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Texas seniors playing for pride in this woebegone 4-7 Longhorns season that can’t end fast enough

Robinson said Horns still believe in Sark: ‘We’re just following the head man, and we’re putting our heads down and working for him’

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Another week, another locker room full of frustrated Longhorns.

“Every loss is disappointing, extremely disappointing,” running back Keilan Robinson said after Saturday’s 31-23 defeat by West Virginia.

So how do you explain it?

“I think all of us pretty much have our mind screwed on right,” Robinson said. “Coach Sark has us doing the right things. We’re just following the head man, and we’re putting our heads down and working for him. I believe we're doing the right things, of course.”

It’s come to this for the 4-7 Longhorns: playing for pride. That’s about all they have now that it’s certain the season will mercifully end with Friday’s home game against Kansas State (7-4, 4-4 Big 12).

West Virginia 31, Texas 23:Texas falters against West Virginia, heads back to Austin with sixth straight loss

Texas hasn’t finished a season with just four wins since 1997, coach John Mackovic’s last in Austin. Before that, it was 1988, David McWilliams’ second season as head coach.

Running back Roschon Johnson heads toward gap during Saturday's loss to West Virginia, which dropped the Longhorns to 4-7 with one game left against Kansas State on Friday.

There have been seasons that were even worse. D.X. Bible went 1-8 in 1938. Ed Price went 1-9 in 1956.

If the current Longhorns finish with a 4-8 record and end the year on a seven-game losing streak, this will have to qualify as the worst season in the modern era of Texas football.

At least in 1997, teams were eager to upset the reigning Big 12 champs. Three sets of goal posts were torn down by opposing fans that season. This year, teams know they’re beating up on a thin Texas roster all while fans chant “S-E-C!” in derogatory fashion.

“I mean, if you look at the history the entire season that’s been going on so far, every negative outcome that has come is because of us,” Robinson said. “It’s not because of anything that any other team has done. That does make it a little bit more disappointing, knowing that things kind of went wrong on our end, not anything that anyone else did to us.

“But, like I say, only thing you can do from here is just go up,” he added.

Texas coach Steve Sarkisian is always squinting and looking sideways for any possible silver lining. After the West Virginia loss, he said, “I think it could have been very easy for our team to fold the tent in this ballgame, and they did not do that.”

The Horns fell behind by 14 points but got within four in the third quarter. The defense desperately needed one stop. Sure enough, David Gbenda, Vernon Broughton and T’Vondre Sweat combined for back-to-back sacks.

But on third-and-18, the defense allowed a soul-crushing 19-yard gain as Winston Wright Jr. made a huge catch. Then West Virginia’s Leddie Brown ripped off a 26-yard run. Then another for 18 yards. Within seconds, it seemed, Jarret Doege was throwing a 7-yard touchdown pass to Sean Ryan.

“We're working our tail off out there,” edge rusher Ovie Oghoufo said. Asked if the breakdowns are mental, he said, “It's not that we’re going out there and (thinking), ‘Hey, something bad's going to happen.’ It’s never the case.”

And yet, it does.

West Virginia converted 12 of 20 third downs, a staggering 60%. Coming into the game, the Mountaineers had converted 38.9% of their third downs, the third-worst total in the Big 12.

Still, Texas continued to fight as Roschon Johnson scored on a 6-yard run. The closing minutes were marred by injuries to both quarterbacks Casey Thompson and Hudson Card. West Virginia got a turnover on downs and kneeled to run out the clock.

“They battled,” Sarkisian said. “We had a chance at the end. But unfortunately, very similar to last week, what we do early in the game ultimately has an impact on the end of the game. And so it wasn't for lack of battling, competing and things of that nature. We have to perform earlier in the game.”

West Virginia quarterback Jarret Doege gives the "Horns Down" hand signal after Saturday's victory.

Everything about this program will go under a microscope after Friday’s game, win or lose. Sarkisian has some massive questions to answer going into 2022.

Who should be the team’s starting quarterback next season? Is that person even on campus?

Where is Texas going to get more offensive linemen? Defensive linemen? Linebackers? Can all of those questions be addressed through high school recruiting, or does UT need to go hog wild in the transfer portal? Can a coach even get quality players out of the portal?

There are no easy answers and no easy fix.

The only thing Texas can focus on now is getting a win over Kansas State and finishing on an up note. Friday will be senior day at Royal-Memorial Stadium.

This season can’t be over fast enough.

“We need to celebrate them this week,” Sarkisian said of UT’s seniors. “They’ve given a lot to this university, a lot to this program. And so we’d like nothing more than to send them out with a win in their last game at DKR. And that’s really where we're at.”

Contact Brian Davis by phone or text at 512-445-3957. Email bdavis@statesman.com or @BDavisAAS.

"They battled. We had a chance at the end. But unfortunately, very similar to last week, what we do early in the game ultimately has an impact on the end of the game," Texas coach Steve Sarkisian said.

Friday's game

Kansas State at Texas

11 a.m., Fox, 104.9