Golden: Texas bottoms out in Ames — and things might not get better for a while
- Horns lose four straight for the first time since 2010.
- Horns must win two of its remaining three games to qualify for a bowl game.
AMES, Iowa — Texas didn’t really Fight.
And if the Longhorns did, how were they just run out of Jack Trice Stadium in such embarrassing fashion?
We’re nine games into the 2021 season, and the Horns just bottomed out. They got there much faster than Iowa State running back Breece Hall ran through the Texas defense for 136 yards and a pair of touchdowns in Saturday night's 30-7 humbling.
It was bad from start to finish, and that falls at the feet of Texas’ shiny new coach. Steve Sarkisian has a set of answers to hard questions, but for some reason, his team hasn’t answered any challenges lately.
Changes will have to be made. The "Give Sark time" folks are being drowned out by opposing fans chanting “SEC! SEC!” as his Horns walk off the field with their heads down in defeat. Sark will be back, but he has to take a long, hard look at his assistants.
A couple of good recruiting classes will improve the talent he's got to work with, but real progress will come after he answers his team’s ticker question.
Sarkisian disagreed with the assertion that Texas quit as it got outscored 27-0 in the second half by an Iowa State offense that had mustered only 33 combined points in eight quarters against state rivals Iowa and Northern Iowa. Quit or no quit, we all saw some give in Ames, much less resistance than the first half.
Sark will stay even-keeled, regardless. He isn’t going to go nuts in postgame or throw a chair across the field, though we could hear him getting after his players in the locker room adjacent to the interview area.
This thing is getting crazy, Sark. Much crazier than you could ever have imagined when you replaced Tom Herman. He never lost a game by more than 17 points in his 50-game stay. Sark has lost by 19 and 23 in his first nine, and now he's tasked with holding up his locker room's fractured psyche.
“Football really parallels life,” Sarkisian said. “In life, sometimes you don’t get the breaks that go your way. You work hard and try to do all the necessary things and the right things to put yourself in position to have success in life. Sometimes it doesn’t go your way.”
Take the past month, for instance. Thirty-five days between wins is quite a wait, but it’s been that long. The Oct. 2 win at TCU seems like forever ago. In the weeks since, the Longhorns have gone from a team with realistic Big 12 title aspirations to a ragtag bunch that needs to win two of their final three games just to make it to a bowl game.
And even that’s not a given.
They left Ames with more issues on their plate than they had when they arrived. Ineffective starting quarterback Casey Thompson didn’t even make it out of the first quarter, and skittish backup Hudson Card, who did lead one touchdown drive, is still the owner of the happiest feet in the quarterback room.
There is zero imagination in the play-calling department and defenses are content to load up against the run because when it comes to scheme, the Horns are pretty vanilla.
Last I checked, Pete Kwiatkwowski is Texas' defensive coordinator. But just like his defense in the second half, he is nowhere to be found — per Sark’s interview policy — while his players were left to explain how they got gashed again at money time and how you could allow a wide receiver to throw a touchdown against your crew for the second straight week.
Iowa State outscored the Longhorns 21-0 in the third quarter behind the electric running of Hall, who won his unofficial showdown with Bijan Robinson, who ran behind an offensive line that hasn’t produced any real push since that win at TCU. Hall became the fifth consecutive opponent to top 100 yards. Ho-hum. Just another day at the office.
The loss bore some similarities to previous collapses, but this one differed in that the Horns were terrifically humbled after following the give-up-a-second-half-lead script.
“Man, I don’t really know,” defensive tackle Keondre Coburn said when asked to explain what happened. “Four losses in a row. All you can do is try to keep everybody’s head up.”
The four-game losing streak is the first since that ill-fated 2010 season in which Texas finished 5-7 after losing the national title game the previous season to Alabama. At 4-5 overall and 2-4 in league play, these Horns are crumbling, and even with slump buster Kansas coming to Austin on Saturday, their problems run much deeper than a get-right romp over the Jayhawks.
That game will be on ESPNU in prime time, in case you’re wondering. Where else would you expect, the Mouse to put two of the league’s worst teams?
After that, they go to West Virginia before closing it out at home against Kansas State on Black Friday. K-State is good enough to beat the Horns in Austin, and we know that better teams than this one have gone up to West Virginia and gotten it handed to them.
This was the worst offensive showing since the 38-3 loss to Notre Dame in Charlie Strong’s second season, a night when UT had 163 yards. The 2021 Horns came up with 207 against the Cyclones and averaged 3.2 yards a play.
To make matters worse, Robinson has a neck strain and defensive leader DeMarvion Overshown is limping around.
Thompson completed only 2 of 6 passes for a grand total of 2 yards. That thumb was clearly hindering his accuracy, as it has for some time now. He was moving around fine back there, but missing on the simplest of routes. So Sark called for Card, whose last play behind center was in the loss to Oklahoma State.
It was time for him to get a shot. But the Longhorns are broken, and lately their coach has been more philosopher than offensive guru.
"The one thing in life which can get you in trouble is when you start to get down on your luck and your dauber starts to drop and you feel sorry for yourself,” Sarkisian said. “That’s a dangerous play to go, and football is not much different. We create our own luck and our own opportunities with hard work, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
These are the times that test a young man’s mettle. The Horns haven’t been good for a very long time, and nothing that happens against Kansas will change the fact that this challenge is much bigger than Sark could have ever imagined.