After the last 12 seasons, it was improbable that the Texas Longhorns would find a new way to notch a frustrating loss, but with a 17-10 loss to the TCU Horned Frogs, they accomplished just that.
With questions arising all week about how the Texas defense could slow down one of the top offenses in the country, the defense answered the bell and turned in one of the best performances in recent memory. But on the other side of the ball, helmed by a coach known for the prowess of his offenses, the Longhorns turned in a historically-bad offensive performance in the loss.
Texas defense: 17 points allowed, 283 yards (124 passing, 159 rushing), 3.88 yards per play
It seems as if the Texas defense were aware of the doubts, with defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski and some potential new defensive stars combining for a championship-level defensive performance.
“I thought defensively, definitely gave us a chance to win the football game. Tackles for losses, sacks, field position, and getting stops,” Sarkisian said following the loss. “A lot of guys played really good on the defensive side of the ball, and plenty good enough for us to win.”
The TCU offense has been a machine this year, going over 400 total yards in every contest, averaging 508 yards per game (219 rushing, 289 passing) for 7.34 yards per play. Not only did the Texas defense hold them well under all of those averages, but it was also the worst total offensive performance by the TCU offense since 2019. Saturday’s game was the third-lowest rushing performance of the year for TCU, behind the Kansas and WVU games, contests in which they passed for 308 and 341 yards, respectively, and the lowest passing output by TCU since last year’s win over Texas Tech, a game in which they ran for 394 yards.
To put it plainly, it was one of the most complete defensive performances any team has played against TCU in a long time and one of the best from Texas and Kwiatkowski.
It was the second-best performance this year from the defense, following the 49-0 drubbing of the Oklahoma Sooners. If you toss that game out as an outlier because of the Oklahoma quarterback situation, you’ll have to go back to last year’s 41-20 win over Rice to find a better performance.
The Longhorns turned in five sacks and 14 tackles for loss in the game, led by Jahdae Barron and Barryn Sorrell, who combined for 6.5 tackles for loss — including Sorrell’s team-high 1.5 sacks. You have to go back to 2016 against Iowa State for another 14-TFL game and to 2020 against Oklahoma State for five sacks, an overtime contest that ended on a Joseph Ossai sack.
Texas offense: 199 total yards (28 rushing, 171 passing), 3.26 yards per play
The reason Texas squandered the defensive performance was once again an offensive output that left much to be desired.
“Offensively, zero rhythm in the game. We could not get out of our own way, which is extremely frustrating. Clearly, we did not see this coming,” Sarkisian said. “The reality of it is that’s on me because I have to make sure that I’m putting the players in position to where they feel confident enough to go make plays, and clearly tonight we didn’t do it.”
This was the worst offensive performance from the Texas Longhorns in seven seasons, going back to the 38-3 season-opening debacle in Charlie Strong’s second year at Texas. However, this game was historically bad for the Longhorns’ offense, specifically on the ground. The 28 rushing-yard performance is tied for No. 18 on the list of worst single-game rushing performances by a Texas Longhorn team, matching a 7-7 tie with the Baylor Bears from 1957.
Even if you add back in the 15 yards from sacks, this game is just nine yards from the bottom 20 rushing performances of all-time.
It was also a banner day for offenses under Steve Sarkisian, putting together one of the worst performances since his time at the helm of the Washington Huskies.
This is the worst rushing day by a Sark offense since his Huskies were held to -5 yards by Arizona State in 2013 and the worst-overall performance by a Sarkisian offense since a 41-3 non-conference loss to the LSU Tigers. At the time, the Tigers were the No. 3 team in the country at the time and were a late-game drive away from beating eventual national champion Alabama Crimson Tide for the SEC West title.
That LSU defense featured 19 players that would eventually make an NFL roster.
Quinn Ewers: 17-39 (43.6), 171 yards, INT
The brilliance we saw from Quinn Ewers early in the season against Alabama and in his return performances against Oklahoma and Iowa State has not shown up in the last three contests and has been costly for the Longhorns.
Over the last three games, must-win games in which Texas went 1-2, Ewers completed 54 of his 119 attempts (45.37%) for 687 yards, four touchdowns, and four interceptions. His 229-yards-per-game average is floated by the best contest of the three, a 319-yard performance against the Oklahoma State Cowboys. He has not been able to get over 200 yards in the last two games, combining for 386 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception.
The gunslinger has been less-than-effective on deep shots over the last two weeks, going 5-of-20 passing for 97 yards on attempts longer than 15 yards in the games against Kansas State and TCU, a 4.7 yards per attempt clip. That may be a contributing factor to Texas’s struggles to run the ball, as teams do not have to fear getting beat over the top like they did a year ago. He’s struggled to connect with the team’s favorite deep target from a year ago, sophomore receiver Xavier Worthy, who in spite of leading the team in receptions and touchdowns, has not been as effective as he was a year ago.
Over the last three weeks, Ewers looked to Worthy 36 times, completing just 12 of those targets for 152 yards and three scores.
With the loss, Texas is no longer in control of its own destiny.
Now, if the Longhorns can win out in their road game against the Kansas Jayhawks and the senior day matchup with the Baylor Bears, they need the Kansas State Wildcats to lose one more game.
Up next for the Wildcats, a road tilt against the West Virginia Mountaineers before closing the season against Kansas for the Sunflower Showdown at home.