Trailing by seven late, the Longhorns drove all the way to the Texas A&M 12, where they faced a third-and-5. Senior receiver James Kirkendoll broke free past the first-down marker, and quarterback Garrett Gilbert fired. But the ball was tipped into the air by Spencer Nealy and intercepted by linebacker Von Miller.
The Longhorns could have had another chance late, but Texas A&M back Cyrus Gray broke free for a 10-yard run on a third-and-4. The Aggies finally punted on the game's final play, but let the clock run out following the boot before touching the ball to seal the victory.
"It just came down to one more play," said senior defensive end Sam Acho afterward. "That was the difference in this game. They made one more play than us."
A pair of long passes put the Longhorns on the scoreboard first. Quarterback Garrett Gilbert connected on a 30-yard pass to John Chiles, then two plays later found a wide-open Marquise Goodwin for a 31-yard score.
The Longhorns looked like they were going to make it a two-score game, gaining a first-and-goal from the A&M 8, but Gilbert fumbled a handoff and linebacker Sean Porter fell on the loose ball. Two plays later, Cyrus Gray broke free from a tackle, kept his balance and raced 84 yards for the game-tying touchdown.
"I felt like we should have been ahead 14-0 at the half," said Texas coach Mack Brown. "That's what was so disappointing. We could have taken the ball in at half with a 14-point lead and been in great shape with a lot of momentum."
"(Turnovers) are costly," offensive coordinator Greg Davis said. "We all know how important turnovers are … we had to fight uphill from there."
The Aggies took the lead shortly after halftime on a career-long 50-yard field goal by Randy Bullock. About a minute and a half later, that lead became a two-score advantage. With the ball at the Texas 2, quarterback Ryan Tannehill lofted a fade route to receiver Jeff Fuller. Fuller outpositioned safety Christian Scott, who was in one-on-one coverage on the play, and came down with the catch and a 17-7 lead.
Texas came within three when Gilbert dove in from a yard out, only to see that momentum disappear immediately. On the Aggies' first play, Gray took a draw play 48 yards for his second score of the game.
Gray finished with a career-high 223 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries, while Von Miller headed up the A&M defensive effort with seven tackles, three for loss, two sacks and an interception.
Cody Johnson was the main positive for Texas, putting up his second consecutive 100-yard game, running for 107 yards on just 14 carries.
The No. 17 Aggies (9-3, 6-2) will now wait to see their bowl fate, while the Longhorns (5-7, 2-6) will stay home for the first time since 1997.
"I think (the season was) just disappointing," Brown said. "You can say a lot of words. It's not our standard at all.
"It was obvious tonight that our players were as good as theirs," Brown said. "I think it goes back on coaches. It's not talent."
Brown said he would likely come back on Monday to begin evaluating all aspects of the program, including the staff. He said he doesn't have a desired timeframe for those decisions. When asked what he learned from this season, Brown said, "I've learned I don't like losing."
"It's been 20 years since I haven't been to a bowl."
Texas — Marquise Goodwin 31 pass from Garrett Gilbert (Justin Tucker kick), 1:21 1Q
Texas A&M — Cyrus Gray 84 run (Randy Bullock kick), 5:08 2Q
A&M — Bullock 50 FG, 12:06 3Q
A&M — Jeff Fuller 2 pass from Ryan Tannehill (Bullock kick), 10:35 3Q
UT — Gilbert 1 run (Tucker kick), 4:39 3Q
A&M — Gray 48 run (Bullock kick), 4:23 3Q
UT — Tucker 24 FG, 9:46 4Q