Happy New Year, Burnt Orange Nation! With 2019 soundly behind us, it’s time to reflect on the decade that was.
The 2010-2019 decade will stand as one of the most polarizing 10 years in the broad history of the Texas Longhorns program. Since the culmination of the 2009 season, Texas has gone 71-57, making seven bowl appearances with a bowl record of 5-2. Of those five bowl wins, only one was a marquee bowl victory — last season’s 2018 Sugar Bowl — with the other four being the 2011 Holiday Bowl, the 2012 Alamo Bowl, the 2017 Texas Bowl, and the 2019 Alamo Bowl.
During this stretch, Texas had three different head coaches guiding the program — Mack Brown (2010-2013), Charlie Strong (2014-2016), and Tom Herman (2017-2019). Of the three, Brown amassed the most victories this decade, going 30-21 (.588) in his final four seasons at Texas. However, Tom Herman currently has the best winning percentage of the three, with a 25-15 (.625) record through three seasons. And you may have guessed it, but Charlie Strong’s record of 16-21 was tied for the most losses despite coaching one full season less than Mack Brown, and resulted in the lowest winning percentage (.432).
In a decade mired in mediocrity, with three of them ending with no bowl appearance and four finishing below .500 (thanks, Chuck), the 2010’s will be remembered as a lost era in the proud history of Texas football. Therefore, it’s up to us dutiful and loyal Longhorns to remember the past 10 years — both the good and the bad. And surprisingly, even in what has been arguably the worst 10-year stretch in the history of the program, there’s plenty of memories to look fondly upon.
Here’s a look at Burnt Orange Nation’s top 10 wins of the 2010-2019 decade:
Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium
Perhaps the biggest thorn in Texas’ side this decade were the TCU Horned Frogs. Joining the Big 12 in 2012, TCU went 6-2 against the Horns this decade. Going into this game, Texas had lost four straight vs TCU while getting outscored 153-33 — both the longest streak and largest point differential for Texas in this series.
But in year two under Tom Herman, Texas began to right the ship. Coming off the heels of a significant home victory over No. 22 USC, Texas followed it up with a 15-point victory at home over the No. 17 Horned Frogs. Quarterback Sam Ehlinger totaled three scores on the day, and true freshman safety Caden Sterns had his big coming out game to lead the Longhorns in a win that was bigger than the score would indicate.
There may be some recency bias in this ranking, but you can argue that with context, New Year’s Eve throttling of Utah in the Alamo Bowl is one of the best Longhorn wins of the decade.
Texas skidded into this bowl game after an underachieving 7-5 season. Awaiting them was a No. 11 Utah team that was a Pac-12 Championship away from going to the College Football Playoff. The Utes touted the nation’s third best defense in yards per game, and the fifth best in points per game allowed at 15. The Longhorns were 7.5 point underdogs in a bowl game essentially in their own backyard.
But as soon as the ball was kicked off, all those data points were thrown out the window. Texas only led 10-0 at halftime, but the Horns easily pulled away in the second half thanks to four Ehlinger touchdowns and 108 yards and a touchdown on the ground from running back Keontay Ingram.
Against one of the best defenses in the NCAA, the Longhorns scored more than double what the Utes gave up per game on average, and gained 438 yards of total offense. Meanwhile, the UT defense held Utah to just 254 yards, and didn’t allow the Utes to score until 40 minutes of game time had passed. An all-around domination of Utah closed out the decade with a bang.
Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium
The only game on this list where Texas was favored to win (3.0 favorites at kickoff), Texas went into this early season prime-time matchup following a disappointing 1-1 start to the season. The Longhorns were looking to avenge their loss at USC from the previous season — a defensive struggle that shockingly went into overtime.
This time around, Texas fans packed DKR in anticipation for another close game. Those fans were pleasantly surprised when the Longhorns rolled over the Trojans after pulling away in the second half and ended the game on a 34-0 run. Ehlinger led the scoring charge for Texas with three total touchdowns.
Red River Rivalry
Mack Brown’s final Red River Rivalry win was a stunner, as unranked Texas took down the No. 12 Oklahoma Sooners handily. To start the year, Texas was just 1-2 and staring down the barrel of another losing season under Brown. The win over OU was part of a six game winning streak that propelled Texas into a de-facto Big 12 Championship game that year at Baylor.
Quarterback Case McCoy led the way on offense with two touchdown tosses, and running backs Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown both ran for over 100 yards (123 and 120, respectively). Big defensive tackle Chris Whaley provided the highlight of the game with a 31-yard interception return for a touchdown.
Memorial Stadium (Lincoln, NE)
Nebraska had plenty of motivation to beat Texas in this game. Ranked No. 5 in the nation, playing a Texas team that would ultimately go 5-7 at home, in a revenge game from the previous year’s Big 12 Championship game that ended with Colt McCoy’s dangerously close-to-time-expiring throw out of bounds and game winning field goal, and in Nebraska’s last season as a member of the Big 12, this matchup had every reason to be a Nebraska smearing of the Longhorns.
But as the score above indicates, it was far from that. Texas got little help on offense this day, as was the case for most of a lost 2010 season. But their defense absolutely dismantled the Huskers, holding them to just 202 total yards of offense and a Roy Helu- and Rex Burkhead-led rushing attack to just 2.8 yards per carry.
Red River Rivalry
The largest upset in terms of Vegas points spreads among these games, Texas prevailed over Oklahoma despite a 17-point underdog label. It was fair to doubt the Horns in this one, as Charlie Strong’s second year at the helm was off to a dismal 1-4 start. But this game goes to show, no matter the circumstances, the Red River game is always up for grabs.
Texas racked up 313 yards on the ground, with quarterback Jerrod Heard and running back D’Onta Foreman each going over 100 (115 and 117, respectively). Quarterback Tyrone Swoopes scored twice on just five touches in backup quarterback duty, as the Longhorns defense pressured Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield all day, ending with six sacks and limiting an offense comprised of Mayfield, running backs Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine, and wide receivers Dede Westbrook and Sterling Shepard to just 4.2 yards per play.
Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium
The signature win of the Charlie Strong era. All eyes were on DKR on September 4th, 2016, as the Longhorns played host to Notre Dame on Labor Day night. Many expected a close game, with the Longhorns entering this game as 3.5=point underdogs. But nobody expected for this game to push 100 total combined points.
True freshman quarterback Shane Buechele, in his first-ever start, toppled a top-10 Notre Dame team with 280 yards and two touchdowns passing, as well as adding 33 yards rushing and another score on the ground. Foreman set up a legendary 2016 season with 131 yards rushing, and wide receiver John Burt had one of the best games of his career with six receptions for 111 yards and a TD. But it was backup quarterback Tyrone Swoopes, in the brand new “18-Wheeler” Package, who served as the game’s MVP. He had 13 carries for 53 yards and three touchdowns, including the game winner in double overtime that gave birth to “Texas is Back.”
Red River Rivalry
Compared to Charlie Strong’s second year as coach on the Forty Acres acres, Tom Herman’s was going much, much better. The Longhorns, after suffering an opening loss to the Terrapins, had reeled off four straight wins — including two over ranked teams. Meanwhile, Oklahoma followed up the Baker Mayfield era with Kyler Murray, who up to this point had led the Sooners to a perfect 5-0 record. This game had all the makings for an offensive explosion, and boy, did it live up to the billing.
Texas led 45-24 as the third quarter came to a close, but Oklahoma’s vaunted offense led a massive charge to tie the game with 2:38 remaining. Texas, which had cooled off after a scorching first three quarters, drove 52 yards down the field to set up a game-winning 40-yard field goal for true freshman kicker Cameron Dicker to nail with just nine seconds left. It’s a kick that capped off a ridiculous game on offense from both sides, and a play that will forever live on in Red River history.
The Longhorns exceeded expectations for the first season in 10 years by going 9-3 in the regular season and making their first appearance in the new age Big 12 Championship game. Their reward was an invite to the Sugar Bowl against No. 5 Georgia, which had just taken eventual national runner-up Alabama to the brink in the SEC Championship game. Many experts and college football fans doubted the Longhorns despite their respectable season, and Texas entered this game as 13.5 point underdogs — the largest such spread in the Tom Herman era.
But like many of the games on this list, you wouldn’t have known Texas was the underdog if you had only watched the game. Bevo set the tune early in a pre-game meetup with Uga X, and from there Texas carried that same energy in their romp of the Bulldogs. Ehlinger only threw for 169 yards, but he ran for 64 and three touchdowns, as Texas built up a 28-7 lead in the fourth quarter before yielding two touchdowns in garbage time to Georgia. The win gave Texas its best bowl win of the decade, the only 10-win season of the decade, and a Sam Ehlinger soundbite that, for better or worse, will live on in infamy.
Despite all the games above that were worthy of being mentioned in this top 10 list, there was no other choice for number one this decade. At the time, many Longhorns and Aggies knew they were saying farewell to this game for some time after A&M announced they were joining the SEC following the 2011 season. But with A&M
scheduling more and more FCS opponents booked for the foreseeable future, this game is more of an “if” than a “when.”
And that’s why this win was so important. An Aggie victory wouldn’t have erased 76-37-5 advantage towards Texas, but it would’ve given what is now at least a decade of smack-talk ammo in Aggies saying “well, we won the last one” or “defending champs.” Instead, with Texas trailing 25-24 with just 1:48 left in the game, QB Case McCoy led a seven-play, 48-yard drive to set up kicker Justin Tucker for the game-winning 40-yard field goal. And for now, that’s the final play of this historic rivalry.
Here’s to 2020 and the next decade of Longhorn football. May it be more like the 2000’s than the 2010’s.