Murphy's Law states that everything that can go wrong, will go wrong, and that was especially true for a Texas Longhorns team that was shut out, 23-0, against the Kansas State Wildcats in Manhattan on Saturday.
It was the first shutout the Longhorns have suffered since losing 12-0 to Oklahoma in 2004, though there were two other narrow escapes this season.
Head coach Charlie Strong pretty much summed up the game afterward:
Strong, "Today was frustrating because it was self-inflicted." pic.twitter.com/oLvPSN8MLF— Matt Cotcher (@MLCotcher) October 25, 2014
The defense couldn't finish interceptions or get off the field in numerous third-and-long situations and the offense scuffled with breakdowns in play calling, offensive line play, and quarterback play, all of which was exacerbated by several terrible calls by the officials.
An apparent pass interference on Kansas State near the Wildcats goal line went uncalled early game on senior wide receiver Jaxon Shipley:
Of course, the real problem on the play was that the pass was under thrown by Texas sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes -- Shipley had broken open on what appeared to be the same play that worked late against Iowa State and if the ball was in the right spot, it would have resulted in a touchdown.
Then, the Longhorns cost themselves points when Swoopes took a sack on the next play. Part of that was on play caller Shawn Watson, however, as he tried to double up on a release pass to senior tight end Geoff Swaim that had worked earlier.
But the Kansas State defense is simply too disciplined to give up important gains on the same plays so close together. In the second half, Watson tried to double down in an even shorter space of plays and the Wildcat cornerback read the route, broke on it, and nearly came up with an interception.
The real game-changing poor call from the officials came on a terrible spot on 4th down and 1 in the fourth quarter deep in Kansas State territory with the Wildcats up 16-0 that cost Texas a chance to get back into the game:
Gray rolled on top of a Kansas State player and had his right hand braced on the ground as he reached out for the first down. So when his elbow hit, as shown on the above screenshot, the ball was still in the same position it had been fractions of a second earlier.
The Texas running back liked the spot about as much as Horns fans:
The officials reviewed the play, but are unlikely to ever overturn a spot like that, so the Longhorns had a first down taken away and a possible scoring opportunity.
Of course, with this terrible call, the Horns deserve some blame, too -- once again, Texas had to call a timeout because a play call was late coming in and then the ball went to junior running back Johnathan Gray, now the slowest and least physical of the three Texas backs.
Swoopes is 243 pounds, so why not call a quarterback sneak quickly? Perhaps because of multiple fumbled exchanges this year, though none of them have been under center with junior Taylor Doyle there.
On the resulting drive for Kansas State, junior cornerback Duke Thomas had two chances to come up with interceptions, but looked to be interfered with by the Wildcat wide receiver both times, though he could have still come up with the second one when he was "merely" pushed in the back by Lockett just before going for the ball.
But instead of a turnover, Texas allowed Kansas State to score running the football, including a missed tackle on junior linebacker Peter Jinkens in the backfield that could have helped hold the Wildcats to a third field goal deep in Texas territory.
Instead, it was the second time that Jinkens was responsible for giving up a touchdown run, as the first-half touchdown came when he got pinned inside and lost contain on a cut back.
And there were also plenty of penalties on Texas that were the fault of the Horns, including one on each of the three phases by the 13th play of the game -- that's dedication.
Oh yeah, and there were some special teams mistakes, ranging from a 12-yard punt to yet another penalty on special teams and back to numerous missed opportunities to pin Kansas State deep in their territory.
A game Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters wasn't even comfortable running on the day due to the shoulder injury he suffered against Oklahoma last week, but the Texas zone defense continually suffered from breakdowns.
No breakdown on third down was more harmful than a huge 3rd and 14 conversion in the first half as a result of junior cornerback Duke Thomas biting once again on a double move, this time a slant and go by star Kansas State wide receiver Tyler Lockett.
Wildcats scored on the next play to head into halftime up 13-0 as the Horns were able to get little going:
Why was that so important? The Wildcats have the second-longest winning streak in the country when leading at halftime and the Longhorns entered the game having been outscored in the third quarter this season by a count of 52-17.
The Longhorns offense joined in the mistake party later in the game when Shawn Watson called a reverse from freshman running back D'Onta Foreman to senior wide receiver Jaxon Shipley. Yes, the same D'Onta Foreman that hasn't received a carry since the opener. Shipley looked like he wanted a hand off and Foreman gave him a poor toss that the Wildcats were able to recover, with the Longhorns lucky that the defensive lineman opted to dive on the ball instead of scoop it.
As a result of the fumble, Kansas State converted a field goal to go up 16-0 late in the third quarter on an ensuing drive gained only 31 yards, but took 10 plays and took 4:34 off the clock.
By the time that the Longhorns failed on 4th and 1 on the ensuing drive, Texas had possessed the ball for nearly seven minutes in the third quarter which nothing to show for it and the resulting touchdown put the game out of reach.
After the game, Watson said that he doesn't worry about which running back is executing that play, which Strong said that team had been practicing during the week. According to the Texas play caller, whichever running back is in the game gets the ball.
Is that a little bit hard to believe for anyone else?
The best running back for Texas this season has been senior Malcolm Brown, but he only touched the ball six times all game. When asked about it, Strong didn't know why that happened. When Swoopes was asked about whether the fumble was supposed to be a toss or hand off, he didn't know.
Not having explanations isn't acceptable. It's not good enough. As the season progresses, the excuses for the continued mistakes, lack of fundamentals, and lack of discipline diminish.
Swoopes was under pressure all day from an offensive line that regressed, especially in pass protection with sophomore Camrhon Hughes and sophomore Kent Perkins both making mistakes, including both of them getting beat on simple slants when Kansas State brought a fire zone blitz that will inevitably result in slants.
And it didn't help that Swoopes wasn't always especially composed in the pocket or capable of getting the ball out on time. After two performances of more than 300 yards, the young Texas starter managed to avoid turnovers, but he regressed to some of his self-sacking ways and regressed on knowing when the pull the ball in the zone read game, leaving important yards on the field as a result, including the third down play preceding the poor spot by the officials.
The regression by the defense is also concerning. For some reason, the Longhorns have fallen in love with zone defenses that the group struggles to play in, giving up an important crossing route on 3rd and 10 late among other mistakes including several poor drops by Steve Edmond, one of which resulted in a big third-down conversion in the first half.
All told, Kansas State converted a 3rd and 13, a 3rd and 14, a 3rd and 10, a 3rd and 9, and had another incompletely pass on 3rd and 8 result in a first down because redshirt freshman defensive end Naashon Hughes had an obvious hands to the face penalty, the second time in two weeks a Texas defender has done that in a critical moment.
The Wildcats also picked up 18 yards on a 3rd and 20, but opted to kick a field goal after considering a fourth-drown attempt.
Overall, Bill Snyder's team converted nine of 17 third-down attempts and added one conversion on fourth down, a major reason why Kansas State had the ball for almost 40 minutes.
It's no secret that Texas struggles in Manhattan and that the culture change by Strong is going to come in fits and starts, but there's still a bottom line here -- eight games into the season, one step forward and two steps back doesn't cut it.