Texas football: Longhorns floor may be lower than anyone expected
"We've got to figure out who we are," Texas head coach Tom Herman said after the team's 37-27 loss to TCU.
Texas wasn't just beat by TCU, they were handled. The Horned Frogs controlled the line of scrimmage and the clock in the fourth quarter, milking away any chance Texas had to stage a late comeback and punching in an emphatic score to seal the game with under two minutes to go.
They didn't put up the gaudy numbers we saw from Kansas a week ago, but TCU may have done something worse. They imposed their will on the Longhorn defense, turning the high-powered Texas offense into helpless spectators on the sideline during the game's most meaningful minutes.
The offense - a strength for most of the year - showed some visable cracks as well.
For the first time this year, Sam Ehlinger looked confused. He wasn't on the same page with his receivers on a night when he threw a season-high four interceptions.
"Obviously, it (TCU) is the best defense in the conference for a reason," Herman said of Gary Patterson's seanior-laden unit.
Here Texas sits at 5-3, just one last-minute drive away from possibly being .500 with four games left in the season.
Before the season began, most Texas fans would have told you anything more than three losses would be considered a disappointment for 2019.
Three losses before the end of November is a whole other level.
The good news for Texas? The Longhorns have a bye week with an opportunity to heal both "physical and emotional wounds" as Tom Herman put it after the game. They could come out of the week off with safeties Caden Sterns, DeMarvion Overshown and Chris Brown all back on the field along with another offensive weapon in Jordan Whittington.
The bad news for Texas? The Big 12 is suddenly looking deeper than expected and none of the games left on the slate are quite the gimmes they seemed to be a month ago.
Two weeks from now Texas squares off with a Kansas State team that just handed Oklahoma its first road loss since 2014. Texas will have to follow that up with a trip to Ames in what will likely be a cold November road test.
After that, it's a trip to Waco to take on the first-place Bears in what's shaping up to be a major road test before finishing the season against Texas Tech.
Sure, it's possible to see Texas rallying the troops and running the table to get back to the Big 12 Championship Game, but after the performance we've seen from this team the past three weeks, it's also possible to see the Longhorns needing a win over Texas Tech to get back to a bowl game.
That's something that nobody expected at the beginning of the season.