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Golden: Texas would rather win ugly than lose pretty, and that's what the Longhorns did

Horns meet Oklahoma Saturday.

  • Bijan Robinson ran for 216 yards.
  • The Horns got a tougher match from a defense that gave up 350 rushing yards to SMU.

FORT WORTH — Texas left Cowtown on Saturday one step ahead of the posse.

As those stagecoaches blazed a trail south back to Austin, the Horned Frogs were left to wonder: “How in the purple hell did we allow those guys to wiggle off the hook?”

TCU showed up to ruin Texas' recent run of success and the Longhorns did their best to aid the home team in its efforts, but thanks to the best running back in the Big 12 and a quarterback who never panicked, Texas will now return to the Metroplex against Oklahoma with an unbeaten conference record for only the fifth time in the last 10 years.

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Texas wide receiver Jordan Whittington, left, and running back Bijan Robinson celebrate Whittington's touchdown catch in the fourth quarter of the Longhorns' 32-27 win over TCU in Fort Worth on Saturday. The Longhorns improved to 4-1.

Saturday's 32-27 win wasn’t aesthetically beautiful, but it was a testament to where the Texas program can go. The case can be made that the Horns (4-1, 2-0 Big 12) could have won by three touchdowns, but anyone in Austin who has followed this recent series over the last nine years is smiling because it was the kind of game that past Texas teams would have certainly lost.

The 2021 version found a way to win.

“I believe in them,” first-year head coach Steve Sarkisian said. 

Bijan Robinson ran for 216 yards on a day where the offensive line lost starting guard Denzel Okafor and struggled in pass protection. They say an elite running back makes an average line good, and Robinson was as good as advertised.

Texas running back Bijan Robinson is tackled by TCU safety Nook Bradford during Saturday's 32-27 win over TCU. Robinson ran for a career-high 216 yards in leading the Horns to their third straight win.

This outcome can be filed in the “W” folder. It’s a results-based business and the Horns have now won three straight since the Arkansas disaster. 

They should find their way back into the Associated Press Top 25.

The refs had their share of flubs — that personal foul on Anthony Cook for unnecessary roughness on a late-sliding Max Duggan in the third quarter was a total  joke — but the Horns were mostly their own worst enemy in the penalty department.

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In the end, they took TCU’s best and walked off the better team, a sweet feeling in program circles since the Frogs had won seven of the last nine meetings.

“Don’t buy the lie,” linebacker DeMarvion Overshown said when asked about the conversations in the UT locker room in the days leading into the game. “TCU is a great team. We get their best shot every time we play them.”

There’s something to be said about overcoming adversity for the desired result. JD Spielman’s 87-yard opening kickoff return was a punch in the mouth and Texas’ inability to convert short fields into touchdowns was another worry.

It didn’t take long to realize that this wasn’t the same TCU defense that gave up 350 yards rushing and nearly a flag plant to the Ponies. That defense went from Swiss cheese to classic bend-and-don’t break, adding to Texas’ consternation. Robinson got his yards, but they came on a career-high 35 carries.

Sometimes it takes those extra totes to get to the finish line and Robinson closed it out with a pair of conversions on third downs.

With OU looming, Sarkisian will remind his guys that a team with top-10 aspirations can’t be held to a total of five yards on two first-half possessions that started at the opponent’s 23- and 10-yard line, respectively.

He will also continue to roll the dice at key moments even when it doesn’t work. The idea is to show his guys how much he believes in them.

Texas defensive lineman Moro Ojomo signals instructions to his defense before a play in Saturday's 32-27 win over TCU.

Future Texas teams will hear about the day in Fort Worth that the Horns got stopped at the 1-yard line in the fourth quarter, gave up a 99-yard drive yet persevered and won.

Sarkisian is a no-excuses type of coach who's bringing an old-school SEC mentality to a school that will soon be heading that way after a quarter century in the Big 12.

“We are maturing from a mental and physical standpoint,” Sarkisian said. “We’re a hard-nosed football team. That’s our calling card.”

The Horns aren’t a highlight-reel, big-play offense, but they’re a physical bunch that's playing winning football behind quarterback Casey Thompson. And for those who are taking this opportunity to rag on him, think about the problems in pass protection we witnessed for most of the afternoon and also credit TCU coach Gary Patterson for devising a nice defensive game plan.

And let’s not forget that it’s the same Patterson who forced current NFL quarterback Sam Ehlinger into misfiring on 26 of his 48 throws with four interceptions in the 37-27 road loss in 2019, the last time Texas has played in Fort Worth.

Thompson’s numbers weren’t stellar — 12 of 22 for 142 yards, one touchdown and one interception — but he walked off the field a winner. He’s a student of the game who realized where his bread was buttered in this one. Bijan right. Bijan left. Bijan up the gut. Bijan's probably driving the team bus back.

He managed the game and got his team out of a hostile work environment with a win. Like Sark said after the game, the Horns would much rather win ugly than lose pretty.

"We knew it was a road game and that TCU plays a good brand of football,” he said. “We prepared for adversity all week in practice and we were ready for a four-quarter game.”

More adversity will come, no doubt, but the Horns just showed an ability to overcome that will serve them will in these upcoming money games.