On the BON Twitter account a few days ago, I posed a question: "Who else expects Iowa State to be a setback game?"
Most responses were similar.
"No way. We are back. Things are trending up again!"
Unfortunately, that is clearly not the case.
On Saturday night, the Texas Longhorns laid a goose egg in Ames -- falling to the Iowa State Cyclones 24-0 in what might be the most embarrassing loss of Charlie Strong's tenure. It was ugly from the start, and a clear setback from the "turning point" narrative that sprung up after Texas beat OU in early October.
For how good a win that was, this loss might be just as bad. In fact, it feels worse.
It's not the loss that is most upsetting. I expected a tough game. If I was a betting man, I would have felt compelled to take Iowa State on the money-line. There is something magical about Ames around Halloween -- just ask Mike Gundy.
It's the pathetic performance Texas displayed that has fans scratching their heads. Texas finished with only 204 total yards of offense -- 77 of which came on the last, meaningless drive of the game.
Iowa State ranks as one of the worst defenses in college football. What happened to all the progress?
As reporter Mike Finger pointed out, if we learned anything from this game, it's that Cal's defense must truly be awful.
All signs pointed to a close ballgame before kickoff. Texas was coming off two big wins against Oklahoma and Kansas State and was due for some kind of letdown game. It didn't help that one of its own players, Paul Boyette, managed to call out ISU for "being a bad football team." Irony is not his strong-suit.
Iowa State was coming off two competitive games against TCU and Baylor in back-to-back weeks. Even if they are a Big 12 bottom feeder, they didn't keel over and die like Kansas.
Texas robbed Iowa State of a home win back in 2013, when Johnathan Gray clearly fumbled the ball near the goal-line as the clock neared zero. ISU recovered and would have returned it for a touchdown, if it wasn't for the Big 12 referees who granted Texas and Mack Brown a "do-over" that helped the Longhorns put it out of reach.
You can be sure ISU coach Paul Rhoads, who is likely in his last season in Ames, had flashbacks to that game tonight. It seems like every year the Cyclones pull off some wild victory that leaves Rhoads "so proud" to be the head football coach. This year, that game was Texas.
ISU is not terrible, folks. The Cyclones have played opponents tough all year. But they aren't 24 points better than Texas. They aren't any better than Texas. That's what is so frustrating.
This game is a setback -- a major one. It's hard to be anything but pessimistic about every facet of the program after witnessing such an embarrassing performance by the Longhorns.
In his post-game presser, Charlie Strong hit all the major buzzwords and talking points: Leadership, family, preparedness, execution, etc.
Strong: "i thought we were taking step forwards, and this is a step backwards."— Mike Finger (@mikefinger) November 1, 2015
This is all garbage, as Ryan Autullo of the Austin American-Statesman highlighted on Twitter:
When team plays well, they're a family. Never been closer. When they lose 24-0 to a bad team, there's no leadership. Truth in the middle.— Ryan Autullo (@AutulloAAS) November 1, 2015
So what do we really have? It's simple. We have an underachieving football team being led by an underachieving coaching staff in what has become one of the most disappointing seasons in Texas football history.
This was the first time Texas has been shutout by an unranked opponent since 1961, and the second time in two seasons the Longhorns left a game scoreless. Not that the team hasn't come close to more shutouts (see: Notre Dame, September 5, 2015; TCU, October 3, 2015).
Strong is now 0-11 at Texas when the opponent scores first.
These are the scores that come to mind when I think of the Charlie Strong era.
I like Strong. I don't know him as a person, but I appreciate the value he places on accountability.
At some point, he is going to be held accountable for these embarrassing football results. He needs more time to fix the program, and will have that chance in 2016. But I'm not going to blindly defend him anymore. This isn't going to fly next season. Consider these final few games of the season to be the end of his grace period.
I can't think of anything better to do than forget about this game entirely -- forever -- and get on with the rest of the season.
Little to no chance this team makes a bowl this year, so Texas is playing for pride now. The question is: Do they have any left?