I scored three tickets to the Texas Longhorns-TCU Horned Frogs game today, and they weren't bad seats: three rows up from the field on the side of the endzone. It was the first game I was able to attend in a few years, and I was excited to see Jerrod Heard play live and to see how our young players would compete. I did not expect a win, but I expected entertaining football. The weather was nice and cool and I was going with two buddies, one of which, like me, hasn't gone to a game in years and another who has never been to a live game at all. I was hoping it would be a fun outing for all of us, even with a loss, and I was decked out in burnt orange from head to toe.
Suffice it to say, it wasn't a fun game at all... except for perhaps in a dark way if you spent your time laughing at our incredible mistakes (which I sometimes did). Before we even settled down in our seats, Daje Johnson fumbled and was knocked out of the game and TCU had scored. Not long after that, our long snapper sailed the ball over Dickson's head into the endzone near where we were seated, and then Nick Rose shanked his kickoff. Shortly thereafter, Josh Doctson made a great catch on a fade literally 15 feet in front of us. Before we could even blink, TCU was blowing us out. I almost felt the need to apologize to my friends for even inviting them to come with me.
By the end, the stadium was nearly empty as disappointed Texas fans and bored TCU fans bolted from the game starting at halftime. I stayed the whole time and drank it all in, looking for any positives. Tyrone Swoopes actually looked confident again and spun some nice balls in back up duty! D'Onta Foreman ran hard and we found a soft spot in the middle of TCU's defense! Our defense stopped TCU's second string offense! Nick Rose hit that extra point! When your team is this bad, one gets desperate in looking for hope.
Some TCU fans talked some trash, but most were polite and pretty much just felt sorry for us, which was appreciated but somehow made everything worse. The University of Texas, the flagship institution of the state with one of the most famous college football brands in the nation, is the object of pity for small private Texas schools who are destroying its football team on the field.
Rational fans knew that our schedule was difficult, but while all losses only count once in the W-L column, it is simply false that all losses are equal. Getting humiliated again on national TV takes its toll on the football team, the fanbase, and on recruiting. A TCU fan tried to helpfully tell us, "Well, at least it's better losing like this than to lose due to last minute mistakes like the last two games, right?" Uh, no. Losing "like this" has the tendency to kill optimism pretty quickly.
I understand that random crap happens in football games. I understand that 18-22 year olds make mind-boggling mistakes that coaches cannot predict. I understand that TCU is simply better than Texas is right now. None of that excuses such a horrid performance that saw the Horns go down 30-0 in the first quarter. I remember looking up at the scoreboard after TCU's third touchdown or so and thinking, "Oh my goodness, we're still in middle of the first quarter. Is that even right?"
I like Charlie Strong and I believe in supporting the team in dire circumstances. However, our coaching staff and our athletic department need to understand that people with limited budgets are not going to want to spend the money going to games just to watch deflating play, whether in away or home games. Not every morning is as nice as this one was; some days are incredibly hot, and finding parking can be both annoying and expensive. You have to go to the game early to make sure you find such parking and walk/get shuttled to the stadium.
When the football is good, then fans are willing to put up with this to watch their team. When the football is horrific, then many fans simply don't... and that's not because they're bad fans. It's because they don't have all the time and money in the world to blow on things and they start making conscious choices that they're better off supporting the team in their homes, a cheaper and much more comfortable option (and frankly, often an option that gives you a better viewpoint of the game anyway).
All I can say to someone like Vance Bedford who calls out the fans for their lack of attendance is that it would be rather helpful if he and his colleagues wouldn't make fans skittish about buying tickets because they're afraid of the possibility of a humiliating defeat and deeply regretting their purchase.
Strong should not be fired; I still prefer that he gets a minimum of four years, and I know quite well that Mack left a mess that he has had to clean up (and I say that as someone who has no ill will towards Mack). Nevertheless, he and his coaching staff have to shoulder considerable blame for these regular beatdowns that are happening under his watch. In the past seven games, including last season, we've been blown out four times. TCU in that span has scored nearly 100 points on us while we've put up 17. And frankly, this year the TCU defense has been gutted by injuries, suspensions, and graduation, and yet they still pitched a shutout until they sent in their backups. If Gary Patterson was feeling mean enough, he could have won this game 70-0. At some point, these excuses about youth will start to ring hollow.
I confess that I am biased for Strong and I really want him to succeed. Still, he does not embody Texas football; there are other coaches who are both qualified and willing to have this job, and there may come a point where the excuses just run out for him. I hope that time doesn't come because if he succeeds, that means the University of Texas succeeds and does it the right way. He simply cannot afford too many more games like this that make Texas fans embarrassed for even wearing burnt orange on gameday.
Right the ship, Charlie. Hook 'em.