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Initial takeaways from Texas’ 33-31 loss to TCU

As we inch nearer to the mid-point of the season, Texas looks like a team with its work cut out to remain competitive in the Big 12.

TCU v Texas Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Texas entered the season proclaiming Big 12 title aspirations. Once again, Texas failed to look the part of a title-caliber team, and achieving that feat will now be even more difficult with Texas notching an early-season loss.

Here are a few takeaways from Texas’ second underwhelming performance in as many weeks.

  • Texas once again committed entirely too many penalties. Rather than improving upon their lackluster effort against TTU, in which Texas committed 10 penalties for 100 yards, the Horns were even worse off on Saturday against TCU. The opening period saw Texas commit seven penalties, which now stands as the most penalized quarter of the Tom Herman era, and more notably, many of those penalties were costly. A holding call negates a near touchdown by D’Shawn Jamison on the opening kickoff. An ineligible man downfield call erased a 47-yard catch and run by Keaontay Ingram on a drive that ended as a three-and-out. On the following drive, a questionable pass interference call on Jake Smith erased a 34-yard pickup. Less than 30 seconds into the second quarter, Chris Adimora and Juwan Mitchell were respectively flagged for pass interference and targeting — TCU scored two plays later. Late in the third quarter, Christian Jones was flagged as an ineligible man downfield, which negated a 26-yard gain to put Texas within the red zone as part of a drive that stalled after just three plays. While those were among the more costly penalties, this theme remained throughout, and without even one or two of those penalties, Texas may be 3-0 instead of 2-1. All told, Texas committed 12 penalties for 92 yards, which was surprisingly the better performance with TCU committing 14 penalties for 109 yards.
  • Sam Ehlinger’s Heisman campaign is likely over. Not only did Ehlinger have to play completely lights out to remain a legitimate Heisman candidate, but Texas had to continue winning. He did pass for four touchdowns vs. TCU, but he completed only 17-of-36 attempts, threw an interception that led to a costly three points, and of course, Texas lost. As is, Ehlinger seemed to be playing from behind in the Heisman race and in a shortened season, a lackluster performance in a loss while other Heisman candidates thrive all-but eliminate Ehlinger from realistic consideration.
  • The Longhorns pass rush may have arrived. Considering the expectations Texas’ defensive line entered the season with, the pass rush had largely been underwhelming early on. That wasn’t the case on Saturday. Texas was consistently in the face Max Duggan, who spent plenty of time on the turf, with much of that impact coming courtesy of a dominant showing from Joseph Ossai, who nearly sacked Duggan several times and did once for a strip sack. Texas still has plenty of room for improvement going forward, but the pass rush asserting itself a bit at least provides a bit of a building block.
  • Elsewhere, Chris Ash’s defense still has plenty of work to do. More missed tackles. Defensive backs losing one-on-one assignments. The rush defense being gashed for huge chunks of yardage, including Duggan’s 26-yard touchdown run to capture the lead late in the fourth. Prior to Duggan’s late run, the defense limited TCU to just six second half points and overall, had held to force four straight field goals, but excelling in spurts and then failing to make stops in key moments isn’t a recipe for success. Though Keaontay Ingram’s goal line fumble will be at the center of blame, the defense allowing Duggan’s touchdown run and then failing to get a stop after Ingram’s fumble on a crucial 3rd and 7 is just as significant.
  • This just doesn’t seem like a team truly capable of winning the Big 12. The talent is there, sure, especially at quarterback, but Texas is just too undisciplined and inconsistent to feel confident that this can end as a special season. I know, I know, every team in the Big 12 besides Okie State has at least one loss, but the fact that Texas should be 1-2 before the Oklahoma game doesn’t inspire much confidence. Again, the talent is there, so nothing would truly surprise me, but until proven otherwise, I expect this team to get in its own way in a couple more losses.