Texas has lost five consecutive games for the first time in over 50 years less than 12 months after paying $24 million to buy out its coaching staff.
The moribund Longhorns lost 57-56 in overtime to an even more moribund Kansas team on Saturday night to drop to 4-6 on the season. Texas turned the ball over four times including an interception in the end zone with less than 90 seconds left that almost sealed Kansas' win.
Texas came back and tied the game with 22 seconds left. And then the Longhorns struck first in overtime. But an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Marcus Washington after he scored gave Kansas the ball at the 13 for its possession. Kansas then went for two after it scored a TD in overtime and freshman QB Jalon Daniels found fullback Jared Casey in the end zone for the game-winning conversion.
It's the first Big 12 win of the season for Kansas (2-8) and the first road conference win for KU since the Jayhawks beat Iowa State in Ames in 2008.
Texas (4-6) was 4-1 at one point in 2021 after beating Texas Tech and TCU. Now the Longhorns have lost five straight games for the first time since 1956 as it’s clear that the problems at Texas are larger than the coaching staff.
Texas made the somewhat surprising decision in early January to fire Tom Herman after a 7-3 season that included a win over an Oklahoma State team ranked in the top 10 and a 32-point victory in the Alamo Bowl over Colorado.
You don’t fire a coach after a season that finished four games above .500 unless you think you can do much better than that. And after seeing what Alabama’s offense did with five first-round NFL draft picks among its 11 starters, Texas hired Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian to bring that high-powered offense to Austin.
As it turns out, Texas doesn’t have five first-round draft picks on offense. It probably doesn’t even have one. And it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that a unit with first-round picks is better than a unit without them.
Alabama’s transition from Tua Tagovailoa to Mac Jones was seamless. Sarkisian’s presence has not made for a smooth transition from Sam Ehlinger in Austin. Both Casey Thompson and Hudson Card played on Saturday night and neither have been spectacular. Card won the job out of fall camp and ceded the starting gig to Thompson early in the season. But neither QB has been an above-average QB in the Big 12.
The Big 12 is a place that Texas used to dominate. The Longhorns won at least nine games in every season from 1998-2009. Those seasons under Mack Brown set some lofty modern standards in Austin. But they’ve won just nine games twice in the 12 seasons since. And UT is heading to an even tougher conference in the near future.
Texas is off to the SEC sometime in the next few years along with Oklahoma. It’s fair to wonder if Texas would be the worst team in the SEC West if it was a member of the conference this season. Arkansas easily handled the Longhorns in Week 2 and Mississippi State would be favored over Texas if the two met on a neutral field next week. LSU probably would too.
Heck, where would Texas stack up in the East? UT’s better than Vanderbilt … and maybe South Carolina, Missouri, and Florida. Yikes. Texas isn’t supposed to be hanging out in the bottom half of the conference.
But that’s what Texas is right now, either in the Big 12 or the SEC. And no amount of cussing and screaming by assistant coaches in an attempt to motivate the players is going to change that. The Longhorns need an infusion of talent at most every position. And especially at quarterback, as hometown high school phenom Quinn Ewers is now an early-enrollee at Ohio State after decommitting from Texas earlier in 2021.
Can Sarkisian bring that talent to Austin and then get some wins? We can’t rule it out. But we can point to some past history. Sarkisian is just 50-41 as a head coach after going 34-29 at Washington and 12-6 at USC. And Texas is a loss to either West Virginia or Kansas State away from posting a losing season. Only Charlie Strong (2014) and Dana Bible (1938) posted losing seasons in their first year in Austin. Strong made it three losing seasons before he was fired. And Bible’s team didn’t post a winning record until his third season.
Given the expectations in Austin, Sarkisian better turn things around in season two.
- Nick Bromberg
Here are this week's winners and losers:
Ohio State, Michigan, and Michigan State: The three Big Ten East teams all in contention for the College Football Playoff took care of business on Saturday. Ohio State’s offense dominated in a 59-31 win over Purdue, Michigan got a late touchdown to escape with a 21-17 road win over Penn State, and Michigan State cruised past Maryland, 40-21. All three are now 9-1 with Ohio State undefeated in Big Ten play. However, OSU faces both MSU and UM in the next two weeks, so the division will be decided in these next two weeks. The winner has an inside track to the playoff.
Georgia: The top-ranked Bulldogs overcame an early test from Tennessee and pulled out another emphatic victory. This time it was a 41-17 decision in Knoxville. The Vols actually led 10-7 after the first quarter, but Georgia would score the game’s next 34 points to flip that 10-7 deficit to a 41-10 advantage. While the UGA defense forced two turnovers and limited Tennessee to 9-of-19 on third down, the offense put up 487 yards. That included 274 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.
Ole Miss: How about that Ole Miss defense? Lane Kiffin’s offense put up a ton of yards vs. Texas A&M, but could not execute in the red zone. The Rebels outgained A&M 401-98 in the first half, yet had just a 15-0 halftime lead. A&M fought back and had a few chances to take the lead, only for Ole Miss’ defense to intercept Zach Calzada twice in the fourth quarter. One was returned for a touchdown, which proved to be the decisive score in the Rebels’ 29-19 win. One particular Ole Miss fan was quite excited.
Pittsburgh: Pitt is one win away from a division title. The Panthers needed overtime, but they managed to pull out a 30-23 victory over North Carolina on Thursday night to improve to 8-2 (5-1 ACC) on the season. Pitt actually blew a big lead in the game, but still managed to pull out the win. UNC had a chance to take the lead in the final minute, but Pitt held the Heels to a 20-yard field goal to force overtime. Once the game reached OT, Kenny Pickett and the Panthers prevailed. Now Pitt can clinch the ACC Coastal with a win over Virginia next weekend.
Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons are one win away from clinching the ACC Atlantic. Wake Forest knocked off NC State 45-42 on Saturday night to improve to 9-1 overall and 6-0 in ACC play. With Clemson and Boston College left on the schedule, Wake needs to win just one of those games to clinch the program's first division title since 2006. That season was Wake's last conference title. The only other came in 1970. Will the 2021 season bring the third?
Texas Tech: Texas Tech got destroyed by Oklahoma in its first game after the firing of Matt Wells. After a bye week, the Red Raiders regrouped and pulled off a 41-38 home upset of Iowa State on Saturday to clinch bowl eligibility. And that coveted sixth win came in dramatic fashion — a 62-yard Jonathan Garibay field goal as time expired. The Red Raiders actually blew a 28-7 lead in the game, but they still got the win in the end and are bowl eligible for the first time since 2017.
AS CALLED ON TEXAS TECH RADIO: pic.twitter.com/y053W0kawZ
— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) November 14, 2021
Oregon State: Oregon State is bowl eligible for the first time since 2013. After losing three of their last four, the Beavers came home and easily handled Stanford in a 35-14 win. With the win, the Beavers improved to 6-4 on the season with games against Arizona State and Oregon still on the schedule. While they have struggled in road games, the Beavs are now a perfect 5-0 at home this season.
Rutgers: Rutgers dominated Indiana 38-3 on the road to improve to 5-5 on the year. Rutgers hasn’t played in a bowl game since 2014, but now the Knights need to win one of their last two games (at Penn State, vs. Maryland) to get back to the postseason. In the win on Saturday, Rutgers had one of the best plays of the day with a touchdown pass to offensive lineman Raiquon O’Neal. Just beautiful.
— Rutgers On BTN (@RutgersOnBTN) November 13, 2021
East Carolina: Speaking of ending bowl droughts, ECU is headed back to the postseason for the first time since 2014 — the year before the school controversially fired Ruffin McNeill. In the five years since McNeill’s firing, the Pirates have a combined 16-40 record. This year, though, ECU is finally winning some games. The Pirates stopped Memphis on an overtime 2-point try to eke out a 30-29 road win. Now 6-4 on the year, ECU has won three straight games with Navy and Cincinnati remaining on the schedule.
Western Kentucky: After a 1-4 start, Western Kentucky has won five consecutive conference games and is in first place in the C-USA East. WKU, which beat Rice 42-21 on Saturday to improve to 6-4 (5-1 C-USA), made a dramatic switch on offense in the offseason, bringing in the offensive coordinator, quarterback and top receiver from Houston Baptist. That change has paid off as the Hilltoppers entered the weekend ranked No. 5 in the nation in total offense with QB Bailey Zappe leading the nation in passing yards. Zappe threw for 482 yards on Saturday and has thrown for at least 365 yards in all but one of WKU’s games.
Northern Illinois: Midweek MACtion has been excellent so far and the turnaround of Northern Illinois has been a pleasant surprise. NIU went 0-6 last year and was picked to finish last in the MAC West. With just two weeks left in the regular season, the Huskies are 8-3 overall and 5-1 in MAC play following Wednesday night’s last-second win over Ball State. NIU has sole possession of first place in the West.
— #MACtion (@MACSports) November 11, 2021
Oklahoma: Oklahoma justified the CFP selection committee’s decision to rank the Sooners down at No. 8 with its performance on Saturday. OU went into Waco and turned in a sloppy performance in a 27-14 loss. The Sooners were limited to just 260 yards of offense, their fewest ever under Lincoln Riley. Caleb Williams threw two ugly interceptions in the loss, leading Riley to briefly turn to Spencer Rattler. No matter who played QB, the OU offense continued to sputter and the team’s CFP hopes took a huge hit.
Florida: Florida managed to halt its three-game losing streak by beating Samford on Saturday, but it wasn’t pretty. Samford — an FCS program with losses to UT Martin, East Tennessee State, Mercer, Chattanooga and VMI — actually led the Gators 42-35 at halftime. Florida would eventually win 70-52, but it's hard to find many positives when you allow 52 points and 530 yards to Samford. Most UF fans will strongly disagree with Dan Mullen’s postgame assessment of the game.
Dan Mullen: “Calling a win disappointing is disrespectful to the game.”
— Zach Abolverdi (@ZachAbolverdi) November 13, 2021
Auburn: Auburn was cruising early in its game against Mississippi State on Saturday. The Tigers led 28-3 late in the first half, but then the Bulldogs stormed back. And that might be an understatement. MSU scored 40 unanswered points to turn that 28-3 deficit into a 43-28 lead late in the fourth. Auburn would add a late touchdown, but it wasn’t enough in a 43-34 loss. With the loss, Auburn dropped to 6-4 with South Carolina and the Iron Bowl left on the schedule.
Iowa State: ISU has to be one of the most disappointing teams of the 2021 season. The Cyclones opened the year ranked in the top 10 with some CFP hype. Now, after losing to Texas Tech on Saturday, the Cyclones are just 6-4 on the season. Iowa State overcame a 31-14 halftime deficit and tied the score with a minute to go, only to allow the game-winning TTU field goal as time expired.
Miami: Miami’s push for an eight-win season went off the road in a 31-28 loss to Florida State on Saturday. Miami entered the game at 5-4 and fell down 17-0 early to the Seminoles. The Hurricanes came back to take a 28-20 lead in the fourth quarter but gave up 11 points in the final five minutes. FSU scored a TD with 26 second left to win after Jordan Travis snuck it into the end zone following some terrible clock management by Miami coach Manny Diaz. With FSU facing first and goal at the 1 with over 50 seconds left, Miami was in a position to let FSU score and get the ball back with two timeouts. Diaz instead used both of Miami’s timeouts hoping his defense could stop Florida State on multiple attempts from a yard away. And that backfired.
Syracuse: Syracuse won just one game a year ago, so there wasn’t much expected from Dino Babers’ team this year. Coming off a bye week, though, Syracuse had the chance to clinch bowl eligibility with a win over Louisville on Saturday. Instead, the Orange laid an egg and got absolutely trounced, 41-3. Syracuse mustered only 184 yards of offense in the loss, which dropped the team to 5-5 on the year. The Orange now has to beat one of the two ranked teams remaining on its schedule to get to a bowl: No. 16 NC State or No. 21 Pittsburgh.
Washington: Washington’s brutal season continues. The Huskies dropped to 4-6 with a 35-30 home loss to Arizona State. Washington had a 17-7 halftime lead and a 24-14 lead entering the fourth, but Arizona State responded to take its first lead of the day with just 1:11 left in regulation. The Huskies played the game without head coach Jimmy Lake, who was suspended for a sideline incident with a player. UW now has to win its last two games — at Colorado and vs. Washington State in the Apple Cup — to get to bowl eligibility. Before the 2020 pandemic season, UW had played in a bowl game in 10 consecutive seasons.
Northwestern: Northwestern is staring at a second 3-9 record in the last three seasons. The Wildcats dropped to 3-7 with a 35-7 loss to Wisconsin on Saturday. It was the team’s fourth consecutive loss. During that losing streak, Northwestern is averaging just 10 points per game. It has been ugly on a weekly basis. The 2019 team that went 3-9 was the worst season of the Pat Fitzgerald era. It could happen again just two years later.
UMass: Not much is expected from UMass, but losing back-to-back home games to FCS opponents might be a new low. The Minutemen lost 35-22 to Rhode Island last weekend, a game that led to the firing of Walt Bell. Saturday’s effort was worse. UMass lost 35-10 to Maine, a team that was 4-4 against FCS opponents this season. The Minutemen are now 1-9 on the year with road games against Army and New Mexico State remaining.
Florida International: It looks like FIU has given up. The Panthers beat Long Island, an FCS team, 48-10 in their opener. Since then, FIU has lost nine consecutive games. The 50-10 loss to Middle Tennessee was the most lopsided yet. The Butch Davis era is likely coming to an end.