Mess in Texas: Longhorns Finding Themselves in Unfathomable Territory

Colin LobdellContributor INovember 7, 2010

AUSTIN, TX - SEPTEMBER 25:  Head coach Mack Brown of the Texas Longhorns during a game against the UCLA Bruins at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on September 25, 2010 in Austin, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Nine was the magic number.  As in nine passing yards was all it took for Kansas State to throttle the error-prone and dysfunctional Texas Longhorns.

Behind the direction of backup quarterback Collin Klein, the Wildcats put together the simplest game plan they could: Run the ball.  But it worked near flawlessly as K-State racked up 261 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns in path to a 39-14 victory.

Fans from Austin decked out in burnt orange who made the trip were forced to cover their eyes and grimace or, in at least one case, don a paper bag as they fell to last in the Big 12 South leaving some to wonder what would be a better mascot for Texas: Bevo or the putrid pile of dung he leaves behind?  Strange to think just one season ago they played in the BCS Championship game.

Texas hasn’t seen anything like this in long time and Longhorns coach Mack Brown isn’t shy about telling you.

“We’ve had the most successful 10-year stretch in Texas’ gloried football history,” Brown said.

He’s right, of course, only Boise State has won more games than Texas the past decade, but that only magnifies what’s going on in Austin.

Texas has now lost three straight games for the first time since 1999.  They’ve lost back-to-back games in Austin’s friendly confines for the first time since 1997 when a guy named John Mackovic roamed the Longhorn sideline, and they lost those two games to Baylor and Iowa State, two teams Mack Brown had never lost to since coming to Texas.

Need more ammunition?  With their loss to Kansas State they’ve now lost four conference games for the first time in the Mack Brown era.

At 4-5 overall, Texas went from BCS contender to fighting for bowl eligibility in a matter of ten weeks.

The reasons for their fall: an impotent offense, turnovers, poor execution and a bit of bad luck.  All were visible against Kansas State this Saturday.

Facing the nation’s worst rushing defense, Texas still couldn’t run the ball consistently and was forced to put the ball up 59 times.  In the end, Longhorn quarterback Garrett Gilbert completed more passes to players in a Kansas State uniform (five), than Wildcat quarterback Collin Klein did (two).  The Longhorns botched two fakes on special teams, but later blocked an extra point attempt...only to have the ball bounce back to Kansas State kicker Josh Cherry who ran inside the left pylon to complete the two-point conversion.

Befuddled lab coat professors in Texas’ chemistry department are left to figure out why a formula with so much success has failed so miserably this season.  With all the right ingredients—hotshot recruits, a top-notch coaching staff and the best facilities—it must be the way they’re mixed, right?

Not necessarily says Brown.

“If you look at traditional programs usually there’s a slump,” Brown said. “We’ve won 10-plus for nine straight years, so we haven’t had any slumps. It just popped in here.”

Hm, maybe their formula’s been discovered and they just need to optimize or maybe he’s just right.  Even before NCAA allegations hit USC, the Trojans eventually lost their hold on the Pac-10.  Florida is suffering through a down year, for them at least, as well.

But there’s still some with a different theory: Texas got complacent. When you’ve been winning for so long sometimes you take it for granted.  You get sloppy, you get lazy, you lose focus.  Then when you continually out-recruit teams sometimes you psychologically expect to win by showing up.  Only then you become vulnerable.  That’s when less-stellar teams come up and get you.

As short as last season it would’ve seemed impossible Texas would ever lose Iowa State or Baylor in the recent future, much less in consecutive home games topped off by an embarrassing loss to a team who garnered 39 points on a nine-yard passing arsenal.

Through all this Brown has found himself in the unusual position of asking for patience. 

“I’m asking our fans to be abnormal. Most fans are going to give up on their teams and their coaches when they’re not playing well. I’ve asked them to keep pulling for these kids because they’ve given them a lot of joy over the last 10 years,” he said.

His calls may be answered...for a season.  After all, losing at Texas for even one season is just as unacceptable as losing basketball games at Kentucky or UCLA, hockey games at Minnesota, and baseball games in New York.  Winning football is a birthright to people in the Lone Star State.

And based on recent recruiting classes and historical expectations it’s hard not to recognize the underachieving team and think “they just shouldn’t be this awful.”

Still, most teams view them as formidable.  Before the game last Saturday Kansas State coach Bill Snyder even acknowledge the Longhorns.

“Don’t be lulled to sleep by what’s happened at Texas,” Snyder said. “Texas is still a quality program.”

He is right, but a sputtering one in need of direction.