At the end of the month, the Texas Longhorns will arguably have the program’s best chance of defeating the Kansas State Wildcats in Manhattan since 2002 as head coach Bill Snyder’s team shows signs of significant vulnerability.
The challenge this weekend will be more significant, even though the game will take place in Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium — head coach Gary Patterson is bringing his TCU Horned Frogs to Austin as he attempts to firmly cement his position as the new purple overlord.
And that’s not a statement made lightly; not many programs have given Texas as much trouble as Kansas State. BYU, Notre Dame, USC, and Vanderbilt are basically the entire list. After the Wildcats joined the Big 12 Conference with its formation in 1996, Kansas State has 10 wins in 18 games against Texas.
The series got off to a rocky start for the Horns. When Mack Brown took over for John Mackovic in 1998, Texas traveled to Manhattan to open conference play and received a 48-7 beatdown courtesy of its top-five opponent. With both teams ranked in the top 15 the following season, Brown’s team was soundly defeated once again, this time by a 35-17 margin.
Texas went on to pick up its last win in Manhattan in 2002 in a close contest and prevailed the next season, too, thanks to one of Vince Young’s most promising performances as a redshirt freshman.
When Snyder retired for the first time and Ron Prince took over, the series turned again, with the road defeat in 2006 and the home defeat in 2007 standing as two of the most brutal Texas losses during the period between national championship appearances.
Aside from home victories in 2013, 2015, and 2017, Texas had a five-game losing streak to Kansas State before the win in Brown’s final season, but it’s now notable that the Horns currently hold a three-game home winning streak.
Into that void stepped Patterson and a TCU program buoyed by the work of current Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte, who led the effort to return from the wastelands of college football where the Horned Frogs spent the period between the dissolution of the Southwest Conference and the current iteration of the Big 12.
When TCU returned, it did so with a vengeance, upsetting a ranked Texas team in Austin in 2012 before Patterson’s worst team in the last decade lost at home in a rain-delayed 2013 contest.
Since then, the Horns haven’t notched a single win over the Horned Frogs as TCU has racked up a four-game winning streak and won five out of six overall since joining the Big 12. The beatdowns started in 2014. In Charle Strong’s inaugural campaign, it was 50-7. The following season featured a 50-7 victory that included cornerback Kris Boyd retweeting a Texas A&M fan at halftime. Strong’s final game didn’t go much better, as a TCU team that finished 6-7 still handily beat Texas, 31-9.
Last season continued the trend of head coach Tom Herman’s teams not getting blown out, but the 24-7 defeat in Fort Worth felt more lopsided than the final score indicated — the Horns were never really in the game.
All told, TCU has outscored Texas 153-33 over that stretch of four games, an average margin of 38-8. The Longhorns have only scored more than 13 points against the Horned Frogs once in that stretch — the 30-7 win in 2013.
Herman knows that if Texas plays well, it can beat anyone. If it doesn’t, the program still isn’t in a position to win a lot of games, especially against its new purple overlords.
“Well, I think our best is good enough to win,” Herman said on Monday. “But we’ve got to play our best. There are teams out there — we’re not there yet, where they can play their C+ game and still win versus a lot of opponents. We’re not there. We need to play our best every week to win, especially now that we are starting conference, or starting in a conference where we play everybody.”
That certainly applies against TCU, which will enter the game ranked No. 17 in the country following a loss against Ohio State last weekend.
Two things seem clear — Texas is going to have to play its best game under Herman to pull out the victory and the Longhorns can’t get to where Herman and fans want to be without consistently beating the Horned Frogs.
Until then, all hail the new purple overlords, more stingy defensively and more explosive offensively than the old purple overlords.