When the final second ticked off the clock, the Texas Longhorns trailed the Oklahoma Sooners, 29-24, although there were chances at points in the game’s closing minutes. Texas passed on field goals on two fourth downs in the fourth quarter, opting for long pass attempts, rather than putting its kicker on the field.
In a game where the defense had been dominant in the second half, holding Oklahoma to just nine points throughout the final 30 minutes, fans can’t help but ask, “Why pass on the points in a crucial game?”
Against Oklahoma, junior kicker Joshua Rowland did everything that was asked of him, converting on his one field goal attempt, a 34-yard kick to end the first half, and three extra points. But when it came to crunch time, it was quarterback Sam Ehlinger trotting onto the field.
Rowland, an offseason transfer from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, was an attempt to fix inconsistencies in the kicking game. Despite being one of the top junior college kickers a season ago, he has yet to gain his coach’s confidence from long distance.
The loss against Oklahoma was not the first time Texas head coach Tom Herman opted to keep his kicker on the sideline, rather than attempting a field goal; this trend started in the Longhorns’ opening game of the season.
After Rowland missed his first attempt of the season, a 42-yard attempt to put Texas up 10-7, Texas chose to keep the offense on the field, rather than taking 53-yard and 22-yard attempts to cut the Terapins’s lead to two scores.
Against the Kansas State Wildcats, while trailing 3-0, Texas attempted to convert on a fourth-and-goal from the three-yard line, a game that eventually ended with a 40-34 Texas win in double-overtime.
Perhaps most-puzzling to fans is how Texas chose to open the game in Week 3 against the USC Trojans. On the opening offensive possession, Texas opted to pass on fourth-and-two from the Trojans’ 17-yard line, rather than try to take an early lead against the No. 4 team in the country, and ended up losing to the Trojans by that same three-point margin, 27-24.
In spite of the fact that his season-long is 49 yards — a line-drive in the fourth quarter against Iowa State — he has only been successful between 30 and 39 yards, converting on all four attempts from that range.
From any other distance, Rowland has struggled.
He is 1-5 from distances longer than 40 yards and 0-1 between 20 and 29 yards, leaving him with a cumulative 5-10 on the year. Both fourth down attempts against the Sooners, from 44 and 51 yards, were outside Rowland’s preferred distance — a fact that could have influenced Herman’s decision in the fourth quarter.
Instead of attempting the kick, Texas opted to let Ehlinger try for conversions from eight and 13 yards with the game on the line.
As Texas moves into the final six games of the season, they welcome another offensive juggernaut to Austin in No. 14 Oklahoma State Cowboys.
Expectations continue to shift from moral victories to actual victories, so the Longhorns must find answers in the kicking game if they hope to reach the six-win mark and a bowl game for the first time in three seasons.
Points will be at a premium and as we’ve already seen this season, simple field goals can prove to be the difference in wins and losses.