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Golden: Texas Longhorns are back to square one after latest Kansas shocker

Kansas running back Devin Neal is lifted by offensive lineman Bryce Cabeldue after scoring a first-half touchdown in Saturday night's overtime win over Texas. The Longhorns have lost five straight games for the first time in 65 years.
  • Texas dropped to 4-6 and will have to win its remaining two games to qualify for a bowl game.
  • The Horns play at West Virginia Saturday then end the regular season against Kansas State on Black Friday.

This program just took a round trip to nowhere.

The Texas Longhorns are right back where they started.

And sliding farther into the abyss.

As if that were possible.

If you thought last week’s 30-7 loss to Iowa State was rock bottom for this program, think again.

More:Texas Longhorns vs. Kansas Jayhawks football

It turns out the Horns aren’t ready for prime time.

What we witnessed in a three-quarters full Royal-Memorial Stadium late Saturday night, over the "SEC!" chants coming from a cluster of Kansas fans near the southwest end zone, was the thud of Texas football crashing to the earth, boring deep into the hearts of a fan base that has taken gut punch after gut punch in Steve Sarkisian’s bust of a debut season.

Longhorn Nation is understandably white hot. Its team just lost to the program that’s synonymous with last place in the Big 12.

Kansas 57, Texas — oblivion.

Steve Sarkisian became the first Texas head coach to lose five straight games in a season since Ed Price in 1956. The Longhorns moved on from Price after that season and hired Darrell Royal.

The Rock Chalks, losers of 56 straight Big 12 road games, were an afterthought to their own fans before Saturday. After all, it’s also now basketball season, otherwise known as Christmas in Lawrence.

Add to that, they stumbled into Austin as a 31-point underdog that hadn’t won a game since turning back FCS member South Dakota State 17-14 in the season opener. Per ESPN Stats, the Horns were 79-0 when they were favored by at least 24 points dating back to 1978. So much for perfection.

Kansas has now won just seven of its last 74 games against FBS opponents since 2016. Two of those have come against Texas.

Ah, 2016. I know it hurts, but we have to revisit Charlie Strong’s Waterloo loss. In the final road game of that season, the 5-5 Horns, needing a win to earn a bowl bid, lost 24-21 in overtime at Kansas after scoring on the very first play from scrimmage. What we remember most about that night in Lawrence was realizing there was no way Strong would be back for a fourth season.

A couple of dozen of his players came to his media availability the following Monday in a show of support, and I remember thinking: They could have all just slept in had they actually showed up in Lawrence.

Kansas quarterback Jalon Daniels tries to avoid Texas defensive lineman Moro Ojomo's pass rush Saturday.

Just like Strong, Sarkisian is a pleasant fellow, and just like Strong, he hasn’t delivered in his first season. The fact that his team is 4-6 has to really burn the guts of fans who have to be thinking about that 28-7 lead over Oklahoma that could have ended with a 5-1 start to the season if the Horns had just held on in the second half.

And just like Strong, Sarkisian will be gone soon if he doesn’t win. He became the first Texas coach to lose five straight in a season since Ed Price in 1956. That doesn't happen around here very often.

“At some point, we’ve got to put it all together, and that’s my job,” Sarkisian said.

UT System Board of Regents Chairman Kevin Eltife, UT President Jay Hartzell and AD Chris Del Conte awarded him a fat guaranteed $34.2 million contract over six years after tossing aside Tom Herman, who, for all the circuslike storylines that came to typify his program, never had a losing season or a loss to the Jayhawks.

The jury was still out on Sark as a head coach — he’s been a great coordinator — when Texas hired him. And nothing has changed except for six losses in the first 10 games of his tenure.

Yes, had converted wideout Brenden Schooler not dropped that interception in overtime, our conversations today would be different, but just like his secondary coach, Blake Gideon, 13 years ago in Lubbock, victory slipped through his fingers.

Unlike Gideon that year, Schooler isn’t playing for a national title contender. The current group has to win its last two games — at West Virginia on Saturday and then home against Kansas State on Black Friday — to make a bowl game, and given how bad things are in that locker room right now, will a few practices and a brutal weekend in Memphis at the Liberty Bowl change anything moving forward?

Maybe they needed two Bo Davis videos. The first one didn’t take in this divided locker room.

“If there are people who don’t want to get on board, unfortunately, then this is not the place for them," quarterback Casey Thompson said.

Even bad Texas teams are supposed to beat Kansas. Remember in previous years when talented Longhorn squads would overlook the would-be giant killers and still spend the next morning laughing in their cereal about the audacity of Kansas trying to pull off the unthinkable, knowing mighty Texas would figure it out in the end?

Remember back in 2004 when Vince Young faked KU’s Nick Young out of his jockstrap on a fourth-and-18 with the game on the line in Lawrence, then hit Tony Jeffery for a game-winner?

Win, Texas.

Remember when Case McCoy saved Mack Brown’s bacon in 2012 with a touchdown pass in Lawrence to D.J. Grant with 12 seconds remaining to stave off the upset over the three-touchdown underdog Jayhawks? It was tough sledding for the Horns, but they simply filed it under getting through a tough day at the office.

Win, Texas.

What about Cameron Dicker’s 33-yard buzzer beater to deliver a 50-48 win here in 2019, the last time these teams had played? It revealed cracks in Herman’s program in Year 3, and he made wholesale changes to his coaching staff.

Win.

Texas quarterback Casey Thompson hands off to running back Roschon Johnson during the second half. Thompson threw six touchdown passes, but they weren't enough to get the Horns to the finish line.

The difference between Strong and Sarkisian — and I feel like a 5-7 season will be their connection really soon — is that Strong was on the way out and Sarkisian just got here.

Sark's message is obviously falling on deaf ears, and his team has been reduced to being scrappy against a program that spends a fraction of the money on football that Texas does. Any bet on the Horns over the last two games will be one made from the heart, not the brain.

More:Has Texas fallen to rock-bottom? Tumbling Texas loses at home to Kansas in overtime

There is no truth to the rumor that the TV networks have moved the West Virginia kickoff to a 6 a.m. Eastern time slot, but the viewership might be the same as if the Horns were playing in prime time.

It was Kansas.

Oblivion.

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