Welcome back to Groundhog Day, in which we are doomed to live and relive the same day over and over and over again with no agency to alter the outcome, just the ability to get to the same place in slightly different ways.
On Saturday in the Cotton Bowl for the annual Red River Showdown, that meant that the Horns committed too many penalties and made too many mistakes, but still somehow managed to pull off a late comeback against the Oklahoma Sooners.
Unlike two weeks ago in Lubbock against Texas Tech, but like last week in Austin against TCU, Texas wasn’t able to pull out the victory despite those heroics in the final minutes.
At this point, any attempt to recap demands the score — 53-45 in favor of Oklahoma in four overtimes. Let’s move on.
Prefer to focus on the most significant changes of pace in the midst of all the redundancy of all the stupid ways in which the Longhorns managed to defeat themselves this week?
There were memes! Ah, sweet memes.
There was Texas head coach Tom Herman with an impressive surrender cobra effort after junior wide receiver Brennan Eagles committed a block in the back on a play that produced a three-yard gain by freshman running back Bijan Robinson. Why accept mediocrity when abject failure in an option?
Why leave the best surrender cobras to fans when the head coach can join in? This effort was arguably more impressive than Herman’s outcomes as a head coach over the last several weeks and inarguably less repetitive than his post-game press conferences are becoming.
A loss for Texas fans is a victory for the interwebs. Be the interwebs?
There was this young Longhorns fan on a hot, unsparing day in the Texas sun.
Can anyone blame him?
Oklahoma had just shortly before embarked on its first drive of 15 or more plays in two years, a grinding 17-play, 87-yard slog that featured three third-down conversions, 12 plays that went for six yards or fewer, and not a single play that went for longer than the 16-yard run by Sooners quarterback Spencer Rattler.
But that was just the meat of the, um, sandwich Texas served up to its fans coming out of halftime. We’ll just leave the nature of that sandwich unmodified, but the taste is certainly familiar.
Up for a three and out? Why have one when one can have three? As a treat.
Here’s a fun twist — the decrepit Longhorns punt team that gave up more pressure and another blocked punt in the first half then gave up a 36-yard return to Marvin Mims following Herman’s surrender cobra on the Eagles penalty to contribute to that first three and out.
Meh. A field-flipping punt return is simply a past experience on Groundhog Day, so how about an unsportsmanlike foul penalty on the punter, junior Ryan Bujcevski, for pushing down Mims after making the tackle.
Now there’s some texture in this demented nightmare.
Perhaps before that young man added his twist to the supine posture of defeat, he thought he could have a nice thing. A first down!
After all, Texas was facing 3rd and 1 on the third possession of the second half. Surely an easy conversion on mesh, the Air Raid staple and the go-to play for offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich. But no, instead of finding redshirt freshman wide receiver Jordan Whittington running that very mesh concept wide open into space, Ehlinger decided to target Robinson down the field. The ball fell incomplete and Bujcevski once again took the field for one of Groundhog Day’s greatest grab bags of potential disaster.
Perhaps that young man still thought he might have something nice. This is the cruelty of Groundhog Day — that things can change just enough to give some hope. So it goes.
Two possessions later, Ehlinger appeared to rush for the first down on a scramble. But not, it was called back on review and Ehlinger had to pick up the yardage on fourth down from the Texas 19-yard line.
Behold — a nice thing. The first rushing first down for the Longhorns in the game, only some 50-odd minutes into it.
There was even a happy, feel-good meme after the feel-good comeback happened. How about this young woman, rare in burnt orange and white in her ability to separate against Oklahoma man coverage and finish the play with a catch.
Unfortunately, this receiver lined up offside pic.twitter.com/N6PyHVcl3I— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) October 10, 2020
With walk-on wide receiver Kai Money still earning playing time, she should be good for 10-15 reps per game.
But that’s skipping ahead, because Texas once again did that thing that it’s done on a recent Groundhog Day in pulling off an improbable comeback.
A 99.8-percent win probability on a Groundhog Day in Lubbock down 15 points with just over three minutes remaining is a 99.2-percent win probability in Dallas down 14 points with 5:02 remaining following an Ehlinger interception in the end zone.
The Longhorns defense did its part, as scripted, giving the ball back to Texas for a four-play, 50-yard drive topped off by a Joshua Moore touchdown.
A Cameron Dicker onside kick that took just the right bounce to Malcolm Epps gave way for a Cameron Dicker onside kick that almost took the right bounce to Epps.
Nonetheless, the Texas defense did its part, as scripted, and Ehlinger came through
And then dumb things happened in overtime, just for a little more texture. Herman refused to go for two until the fourth overtime gave way to a game-ending interception by Ehlinger and college kickers went college kickers.
First it was Dicker with a low kick that was blocked at the line of scrimmage and then it was All-American Gabe Brkic simply missing left to extend the game into the fourth overtime.
In a relative stroke of luck for Texas, the coaches didn’t have to pull that young woman with the pass-catching ability out of the stands to play safety in a fifth overtime. She was up next as Oklahoma passed 36 minutes of possessing the football and number of available Longhorns safeties diminished in the game of attrition.
Even games that last nearly five hours have to end sometime, though perhaps the never-ending game will simply serve as the fixture for a future Groundhog Day.
If all of this seems a bit facetious, well, it’s a coping mechanism — there is a certain thrill to another comeback. And Texas has never played a four-overtime game before Saturday. That’s a worthwhile addition to the normal Groundhog Day monotony of penalties and special teams mistakes and wide receivers who can’t get open and a senior quarterback faltering as he’s asked to carry the offense.
The latter two elements have a deep historical twinge of recognition, though. After losing Quan Cosby and Chris Ogbonnaya from that exceptionally fun 2008 team, Texas joylessly slogged through the 2009 season to the national championship game with Jordan Shipley catching a school-record 116 passes and the running game struggling.
McCoy’s completion percentage dropped by six points that year as his number of interceptions increased by 50 percent.
Saturday simply provided some hints of that old Groundhog Day without the joy of Shipley. The days have been getting darker.
With other Groundhog Days looming, let’s perhaps save the post-game quotations and other further analysis for another time — it’s all so similar and yet ever so slightly different — let’s take this one away with a nod of appreciation to the surrender bird.
Surrender cobra spotted with its cousin, the surrender bird. pic.twitter.com/dvjfA7R4u9— RedditCFB (@RedditCFB) October 10, 2020
Bless you, queen. Surely we will all meet again soon.