This year was going to be different, right?
Things were supposed to change. Everything that failed in 2021 was thrown out the window. Players were bought in. Recruits were flourishing. Anything negative surrounding the roster was discarded this offseason after all.
That's what was said about Texas Longhorns football entering September. Maybe it's true. Perhaps everything sour that surrounded the program over the past several years has been removed? Maybe Steve Sarkisian and his staff are turning over a new leaf?
If so, then Texas might just not be ready to announce that "it's back" in 2022. Maybe it'll take another year or two to bring in the right recruits that will build around a new foundation.
On Saturdays in the south, games like the one at Jones AT&T Stadium don't occur. They end in the third quarter with one team leading by double digits, refusing to blow the lead.
“We didn’t play good enough to win today,” Sarkisian said. “Too inconsistent offensively. We struggled to protect the quarterback and win on first down in the second half. Defensively, our inability to get off the field was a real factor. I’m disappointed on our end.”
Sure, one could say that it was impressive that Texas (2-2, 0-1 Big 12) brought the game to overtime. After allowing a 45-yard field goal from Trey Wolff to take the lead, Hudson Card delivered a strike to Tarique Milton for 28 yards. Bert Auburn would drill a 48-yard field goal to give the fans in Lubbock free football.
Then again, that shouldn't have happened. After Bijan Robinson tip-toed his way down the sideline for a 40-yard touchdown in the third quarter, the Longhorns should've coasted. A few defensive stops and maybe a field goal for insurance? Easy right?
When will fans learn that hasn't been the case with Texas since 2009? Will that be the case forever now?
The Longhorns couldn't stop the Red Raiders' offense. Donovan Smith carved up Texas for 331 passing yards with two touchdowns. He connected with tight end Baylor Cupp for a 19-yard score with less than eight minutes remaining to tie the game. His three passes to Myles Price for 33 yards set up Wolff's eventual late field goal.
Tech (3-1, 1-0 Big 12) ran 100 offensive plays compared to Texas' 60. The Raiders converted 75 percent of the time on fourth down and totaled 11 more first downs (31-20) than the Horns to keep the clock rolling.
"Of those six, a few of those were close, and we couldn’t get the quarterback on the ground to get them off the field, which was disappointing,” Sarkisian said.
Perhaps the biggest blunder came from Robinson, who fumbled on the first snap in overtime to give the Red Raiders a chance to close things out. Robinson finished with 101 yards and two touchdowns off 16 carries.
No one will talk about that. Their attention is on the lone mistake of Robinson's Big 12 Player of the Year-caliber season. What's even crazier is the turnover was just Robinson's fourth all-time with the program.
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"That’s just a mistake on me, and I just gotta live with it and pray on it," Robinson said.
As Sarkisian and the Horns return to Memorial Stadium next week to face off against West Virginia, one has to ponder when things will get back on track. Since arriving on the Forty Aces, Sark is 1-6 away from Austin. In 16 games, Texas has blown four double-digit leads. The Horns also have allowed teams to hang around far longer than expected.
Do TCU, Kansas State or UTSA ring a bell?
Every team has had hiccups throughout its season. Plenty of fans will drum up the loss on the fact that quarterback Quinn Ewers wasn't starting. And while he's trending toward playing in two weeks at the Red River Showdown, Sarkisian could elect to rest him Saturday when the Mountaineers come to town.
That's fine, but it can't be an excuse for a program trying to prove its best days are ahead. Georgia lost JT Daniels in Week 2 last season and was forced to turn to Stetson Bennett. He led the Bulldogs to their first national title in four decades.
Alabama benched Jalen Hurts at halftime in the national championship against Georgia in 2017 in favor of Tua Tagoviloa. A year later, Hurts was benched for the future first-round talent but got his revenge on the Dawgs in the SEC Championship that December.
Good teams find ways to overcome adversity. Blaming one position is almost the same as waving the white flag and calling it quits on the season.
Texas isn't throwing the towel. A one-point loss to one of the nation's top programs plus a conference loss isn't the end of the world, let alone the season. The Horns can run the table and make it to Arlington for a shot at the Big 12 title.
Still think Texas is close to being "back?"
“There’s a reason they don’t want to (keep playing)," McGuire said of the ending of the rivalry. "It happened today."
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