Brendan Maloney / USA TODAY Sports

DAN NEIL: ANY PRIDE LEFT?

After each game this season, former Longhorns’ All-American OL DAN NEIL, who won three conference titles at Texas and two Super Bowls with the Denver Broncos, will provide a breakdown of what he saw. Here's his analysis of Texas' 24-21 overtime loss at Kansas:

Let me just say that we all need to remember that the loss to Kansas is hardest on the young men playing the game.  

 

Say what you want about this team, one thing you can’t say is that the players don’t play hard.  

 

I rarely see a lack of effort on this team, and that is why this season has been so hard to process.  

 

You have talented players playing hard and a running back who might rush for 2,000 yards and the team is 5-6 with one game left?????

 

The question remains why is this team 5-6?  

 

MISTAKES!  

 

Self-inflicted mistakes.  

 

This team has too many unforced errors and a lack of big plays from playmakers.  

 

I will also venture that there are issues inside the locker room.  

 

I have nothing to base that off of except playing football for 21 years.  

 

When you have a season like 5-6 there are usually issues inside the house.  

 

That is a general observation and I may be way off.  

 

I just know that this is a better team than 5-6. But their record says they are 5-6, and they are the ones who have to stand by their record.

 

After Kansas almost beat TCU, I had a bad feeling about this game.  

 

I knew Texas was terrible on the road.

 

Kansas was a better team than their record showed and they were simply due.  

 

You don’t lose every game forever.  Eventually you get lucky and win a game once in a while.  

 

Kansas had a 19-game, Big 12 losing streak and a 23-game FBS losing streak.   

 

Someone was going to be the team that lost to Kansas, and I was worried about this Texas team.  

 

I was worried because of what played out Saturday afternoon.  

 

Texas would dig themselves a hole and let Kansas hang around.  When you do that, you need to have a tough mental makeup to overcome your own mistakes.  Texas does not have that tough mental makeup right now.

 

They have tough players and coaches. They just lack confidence.  

 

They don’t truly believe in their ability to win games.  They hope they can win games late. They don't know yet that they can win games late. So,  when it looks bleak, they all look around for someone to make a play and change the outcome.  

 

They don’t have anyone to make that play right now.  They have good enough players, just not playmakers.  

 

The good players on this team need to realize it is their team, and go make a play.  

 

I have always felt stories do a better job of illustrating my point than I can.

 

In 1994, Texas went to Rice on Sunday night to play a game.  Texas had a 28-game winning streak against Rice and had not lost to the Owls since 1966.  

 

How would you like to be on the team that lost to Rice?  Well, I can tell you it sucks!  

 

We went into that game not ready, and it was not because we did not have the players.

 

We had internal issues.  We were doomed from the start, and we went out and gave the game away.  

 

After a game like that, you can’t look at any of the players that were on one of the teams that beat them for 28 years.  You were ashamed of what you had just let happen to this proud football program.  It was and still is the lowest moment in my football career.  It never goes away.

 

After that game, we had two choices: quit or get up and keep fighting.  What we decided to do was keep fighting.  We had some young players that decided we were not going to let that happen again and we went on to win the next three conference championships with the same coach.  

 

The players need to make the decision not to allow that to happen.  It’s not the coaches who make that decision.

 

Have you ever seen a game where one individual decides that he is not going to lose that game?  I have and that is what I mean about playmakers. 

 

I was at the Westlake-vs-Judson playoff game Friday night.  

 

Sam Ehlinger was making his first start since getting the pins removed from his thumb and he was struggling to throw the ball.  

 

He finally put together a good drive to score what looked like the game-winning touchdown.  

 

Judson got the ball back with less than 2:00 minutes to go and Westlake’s defense allowed Judson to score a game-tying touchdown.  They went into overtime and Westlake got the ball first.  Westlake couldn’t make a play and settled for a field goal.  Judson now had a chance to win.  Westlake was reeling at that point, and you could sense the doubt in the players.  

 

Sound familiar? 

 

Fortunately, not all the players were doubting.  Judson scrambled down to the 2-yard-line and had first and goal from the 2.  

 

The very next play, Westlake’s defensive captain, Levi Jones, forced a fumble with a massive hit, and Westlake won!  That was the moment when your playmakers needed to step up, and Jones, the defensive captain did just that.  You can never quit and never doubt your teammates ability to make a big play.

 

I am often asked about what is going to happen to Charlie Strong at the end of the year?  My response has been consistent, at the end of the year I think the answer will be clear.  

 

Now, I am being asked who the next coach will be?  I guess the answer for most is now clear.

 

I have no idea what will happen with this team and staff this week.  

 

I know that at 2:30 pm CT on Friday, Texas has a chance to earn a bowl berth by beating TCU.  

 

When you have to eat an elephant, take one bite at a time.  

 

I think at this point this team just wants the season to be over.  

 

The players have to decide if they want to play or end the season.  

 

The players need to focus on what is ahead and not what's behind them.  

 

They can’t control what happens to the coaches or the program.  They can only control if they win Friday.  

 

A win might not seem like a big deal at this point, but if you have pride, it is.  

 

These are the games you watch to see what kind of character the players have.  You will see the ones who want to win and the ones who want the season to be over.  

 

I seriously believe from what I have seen, the guys who will actually play Friday want to win and will play hard.

 

When I am asked about that Rice game in 1994, no one ever asks about who the coach was.  

 

They only ask “were you on that team that lost to Rice?”  I have to answer “yes.”  

 

That was my team and I can’t run from it.  That Kansas loss will be on those players forever.  I just want those players to have a moment in their UT career that is more memorable and something they can take pride in.  

 

That Rice loss was the moment I realized it was our team and winning and losing was our choice as players.

 

I just decided that winning was more fun than losing and I wanted to have fun.  I hope these players can learn to have fun and take ownership of their team. Winning and losing is a choice.

 

A few Film Notes:

I think 51 carriers is borderline ridiculous to ask one man to do.  

 

I get why Texas asked D'Onta Foreman to do it, and I commend him for playing the way he played Saturday. 

 

I also think that even if you are asked to carry 51 times, you can’t turn over the ball two times.  He knows this, and I feel bad for him because he has played his heart out all year.  But, the facts are the facts and he knows it.

 

We had all been waiting for Shane Buechele to have that game where he looks like a freshman.  He did Saturday with three turnovers. That can’t happen on the road against a bad team, and he knows it.  He also threw for 165 yards.  In this offense that number is too low.

 

Tyrone Swoopes is asked to be ready at any time to go play QB for Texas, and the entire team is counting on him to do a good job.  

 

Backup QB is a tough position because you are always expected to be ready with fewer snaps than the starters in practice.  You may not get called until the second to last game, but you still need to be ready.  A fumble in this situation is unacceptable and he knows it.

 

All three of these players are great players and great Longhorns.  I feel for them, but they all have a job to do and they need to do their job and they know it!

  

This Texas team is its own worst enemy.  

 

The losses this year have come from mistakes made by Texas and not forced by their opponent.   

 

This means they are all fixable and there is a chance for this program.  

 

The 2016 Longhorns might not go down as a great team, but what has happened this year can lead to a great team.  

 

I encourage the players who are leaving and those who are staying to take some pride in being part of the foundation that helps Texas return to its national glory.  

 

To do this, the 2017 team needs to achieve what it is capable of, and the players need to decide they want to put 2017 on the stadium.

 

 

*****

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