FORT WORTH, Texas - - With all due respect to the paramedic that drove a cart out to help Breckyn Hager in the final minutes of the fourth quarter on Saturday, they had a better chance of swooping in to grab Pope Francis last week in New York than they did Hager with time still left on the clock.
The Longhorns freshmen linebacker had just sustained an ankle injury, adding injury to Texas’ insulting 50-7 loss to TCU, but there was simply no way on earth he was being carted off while the game was still going.
Hager exemplifies heart and toughness; something this Texas program could use a lot more of.
There’s no doubt he was in pain either. He was carted off but waited until after the game and after he had limped to UT’s sideline.
It was the most impressive thing I saw from a Longhorn on Saturday in what was an utterly embarrassing loss to a very good TCU team.
Jerrod Heard had easily his worst game as Texas’ starting quarterback, completing 8-of-20 passes for 48 yards. He was also sacked three times and rushed 12 times for a net gain of 23 yards.
After the game, Heard said it all came down to execution for UT, or a lack thereof.
“It was execution,” he said. “We got out-executed or just a lack of execution during practice to prepare for this defense. We need to keep working hard.”
Immediately after that question Heard was asked if execution was really all that it was that was holding this team back.
“Yeah and part of that is having heart,” he said.
Now we’re getting somewhere.
Heart. Passion. The desire to do whatever it takes for the betterment of the team. Where is that in these Longhorns?
Longhorns linebacker Peter Jinkens said afterward that last Sunday’s players-only team meeting did make a difference, but that the team just needed to play smarter on defense.
… And get some help from its special teams, which, for the third week in a row, made a few costly mistakes. The first one came when long-snapper Kyle Ashby sailed a snap over punter Michael Dickson's head and through the back of the end zone to give TCU a 9-0 lead with 11:33 left in the first quarter.
The score may as well have been 100-0 because once that happened there was no coming back from it.
You knew. I knew it.
Texas’ players had gone to bat for their special teams teammates the last few weeks. Heck, Nick Rose, who missed a game-tying extra point against Cal and then missed two field goals against TCU, is one of Jinkens’ best friends.
But the tone was a bit different after this one, and rightfully so.
When asked if this team knew how to win, Jinkens responded, “I feel like we do but we have to get it from all three phases.”
Accountability. It’s something Jay Norvell has stressed over and over again to his players, and to us media types, that he’s trying to get more of out of the players in this program.
Texas’ special teams members haven’t been made available to us after games so we can’t get their side of things. But they are very much a part of a big-picture issue this program is facing right now.
If execution is truly, really all this team is lacking, as Heard said, special teams most certainly has to do a better job.
But you can’t hang any one game on one phase. Texas’ other two phases were down right pathetic on Saturday as well.
You name a statistical category and those with burnt orange lenses will shutter.
“We have to execute and ramp it up,” Heard said. “We’re not a team that can’t battle. We’ve shown it before. Today was just one of those games that, you know, they got the best of us and we lost.”
A loss is one thing. Getting completely out-classed is another.
“There are a lot of things we need to get done as far as offense,” Heard said. “We really can’t get down right now.”
He’s right about that because they’ll be facing a rejuvenated Oklahoma squad putting up 42 points per game next week in Dallas.
“It is a bitter taste in our mouth but we still have to keep moving forward,” Heard said. “We have a big game next week.”
What’s most troubling about this loss for Texas is the fact that, to a man, everyone said they had not just a good, but great week of practice.
“I felt like we had a great week of practice,” said Longhorns sophomore running back D'Onta Foreman. “As a team I think we prepared well in the film room. I was surprised at how the game ended but we just have to go back and don’t give up on ourselves or the team.”
Foreman was really the only bright spot of the game for UT, becoming the first Texas running back this season to rush for at least 100 yards in a game with 112 on 18 carries.
“We have to clean up our mistakes,” he said. “As a team we have to come together and figure out why we are making these mistakes.”
Foreman believes there are enough leaders on this team to help figure out these issues. Charlie Strong saw it differently.
“When you’re a young team like the youth that we have right now, and you don’t have any leaders who will step up with your older guys, then you’re going to have issues,” Strong said. “What’s happening now is most of your playmakers are the younger guys.”
Foreman thinks those younger guys are ready.
“I feel like redshirt freshmen, freshmen, sophomores, I feel like we are ready for it,” he said. “We just have to get on the same page as the seniors and juniors and play as a team. I think it’s a team thing. We have to get this thing rolling.”
Strong went on to say that when things aren’t going right that someone has to step up, “And that’s what we’re not getting right now. When you don’t have that key guy, that’s what we are missing, that key guy, someone that can take the team over, we don’t have that key guy and we have to find that guy.”
Jinkens, a senior, was not too happy to hear that.
“No comment,” he said, when asked about what Strong said.
And that’s fine. That’s what I would have said to. That should piss Jinkens off, just as it should to see all three phases of the game woefully underperform for Texas.
We’ll see if that pissed off feeling translates into anything worthwhile next week in Jinkens’ hometown.