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Texas has a costly habit of digging itself into deep deficits

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Texas may be able to battle back from early deficits, but the fact that the Horns are finding themselves in such substantial holes is the issue.

Texas v Oklahoma State Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images

When Texas falls, it’s often into a grave Tom Herman and his Longhorns dug themselves.

Following a 38-35 defeat in Stillwater on Saturday night, the Texas Longhorns have now endured eight losses under Tom Herman, and a theme has persisted throughout a number of the losses. It was evident yet again just days ago.

When something takes place a third of the time, it’s safe to dub it as a habit. Texas has a habit of falling behind by multiple scores early on, already doing so seven times in 21 appearances under Herman, and more times than not, it’s a hole that’s just a bit too deep for Texas to dig itself out of.

Of Texas’ eight losses under Herman, five have come after the Horns fell behind by three scores, with examples of such early struggles stretching from Herman’s debut to Texas’ most recent outing against Oklahoma State.

  • 2017 Maryland: Texas fell behind 27-7
  • 2017 Oklahoma: Texas fell behind 20-0
  • 2017 TCU: Texas fell behind 17-0
  • 2018 Maryland: Texas fell behind 24-7
  • 2018 Oklahoma State: Texas fell behind 24-7

The Longhorns have, however, been able to battle back on four of the noted instances — TCU being the exception — even going on to capture the lead on two occasions.

After falling behind to Maryland last season, 27-7, Texas outscored the Terps by 10 points from that point forward in what ended as a 10-point loss to kick off the Tom Herman era at Texas. Weeks later in what initially appeared to be on pace for a Red River blowout, Oklahoma outpaced Texas to the tune of a 20-0 advantage before the Longhorns stormed back, ultimately snagging the lead away from the Sooners, 24-23, before falling, 29-24.

Fast forward to 2018 and the same circumstances continue to plague the program.

Once again, Maryland hopped all over the Longhorns, amassing a 24-7 cushion before Texas was able to piece together 22 unanswered points and take a 29-24 lead. Maryland, of course, added the final 10 points of the game and won, 34-29. Most recently, Oklahoma State quickly climbed to that same 24-7 edge and carried that 17-point edge into the half, 31-14. Once again, Texas battled back, outscoring the Pokes 21-7 in the second half before falling by just three points, 38-35.

On two other occasions, Texas was actually able to overcome its early deficit, doing so last season in a 40-34 double-overtime win over Kansas State after allowing the Purple Wizard’s Wildcats to conjure up a 10-0 edge, and then again against USC early this season, falling behind, 14-3, before breaking loose for 34 unanswered to cruise to a 37-14 win.

Nevertheless, overcoming two multiple-score deficits doesn’t negate the fact that Texas fell behind by multiple scores on five other occasions and failed to completely mount a comeback. Consequently, Texas’ record sits at 6-2, as opposed to 8-0, and Herman’s overall record in Austin is just 13-8, instead of potentially being as impressive as 17-4.

Is it a positive takeaway that Texas can fall behind early and boast a proven track record of roaring back into the game; sometimes to even grab ahold of the lead? Sure. But the damning reality is that Texas is digging its hold just a bit too deep far too often.

If Texas continues falling into deep deficits at this costly rate — once out of every three games, on average — two of the Longhorns five guaranteed remaining games will see the team dig itself into a multiple-score hole, which, as noted, often proves insurmountable. In fact, of the seven times Texas has fallen behind by multiple scores, its two wins came when the deficit was just two possessions — Kansas State and USC.

When the deficit reaches three scores, Texas is 0-5.

Why Texas falls into such substantial holes on such a consistent basis isn’t entirely clear, though a stagnant offense, blown coverage assignments, and penalties have been prevalent.

What is clear, though, is that Texas simply won’t see itself named among the nation’s elite on a consistent basis as long as these early lapses continue. They’ve cost Texas nearly a quarter of its games thus far under Herman, and six, if not seven games are still to come this season. If the Horns can avoid letting these deeply-dug holes become their downfall this season and enter a bowl game with nine or 10 wins, Texas’ woes out of the gates will be chalked up as a box to check in time for 2019.

But nevertheless, it’s a box that simply must be checked before Texas can once again be what Texas once was.

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