In what was Sam Ehlinger, Joseph Ossai and the rest of the seniors final home game at DKR-Memorial Stadium, you couldn’t script a more disappointing end to their Longhorn careers in a Burnt Orange jersey.
It’s inexcusable to lose a game you were in control of for 58 minutes.
This was a game that these players 100 percent deserved to win. There’s no doubt about it. Their performance on-the-field, especially on defense, was more than enough to be rewarded with a win at the end of the day.
Brennan Eagles had a career day. The defensive line played lights out. Coverage in the secondary was solid against receivers. And the offense was clicking on all cylinders early on.
But Texas somehow lost a game where they won the field position battle, held arguably the nation’s best running back in check and had the ball in Iowa State territory a total of eight times in 10 possessions.
So what went wrong? Four major red flags from what was a season-ending loss for the Texas Longhorns.
Red flag No. 1 — Not finishing quality offensive drives
Despite sustaining a lot of quality drives on offense, Texas came away with very little to show for their production. They managed to reach the Iowa State 35-yard-line seven times. Yet, they averaged less than a field goal per drive (2.4 points) on those drives.
While the Longhorns won the field position battle, the Cyclones held a clear edge in time of possession and total plays entering the fourth quarter. All until Texas opened up the fourth quarter with a 14 play, 68-yard drive that took seven minutes off the clock. Only to get stuffed on 4th-and-1 inside the red-zone. Sigh.
Texas had several opportunities to put this game away on offense but failed to do so.
Red flag No. 2 — Coaching mismanagement
It’s almost as if Tom Herman’s in-game coaching instincts are all backwards.
The fake punt call at midfield made no sense considering how well Texas’ defense was playing at the time. And it also set up Iowa State with their best starting field-position all game. He played right into the Cyclones hands with that poor decision.
I didn’t necessarily mind the call to go-for-it on 4th-and-1, though I would have kicked the field goal to go up by a touchdown if I were the head coach. At least dial up a deceiving play-call to win you the game if you’re going to go for it in that situation. Iowa State’s defense knew the quarterback power was coming and so did everyone watching.
It amazes me how Texas never added an under center package to their playbook for short-yardage situations, especially after Ingram’s fumble near the goal-line cost them the TCU game. I’ve never seen a team make it look so difficult to gain one single yard.
Elite teams like Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State would line up under center from the one-yard line. In fact, they tend to line up under center for about 25 percent of their plays. Texas doesn’t even know how to run a quarterback sneak.
Red flag No. 3 — Playing Cade Brewer over Jared Wiley at TE in passing situations
I’ll never understand playing your blocking tight end instead of your receiving tight end when you desperately need to gain yards through the air. And that’s exactly what Texas decided to do on the final drive of the game. Wiley deserves better.
Red flag No. 4 — Losing to Iowa State in back-to-back years
Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell has never had a recruiting class ranked higher than No. 46 in the 247Sports composite. Losing to a bunch of three-star Midwest recruits two years in a row is not only an embarrassment for this program, it’s an embarrassment to the talent-level across the state of Texas.
This is no shot at Campbell, either. He’s one heck of a football coach and is going to be one of the hottest names on the coaching market this winter. Programs like West Virginia, Iowa State and Kansas State remain on the same level playing field as Texas. It shouldn’t be that way and it’s been that way for way too long.
Ehlinger described things best after the game, “I think that we still haven’t played a great game where both sides of the ball were playing really well. That’s frustrating. Confused. We have so much talent but we can’t put it all together. A lot of self-inflicted mistakes.”
Iowa State running back Breece Hall did too, “It’s five-star culture vs. five-star players.”
It sure is going to be an interesting next few weeks or so. It’s so tiring seeing this program consistently not live up to expectations, even though many expectations are unreasonable. This isn’t the football program people seem to think it is.
Herman is winning but not nearly enough to back his pay rate. We’ll likely see where Texas goes from here sooner rather than later.