When Texas got crushed 38–3 at Notre Dame on Sept. 5, it was difficult to imagine the Longhorns could sink any further this season. Less than a month later, coach Charlie Strong’s team proved all of us wrong. Oh, did it: Texas went down 30–0 before the end of the first quarter at TCU on Saturday and eventually lost 50–7 to fall to 1–4 overall and 0–2 in the Big 12.
This was a beatdown of the highest order, a complete and utter pulverization that will leave Texas reeling long after its ride back to Austin. The game was effectively over less than 10 minutes in. Media members shifted their attention to the potential for collateral damage on the recruiting trail. UCLA 66, Texas 3 was recalled early and often.
Consider that a Horned Frogs defense decimated by injuries after returning only five starters—one that yielded 607 yards and 52 points a week ago in a win over Texas Tech—limited the Longhorns to 313 yards and seven points. Meanwhile, TCU strafed Texas’s defense for 589 yards and 50 points. But statistics can’t encapsulate the severity of this brutal beatdown.
Trevone Boykin dissected the Longhorns’ secondary with ease. He completed 20 of his 35 pass attempts for 332 yards with 5 touchdowns (surpassing current Cincinnati Bengals starter Andy Dalton’s program-record 71 career touchdown passes) and zero interceptions.
Texas compounded the damage with another special teams gaffe. And it wasn’t just Boykin who tore the Longhorns’ D to shreds. Late in the first quarter, the Horned Frogs dialed up a trick play that looked almost too easy.
From Texas’s perspective, perhaps the most dismaying part about Saturday’s result is that the Longhorns had appeared to make some progress in their games following the aforementioned loss to the Irish. Three days after that rout, Strong promoted Jay Norvell to call plays and then benched quarterback Tyrone Swoopes in favor of redshirt freshman Jerrod Heard.
Those changes seemed to work: After beating Rice by double digits on Sep. 12, Texas came within an extra point of completing a 21-point comeback against Cal. A week later, a botched punt cost the Longhorns a possible win against Oklahoma State. On Saturday, the Longhorns had an opportunity to show they had improved against a legit College Football Playoff contender.
Quite simply, Texas failed miserably. The only positives to be gleaned from Saturday’s game are of the “after it was over” variety. Indeed, the Longhorns gave up only seven points in the second quarter and 13 in the second half. But at that point, TCU had already taken its foot off the gas pedal. A Texas player retweeted a transfer request at halftime, and Boykin didn’t play a snap in the fourth quarter.
For TCU, Saturday’s performance will help allay fears that the Horned Frogs aren’t suited to compete for a playoff spot because of the rash of injuries they’ve dealt with this season. Granted, Texas could turn out to be one of the worst teams in the Big 12. The Horned Frogs barely survived in Lubbock last week, and they’ll face more potent offenses and defenses in the coming weeks. But it was hard not to be impressed by the ease with which TCU dispatched a Texas team that challenged a Pac-12 North contender (Cal) and a Big 12 team (Oklahoma State) that could reach a bowl game. The Horned Frogs may be rolling out second-stringers and lining up players out of position on defense, but with Boykin and a dangerous set of playmakers, they may still have enough to stay in the hunt.
Regardless, the main takeaway from Saturday centers on the team TCU destroyed. Texas fans hopeful for incremental progress under Strong this season may need to recalibrate expectations.