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Blowout losses damaging the psyche of Texas players

Getting beat down is now so common for the Longhorns that it triggers a certain resigned type of PTSD.

Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

"Ah, here we go again."

Senior wide receiver Daje Johnson's fumble quickly led to a touchdown for the TCU Horned Frogs, who quickly jumped on the Texas Longhorns for another score to take a 14-0 lead.

For an unnamed Texas player, the sight was all too familiar.

Senior cornerback Duke Thomas, who recounted the story this week, quickly went over to his teammate to put an end to the negative thinking.

"I jumped into his face to try and get him going," Thomas said. "We're not going to have that happen again."

But the other player was right -- by the end of the first quarter, Texas trailed TCU 30-0 on the way to a 50-7 defeat that nearly matched the school's worst shutout loss since getting beat 50-0 by Oklahoma in 1908. Only a late touchdown by sophomore wide receiver Lorenzo Joe helped the Horns avoid that ignominious distinction.

The situation was illustrative of a team that not only doesn't know how to win, it doesn't know how to remain resilient in the face of early adversity.

Senior defensive tackle Desmond Jackson was recruited by former defensive coordinator Will Muschamp as a member of the 2011 recruiting class. Since then, he's played for two head coaches, three defensive coordinators, and three position coaches.

He's also endured an incredible number of blowout losses:

  • Oklahoma 55, Texas 17 (2011) -- The Horns hung around in the first quarter, trailing 6-3 after the first 15 minutes, then promptly gave up 28 points before halftime after several long drives by the Sooners and an interception returned for a touchdown.
  • Baylor 48, Texas 24 (2011) -- RGIII hit Kendall Wright for a touchdown on the second play of the game and an interception return to the Texas 2-yard line resulted in a score before half that gave Baylor a lead it would never relinquish.
  • Oklahoma 63, Texas 21 (2012) -- A 95-yard touchdown run by Oklahoma running back Damien Williams combined with four touchdowns from short-yardage specialist to spark a rout that got ugly early and stayed that way. By the end of the first half, Oklahoma led 40-2.
  • BYU 40, Texas 21 (2013) -- Taysom Hill and BYU ran for 550 yards in the game that got Manny Diaz fired.
  • Ole Miss 44, Texas 23 (2013) -- Jeff Scott to the outside, ad nauseum. A week after showing no ability to stop the zone read, Texas continued to show no ability to stop the zone read, allowing Scott to run for 164 yards on 19 carries. Ole Miss scored 20 unanswered points in the third quarter and added another touchdown in the fourth.
  • Oklahoma State 38, Texas 12 (2013) -- The Cowboys recorded a third straight win in Austin by handing former head coach Mack Brown the worst loss home in his career. The low point in the game came when quarterback Case McCoy threw a pick-six to Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert with 18 seconds remaining in the first half.
  • Baylor 30, Texas 10 (2013) -- McCoy was really bad and the rest of the team wasn't much better. The noodle-armed gunslinger went 12-of-34 for 54 yards and two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown negated by a celebration penalty. The two interceptions resulted in more interception return yardage than McCoy threw for on the day.
  • Oregon 30, Texas 7 (2013) -- Hollow man Mack Brown's tenure ended not with a bang, but with a whimper, as McCoy had two passes returned for touchdowns and went 8-of-17 for 48 yards and 75 return yards against him. The rest of the team wasn't much better.
  • BYU 41, Texas 7 (2014) -- Taysom Hill happened again, as the Cougars rolled up 28 points in the third quarter to steamroll the Horns in Austin.
  • Baylor 28, Texas 7 (2014) -- Defense, special teams, and a strong running game aren't the typical ingredients to a Bears win, but that was the case last year in Austin as the Horns offense completely stalled.
  • Kansas State 23, Texas 0 (2014) -- Texas suffered the program's first shutout since the 12-0 loss to Oklahoma in 2004 as the offense managed less than 200 yards and the defense gave up critical, back-breaking plays to star Kansas State wide receiver Tyler Lockett.
  • TCU 48, Texas 10 (2014) -- A classic "Ah, here we go again" game. Quarterback Tyrone Swoopes went into full meltdown mode in this game with five turnovers and the game was over by halftime, when the Horned Frogs led 20-3.
  • Arkansas 31, Texas 7 (2014) -- Some people consider the results of this game to be "borderline erotic." Those people are not Texas fans. A late drive helped the Horns avoid the program's worst offensive showing in school history.
  • Notre Dame 38, Texas 3 (2015) -- The second and third drives resulted in touchdowns for the Fighting Irish and the Longhorns offense was never able to get going or force Notre Dame quarterback Malik Zaire to reset his feet in the pocket, allowing Zaire to pick apart the defense all game.
  • TCU 50, Texas 7 (2015) -- More of the same, with some special twists of special teams ineptitude.

Now, that's not to single out Jackson in particular -- he's just representative of the several fifth-year seniors at Texas who have been through an unbelievable amount of turmoil. Senior center Taylor Doyle, for instance, was recruited by Greg Davis and is now playing for his fourth play caller in four years.

So it's no wonder when head coach Strong says that he worries more about his older players than his younger ones. The freshmen just go play, but the older players have to deal with having been a part of losing cultures for years. Having seen and endured so many blowout losses and so much dysfunction.

As a result, there's a certain amount of passivity that exists now -- instead of going out and making good things happen, Texas players just expect that all of a sudden good things will happen to them, as if they're due to have some good luck come about for no particular reason.

"It's almost like we're waiting for whomever we play for them to do something bad, and all of a sudden we can jump," Strong said. "No, no, no. Let's go out and make those bad things happen. But let's be the ones that make it happen for them."

In certain moments, the Horns have made it happen. But not frequently enough. Definitely not when there's some adversity and that little voice pipes up again.

"Ah, here we go again."

And so it goes.