TEXAS RESOLVE TESTED AGAIN IN LOSS TO OSU THANKS TO ANOTHER FREAK ENDING

This Texas team is like watching a teenager learning to drive a stick shift.

And the last two weeks - in last-minute losses to Cal and Oklahoma State - the clutch didn't just pop at the end of the game, it fell completely out of the car.

The herking-and-jerking is making Longhorns' fans sick.

The defense struggles last week against Cal but improves this week.

The offense was money late in the game last week and terrible late in the game this week.

Coaches on both sides operated without headsets from the first quarter on (because OSU's headsets went out).

There were 16 penalties for 128 yards against Texas in Saturday's 30-27 loss to Oklahoma State, dropping the Longhorns to 1-3 with TCU and Oklahoma away from home up next.

And still Texas was in position to beat the Cowboys at the end - until the unthinkable happened.

Again.

With the game tied 27-all, punter Michael Dickson, who had boomed punts of 58 and 54 yards earlier in the game, had a perfect snap go through his hands. When he grabbed the ball off the ground and tried to kick it, he was in full-blown, blooper-reel mode.

It ended up a 10-yard shank, out of bounds at the Texas 18 with 36 seconds left.

Oklahoma State, without having to move an offensive muscle, was suddenly already in position to kick the game-winning field goal. Two plays later, OSU kicker Ben Grogan booted a 40-yarder with 6 seconds left. 

Ballgame.

After last week's missed extra point by kicker Nick Rose with 1:11 left against Cal, leaving Texas one point short in a 45-44 loss? Are you kidding me? What's next? The long snapper running off the field with the ball?

Charlie Strong stayed with Rose in the locker room until after 1 am last Sunday morning. Offensive play caller Jay Norvell had Rose sit in on offensive meetings all week to keep him surrounded by consoling teammates. At least Texas coaches know what to do with Dickson this week.

But Saturday's ending only exacerbates the anger and frustration UT faithful are feeling. It's all at a boil because Texas is getting so close to finishing games.

If Texas had been wiped out by Oklahoma State, that would be one thing. 

But the bottom line is Texas' 2015 class continues to make plays.

The pick-6 by CB Holton Hill, who needed an opportunity, got one and proved he needs to be on the field.

Freshman CB Kris Boyd had an INT with a big return negated by a flag on Paul Boyette head-butting Mason Rudolph in the second quarter.

Texas appeared to have a fumble recovery late in the game - then didn't.

The brilliant play call for the double pass that appeared to go for a TD to freshman WR John Burt - only to be ruled a forward pass - by inches - from Heard to Marcus Johnson before Johnson let it fly to Burt.

Good teams find a way to win games. Lesser teams find a way to lose them.

The Longhorns' offense moved the ball in the first half.

Hell, even Tyrone Swoopes - now the Swoopes-dozer - was resurrected on Saturday (3 carries for 35 yards, 11.7 ypc, and a 7-yard TD run to put Texas up 20-17 at halftime).

But the second-half offensive numbers were gawd-awful. Texas' last 8 possessions totaled 29 plays for 30 yards.

I thought the offensive coaches got away from the two-back running set too early.

UT's best running plays have been with a lead blocker. Johnathan Gray blocked his butt off Saturday (while running 11 times for 55 yards).

Also would have liked to see Daje Johnson in the two-back set running zone read with Heard.

But I think we will see Oklahoma State, West Virginia and Baylor have the three best defenses in the conference.

And the Horns are trying to turn the corner in terms of confidence, in terms of learning how to finish.

A pass goes through the hands of Texas receiver Marcus Johnson and turns into an INT for Heard. There was a dropped second-down pass by TE Andrew Beck that would have gone for 8 yards in the fourth quarter. Instead UT faced another third-and-10 and failed to convert. 

You could see it with UT's defense on third downs early in the game (timid and terrible) versus late in the game (confident and successful).

Junior DT Hassan Ridgeway woke up and played like a beast today, even chugging 34 yards for a Fat Guy TD.

OSU ran 46 times for 103 yards. That's a huge improvement for the Texas D, which was giving up an average of 241 yards rushing through its first three games.

There's nothing else I'm going to type that's going to take the pain away from Texas fans tonight.

And there were disastrous plays like Heard taking huge sacks on third and fourth down. Charlie Strong getting flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after his team was flagged on the two previous plays for penalties No. 14 and No. 15 - some of which seemed very questionable.

The Longhorns were this close to winning the last two games.

But they didn't.

A trip to TCU is up next. And all I'm going to say about that is TCU's defense has been pillaged by injuries (after it was pillaged by expired eligibility). As I type,  the Horned Frogs are making a circus catch in the end zone to beat Texas Tech in Lubbock. 

No one wants to hear that playing TCU early in the schedule is going to turn out to be the time you want to play them. But it's true.

And at some point, this Texas team will learn how to finish. The defense will learn to love third down, which it seemed to do in the fourth quarter, when Ok State was 1-4 on third downs (after being 8 of 12 on third down conversions through three quarters).

The Cowboys didn't complete a pass in the fourth quarter (0-of-2) and ran 12 times for 26 yards (2.2 ypc).

If not for a freak special teams blunder one week after another freak special teams blunder, Texas would have likely been in overtime - both times.

But the game is over, and it was a loss. Another gut-wrenching loss that will test the resolve of a team playing 21 freshmen.

More brutal lessons to be learned as Charlie Strong and this staff continue to turn over this roster.

Confidence comes from making plays. And more and more young players made plays Saturday.

CBs Holton Hill and Kris Boyd  as well as LB Anthony Wheeler showed up Saturday.

DE Charles Omenihu got a lot of snaps and appeared to grade out well.

Strong desperately needs a signature win at Texas.

But for those who think the "playing young players" is getting to be a tired excuse for the Longhorns, what do you think Hill, Boyd, Malik, Wheeler, Heard, Omenihu, Connor Williams, Patrick Vahe, Michael Dickson - all freshmen - are going to look like next year?

The year after that?

The year after that?

If you think they won't know how to finish a game by then, you're either still laughing at Texas' misfortune because you're not a fan or you're too busy seething with anger because you are a fan.

No one wants to hear that, because it's been six years since Texas was living in the Top 10.

A bunch of UT faithful are pissed at everything and everyone. It's obvious Texas is going to start 1-5! So why wait? Fire the coaching staff now! Fire the players while they're at it!

But look closely and you'll see the talent starting to emerge.

That talent will break through eventually - maybe even against this front-loaded schedule.

In my humble opinion, it's just a matter of time. 


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