Austin | Dallas | Houston
Turkeys on the Field

Embarrassing loss to TCU begs the question: Can Texas win again?

Enlarge
Slideshow
David Ash
David Ash had two interceptions in the Longhorns loss to TCU on Thanksgiving.  hornsports.com
Austin Photo Set: News_Kevin_texas vs oklahoma football review_Oct 2012_Mack Brown
Whatever happens on the field between now and January 1, Mack Brown's evaluation needs to begin now. Courtesy of Fort Worth Star-Telegram
David Ash
Austin Photo Set: News_Kevin_texas vs oklahoma football review_Oct 2012_Mack Brown
Austin Photo: Author_kevin_benz

After two steps forward, the Texas Longhorns took a step back Thanksgiving Day. TCU Horned Frogs stepped out onto the field confident in their ability to beat Texas — and win they did, 20-13.

But TCU did not beat Texas. The Longhorns beat themselves.

Three interceptions — two of them at the goal line — will kill a game. The interceptions didn’t just kill drives; they took all of the wind out of the team and the fans. The stadium was quiet — not because fans were full of turkey and dressing, but because of the turkey they saw on the field.

 The stadium was quiet — not because fans were full of turkey and dressing, but because of the turkey they saw on the field.

David Ash looked more like the Oklahoma Ash rather than the Iowa State Ash. In addition to his two interceptions — which showed poor decision-making and ball skills — he also fumbled.

Not a ball-got-knocked-out-of-his-hands fumble. He just dropped the ball.

Frankly, TCU played like they wanted this more. They were physical and aggressive from the start. Texas played tentatively, allowing TCU to dictate the tempo and intensity of the game.

Texas didn’t play as though they wanted to win; they played as though they just didn’t want to lose. There’s a big difference in an athlete’s approach when he is asked to play carefully versus fearlessly. Texas plays carefully and gets run over. TCU plays fearlessly and wins.

So how do you explain this Jekyll-and-Hyde Texas Longhorn football team? They are not good enough to beat anyone if they don’t play their best football.

Mack Brown explained it this way in a short, somber post-game press conference: “Four turnovers to one, you’re going to get beat most of the time. In fact, it’s about 100 percent certain. ... It’s pretty simple. It’s not complicated when you get that many turnovers.”

It’s complicated
But it is more complicated than that, Mack. This team lacks any sort of personality. The Longhorns lack that season-defining moment.

 Texas should be dictating the game, especially at home, on Thanksgiving, against a less talented team.

Are the 2012 Texas Longhorns a power-running team, dominating the line of scrimmage? Or are they a deep-passing, end-around speed team? Is the Longhorn defense an aggressive, physical, sack-happy, stuff-the-run defense? Or are they a “trick” you into making a mistake and a turnover defense?

Sure, a championship team can and should be good at all of those of things. But you can’t describe what the Longhorns are “best” at because they’re not best at anything right now. Brown acknowledged as much Thursday night.

“You’ve got to coach yourself to death every weekend,” he said. “You go out there and coach whatever shows up. Hope that both sides play great. When they don’t, you go adjust it. And that’s what we tried to do tonight.”

Wait — you coach “whatever shows up”?
Mack, this is Texas — the team with the best players, the best organization, the finest facilities and the highest-paid coaches. Texas gets what it wants, all of the time. And still you’re not sure what will “show up” on the field?

Texas should be dictating the game, especially at home, on Thanksgiving, against a less talented team.

So where do you look for answers? Texas, in theory, has the better players; they are recruiting juggernauts. Texas gets the pick of the litter every year.

 When the better players don’t execute on the field, who’s fault is it? Is it a lack of motivation, overestimation of skill or lack of skill-building in practice?

So when the better players don’t execute on the field, who’s fault is it? Is it a lack of motivation, overestimation of skill or lack of skill-building in practice?

All of those answers point toward the coaches.

Once again, the Longhorns find themselves playing for pride, not for championships. The conference championship is now out of the picture; a BCS bowl was probably never in the picture.

The Cotton Bowl may still be in play if the Horns can beat Kansas State next weekend. That’s a tall order; otherwise Texas will be back to a “San” bowl in San Diego (Holiday) or San Antonio (Alamo).

Whatever happens on the field between now and January 1, an evaluation needs to begin.

First, Texas needs a quarterback. Ash and McCoy are outstanding second-string quarterbacks. Maybe co-offensive coordinators Bryan Harsin and Major Applewhite see something we don’t.

If so, it’s time for one of them to reveal it. If not, then Texas should start all over again next year with a freshman or go looking at the junior college level.

Second, Mack Brown needs to evaluate himself and his staff. The team needs an injection of energy and attitude. Maybe this group has it. If so, we need to see it.

Newsletters for exploring your city

Daily Digest

Dallas news, views + events

The Dining Report

News you can eat

Insider Offers

Curated experiences at exclusive prices

Promo Alerts

Special offers + exclusive deals

We will not share or sell your email address

Vote Now
Vote for the best YP charitable event in Dallas

Dallas young professionals have perfected partying for a cause. But which YP charitable event outshined them all? Now’s your chance to pick your favorite from 2014. Vote once a day, every day, until 11:59 pm on December 23.

Melissa Glenn, Kristina Kiik, Valerie maniscalco, affair of the art