschon Johnson on a quick pass on the left side. Johnson cut and dodged his way through traffic for the score, cutting TCU’s lead down to 23-21.

TCU (1-1, 1-1) went back up 26-21 on another Griffin Kell field goal early in the fourth quarter. If Texas had any chance, the offense had to start finding consistency on the ground.

Johnson started a new drive with gains of five and 40 yards rushing. Jared Wiley caught an 11-yard pass on third-and-10. Then, Ingram moved things along with four- and eight-yard runs. Ehlinger hit Malcolm Epps for a seven-yard touchdown pass, and Texas pulled ahead.

TCU’s Max Duggan gave the Frogs the lead again with a 26-yard touchdown run straight up the middle with 4:01 remaining. Still, there was plenty of time.

TCU quarterback Max Duggan runs toward the end zone for a fourth quarter touchdown in the win over Texas. Duggan led the Horned Frogs in rushing. (Ricardo B. Brazziell/American-Statesman)

On UT’s ensuing drive, Ehlinger found Ingram out of the backfield, and the junior raced 52 yards. Texas went up-tempo, and Ingram pounded away for 16 more yards on the ground. Then on first-and-goal, Ingram pushed ahead to the TCU 1 and tried to stick the ball over the goal line. TCU’s Corey Bethley knocked it loose, and the Frogs recovered while leading by four.

“Yeah, I talked to him. I reminded him that as much as we love this, it is just a game,” Ehlinger said. “It’s not life or death. But I told him it’s certainly not on him. There were a lot of different things that happened and everybody made a ton of mistakes.”

Overall, the Longhorns finished with 152 rushing yards on 24 carries — a 6.3 average, something offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich looks at most. But it wasn’t a potent attack by any stretch. This team is too reliant on Ehligner’s arm. If he’s having a bad day, like against TCU, the offense stalls.

“We were feast or famine there, right,” Herman said. “We would have some explosive plays and some zero or negative-yard plays. We couldn’t stay ahead of the sticks.”

This program continues to stall out at key times, too. All the Horns can do is look ahead.

“Let’s get back on the practice field and go beat OU,” Coburn said.

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

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