The horseshoe that’s been up the Texas Longhorns’ ass finally fell out Monday night. Hours after its claim at legitimacy flamed out, with Alabama squandering a seven-point fourth-quarter lead to a semi-lethargic Michigan team, UT repeatedly looked like frauds.
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Washington QB Michael Penix torched the Burnt Orange secondary, but an unconscionable call by UW coach Kalen DeBoer gave Quinn Ewers enough time to get within scoring range. The Huskies survived four plays from inside the 20 to earn a trip to the College Football Playoff title game, 37-31, and those missed opportunities are going to haunt folks in Austin for a long time.
We know what this Texas program faces as it heads to SEC and that’s a significantly more difficult schedule, against schools they can’t overwhelm with resources, in a conference that doesn’t care about its prestige. Instead of announcing its arrival with a potential championship, UT displayed the kind of folly that’s defined Longhorn football for a decade now.
Dropped passes, drive-killing fumbles and a plethora of flags nullified any talent advantage — real or perceived — Texas had. If DeBoer wasn’t trying his best to blow a lead, this game would’ve been over midway through the final frame.
I’m looking at you, run play on third and three from the Texas five-yard line in the third quarter. Heisman finalist cooking, and you take the ball out of his hands to what? Pick up a couple of yards to kick a field goal anyway?
Yes, there was a bit of bad luck with Dillon Johnson’s injury stopping the clock to give Texas a last gasp, but one of the biggest blunders of the 2023 college football season was Miami’s unnecessary run play when a kneel down would’ve been sufficient against Georgia Tech. Coaches take note: A fumble isn’t the only monumentally bad thing that can happen when you tempt hubris. Bonus note to offensive linemen: The next time that happens, if it’s not rectified this offseason, stretcher the injured player to the sidelines yourselves.
If a Texas receiver wins one of the many jump balls Ewers tossed up in the final 45 seconds, talking heads spend all day slow-roasting DeBoers for ruining Penix’s incredible game. Washington’s Rome Odunze was the best receiver on the field, with Ja’Lynn Polk a close second. Between Texas’ turnovers, and UW’s clock management, it’s a wonder the refs didn’t just throw a greased pig down at the 50 and see who can wrangle it first.
The Longhorns came into Monday night favored by 3.5 and the final score was as indicative of the talent difference as it should’ve been. That said, Washington outplayed and out-executed Texas for 59 minutes.
And still, UT had four goal-to-go chances to complete the comeback. I don’t know how long Steve Sarkisian will lament the final play calls — especially a couple of those fades — but it’s no less than a lifetime, no more than three.
Next season, when the Longhorns are asking “When’s the Iowa State game?” after yet another SEC knife fight, the 2024 Sugar Bowl, and what could’ve been, is going to feel like six lifetimes ago.