No bowl game for Texas this season, but the Longhorns do get their sixth straight loss
Same song, sixth verse.
The Texas Longhorns, who had lost five straight games for the first time in 65 years, needed wins against West Virginia and Kansas State to close the regular season and earn a bowl bid. But after Saturday's 31-23 loss in Morgantown, we now know that (a) there won't be a bowl game, (b) Steve Sarkisian's first season at Texas will be a losing one, and (c) this will go down as one of UT's most disappointing seasons over the last 25 years.
The story of this loss? More second-half issues — though the Longhorns (4-7, 2-7 Big 12) are finding new ways to lose. Against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor and Iowa State, the narrative was look good in the first half, take a lead at halftime and then blow that lead in the final two quarters. Against Kansas last week, it was lose a second-half lead with a listless defense.
In Morgantown, it was the defense's inability to make third down stops and take advantage of the Texas offense's brief spurts of production. And, of course, a critical turnover at the end coming from the murkiest of murky roster quandaries: quarterback.
"Every game it seems like there's a different story to tell," Sarkisian said after the game.
This loss came down to four things:
• West Virginia running back Leddie Brown (33 carries for 158 yards, one touchdown) took the game over in the second half. And quarterback Jarret Doege had the big first half.
• After a big 52-yard touchdown pass from Texas cut the Mountaineers' lead to 21-17, back-to-back sacks from Vernon Broughton and T'Vondre Sweat put West Virginia in a third-and-18 hold from its own 17-yard line. Doege, with time to throw, connected with Winston Wright Jr. for 19. West Virginia eventually scored on the drive to make it a 28-17 game to start the fourth quarter.
• On West Virginia's next drive, with the Mountaineers now leading 28-23, Texas again forced a third-and-long from WVU's 20. This time, Doege found Reese Smith over the middle for 20 yards. And even later on that drive, the Mountaineers converted a fourth-and-5 at Texas' 32. They added a field goal for the final 31-23 margin.
• Texas' last chance, down 31-23 and needing a touchdown and successful 2-point play just to force overtime, crashed and died after the Longhorns got inside West Virginia's 30. Casey Thompson, attempting his first pass since the second quarter, was picked off with two minutes left.
That, for all intents and purposes, was that.
Takeaways from today's game:
So, will this be a 5-7 or 4-8 season?
You can do the math. Texas is 4-7 with one game to play. A win over Kansas State next week would give the Longhorns a 5-7 season, putting them into 2010, 2015 and 2016 territory. A loss leaves Texas at 4-8 — which would be the very first 4-8 season in Texas history.
Where have you gone, Bijan Robinson?
Texas was without its best offensive player, and it showed.
Texas opened with four straight three-and-outs, made a quarterback change at halftime, didn't make its first third-down conversion until the third quarter and its running game sputtered. Keilan Robinson finished with 111 yards, but they included a pair of 49- and 25-yard gains to skew the numbers.
Injuries: RB Keilan Robinson (fourth quarter), DE Ovie Oghoufo (third) and D'Shawn Jamison (first) all briefly left with injuries, but returned. And one one pivotal play in the final minutes, three Longhorns exited on the very same play (Robinson, QB Hudson Card and LG Junior Angilau). ... Brenden Schooler, who has led the Longhorns in tackles the last two games, was tied for second with seven stops. Fellow DB Anthony Cook led Texas with eight tackles. ... West Virginia tried to burn Texas on back-to-back trick plays in the first quarter; the first one worked for a first-yard pass, but Ben Davis sniffed out a double-pitchback play to Doege for a 16-yard loss.
Up next for Texas: Kansas State
Next Friday — the day after Thanksgiving — with, appropriately enough for this season, an 11 a.m. kickoff. It'll be the Longhorns' sixth 11 a.m. start. It's a Fox game at Royal-Memorial Stadium.
This one has no bearing on making a bowl game, just on what kind of way the Longhorns want to end their season and head into 2022.
How the scoring went:
1st quarter: West Virginia 7, Texas 0
West Virginia: Sam James' 20-yard touchdown catch from Jarrett Doege gave the Mountaineers a quick 7-0 lead on the opening drive of the game. Doege worked the secondary on the nine-play drive, at one point throwing it on six straight plays.
Texas' drives were all three-and-outs.
2nd quarter: Halftime — West Virginia 21, Texas 10
West Virginia: Doege placed a beautifully thrown pass into Winston Wright Jr.'s arms in the right corner of the end zone, a 14-yard score to make it 14-0.
Texas: A 49-yard touchdown run by a Texas running back named Robinson should come as no surprise, but this one was from third-string back Keilan Robinson, not the injured Bijan Robinson. It came courtesy a nice lead block from Andrej Karic.
West Virginia: Leddie Brown waltzed in untouched from two yards out with 2:34 left in the half, as the Mountaineers offensive front parted Texas' defensive line like a sea of white.
Texas: Cameron Dicker nailed a 50-yard field goal with 1:13 left in the half. It's his longest kick of the season.
3rd quarter: West Virginia 28, Texas 17
Texas: Xavier Worthy, needing two touchdowns to break Jordan Shipley's freshman TDs record, got one of them on a 52-yard catch from Hudson Card, Texas' fourth-longest scoring pass of the year. More importantly, it cut the Mountaineers' lead to 21-17.
West Virginia: Another Mountaineers answer to a Texas score. Doege found Sean Ryan for a 7-yard touchdown in the back of the end zone.
4th quarter: Final — West Virginia 31, Texas 23
Texas: Roschon Johnson's six-yard touchdown run cut the lead to 28-23, but Card's 2-point pass to Jordan Whittington was tipped at the line. Keilan Robinson, however, was the spark on the drive, rushing for 35 yards on three carries.
West Virginia: Legg's 45-yard field goal made it a 31-23 game with 7:03 left. That lead held up.