More specific breakdowns from this game will come from others. For now, I want to air my frustrations on the progression of the season.
I watched the first half of this game partially in horror, anger, and even some dark amusement. By the time halftime came along, I looked at the ten point deficit, thought about how atrocious our team was playing, and let it sink in: We're probably going to lose. I knew we had played right into UCLA's hands, and they were just going to run, run, run at our defense. While I know our defense is excellent, it is not suited for that type of game, and I just had a really bad feeling about the 2nd half. I've seen Texas come back from far greater deficits, but this game felt wrong in every way.
My mind flashed back to 2007, when a mediocre K-State team rolled into Austin stuck it to a mistake-prone and undisciplined football team for a three score victory. I remember standing in the rain that day, watching a team that couldn't get out of its own way, and I remember feeling embarrassed for our coaches and for Mack Brown. It's not so much that the team lost but that they lost playing stupid, undisciplined football. It was painful because none of the problems in that '07 game were new; we saw all the issues throughout non-conference play, and absolutely nothing changed. Those problems manifested in an ugly way on that rainy day, and that 2007 season proved to be one of the most frustrating seasons in Mack's tenure. This game was perhaps not as bad, but it felt much the same. And if Mack wants to rebound, he's going to have to preach one thing: Accountability.
As in the K-State game, nothing that happened today against UCLA was surprising. We showed the propensity in the past three games to throw away downs, commit stupid penalties, and turn the ball over and gift the other team with short fields. We knew going in that the whole "#1 rush defense" stuff wasn't entirely accurate because of the teams were playing, and we knew that our defense can and will wear down in the face of such an offense (check out Scipio Tex's preview of this game talking about just this point). That's why losses like these are so frustrating: The problems were readily apparent to anyone who watched the team play, and many of those were correctable errors. The fact that the team, particularly on offense, came out in such a way again is very disappointing, and the coaches have to take blame for that. I'm tired of Mack trying so hard to protect his players and coordinators. While I appreciate his willingness to take a bullet for the team, he has to know that this kind of performance can't be tolerated at Texas. If we lose because a team straight up beats us, fine; I can accept that. We lost to Oklahoma in 2007 as well, but I was not nearly as angry about that game because I felt we actually played a decent football game. Losing to teams that have no business beating us because we do our best to gift-wrap the game to them is unacceptable.
That '07 season was a turning point for Mack in a number of ways. It showcased his stubbornness and his refusal to hold players and coaches accountable for the trash they were putting the field, and it drove the fanbase absolutely insane, culminating in that humiliating loss to Texas A&M. Mack finally had enough then, and instituted changes that helped kick in our successful 2008 and 2009 seasons. For that, Mack Brown deserves a mountain of credit, but it is nonetheless frustrating that it took the entire season for him to finally admit major problems in the program. I am hoping that it won't take long for Mack to do the same here. I'm not calling for the firings of anyone; at this point, I'm not sure it would be helpful letting go of anyone until the season's end. I'm just hoping that Mack will light a fire under everyone's rear ends and lets them know that just because they've "bled" for the program for X number of years and just because they're nice guys doesn't mean that their jobs are safe. That goes for both players and coaches.
Turnovers. Missed blocks. Dropped passes. Simple mental errors on special teams. Confusing playcalling. Horrendous penalties. Not running a route to the first down markers. I can live with the fact that we will not field a great offense because of personnel limitations, but this team has shown the frightening tendency to be self-destructive. These are the type of errors that have little to do with skill and a lot to do with poor preparation, lazy coaching, and a lack of concentration. I've seen high school teams play less stupid than that. Both players and coaches need to be held accountable for this kind of play.
Maybe this loss is what we needed, because unfortunately Mack is slow to change things unless he gets punched in the mouth like this. But that's the problem in the first place: You don't have to wait for embarrassment to hold people accountable to a standard. The fact that we were 3-0 did not change the fact that there were serious problems that needed to be fixed, and honestly, a loss like this is exactly what this team deserved for their apparent lack of awareness of those flaws. The difference between this game and the Tech game is that Tech's offense matched up poorly against our defense and we turned the ball over closer to their endzone than ours. That's about it. Hopefully, unlike 2007, Mack Brown does not wait until the bowl season to light a fire under the team, feebly hoping that the players and coaches will magically right the ship if we keep doing the same things over and over again. Accountability starts now, and that leads to excellence on the field in the future. And if Mack does not want to get blown off the field in Dallas and in Lincoln, it would be a good idea to evaluate how they're preparing this team during the week.
Another frustrating part of the 2007 season? It was one of the weakest years of college football the past decade or so. The Horns didn't even need to be that good to compete for the national title. This year, while it looks to be much better, it is still a pretty wide open race, and Texas, in all likelihood, ended whatever hopes they had of a title run. Even if we were to run the table, voters will not look kindly at three score losses at home.