Understanding why Texas Longhorns head coach Charlie Strong is now 16-19 through nearly three years in Austin requires an understanding of just how badly the ‘Horns have played in the final minute of the first half.
Over at Barking Carnival, RobA charted every play run by Texas since Strong took over in 2014 and subtracted the number of points scored by the Longhorns minus the number of points scored by opponents for each minute of the game.
The results in the 30th minute of the first half are, to use Strong’s favorite superlative in a slightly different way, unbelievable.
Though Texas did manage to score three points against Iowa State, Texas Tech, and West Virginia during that minute this season, games like Kansas State illustrated just how poor the ‘Horns have been in those moments.
Despite the shoulder injury to Wildcats quarterback Jesse Ertz, big cushions by the Longhorns defensive backs allowed Ertz to start the final drive of the first half with three straight underneath completions.
A pass interference penalty on cornerback John Bonney and a roughing the passer penalty on defensive end Bryce Cottrell helped Kansas State move inside the Texas 10-yard line.
Then, on another inexplicable play, Bonney gave up an eight-yard touchdown pass to Byron Pringle on a simple slant route. Strong claimed that Bonney thought he had help over the top, but whether it was the fault of the safety or of Bonney himself, the play was crushing.
As a result, Kansas State took a 21-7 lead into halftime. When facing a 14-point deficit at any point in the game, Texas hasn’t won since 2007.
The ‘Horns ended up losing by three points, 24-21.
Texas also gave up a touchdown during that minute to Baylor after allowing quarterback Seth Russell to convert a scramble on 3rd and 15, as well as another touchdown to Oklahoma State.
During that game in Stillwater, the late drive started out with a sack by the Longhorns, but a long running play by the Pokes and a 52-yard touchdown pass on 3rd and 10 resulted in the score. On that particular game’s version of the back-breaking play before halftime, Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph found a seam between the linebackers and safeties before a missed tackle by Brandon Jones resulted in the Jalen McCleskey’s touchdown.
The lead stretched the margin to 37-25 in an eventual 18-point win for the Cowboys, the largest final deficit this season for the Longhorns.
Against Cal, Texas gave up a touchdown in the final minute of the half when quarterback Shane Buechele threw an interception and the Golden Bears capitalized with a 23-yard touchdown pass to Chad Hansen two plays later.
The late throw and catch gave Cal a 35-33 lead at halftime in a game that eventually ended in a 50-43 score.
In all, opponents have outscored the ‘Horns 28-9 this season in the final minute, including the decisive margins in two contests. The pre-half touchdown by Baylor ultimately forced Texas to attempt the game-winning field goal in the contest’s final minute.
In 2015, Texas gave up a field goal to Cal in a 45-44 loss, but didn’t have late scoring plays influence the outcome in any 2014 games — the ‘Horns either lost too badly or won too large.
How odd is all of this? RobA explains:
In comparison to the other 59 minutes, -54 points is four standard deviations from the mean, which is statistical speak for silly. So silly in fact that the probability it’s due to random chance is only 0.0031%. Whether it’s due to poor clock/game management or something else, Texas has been awful in the closing minute of the first half.
The Charlie Strong era, ladies and gentlemen!