FORT WORTH — With injuries and other issues plaguing the Texas offense and the stellar play of the Texas defense, the biggest question for head coach Tom Herman and his Longhorns was how the offense would be able to keep up with No. 8 TCU at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth.
TCU and Gary Patterson easily took care of that question, limiting Texas to just one short scoring drive that came as a result of two 6-foot-5 players coming down with 50/50 balls over shorter corners. TCU scored three times in the first half and once more late in the game to neutralize a strong effort from the Texas defense, winning 24-7.
“Hats off to TCU,” Herman said. “That’s a really good football team. I think it was very evident that you saw the two best defenses in our conference battle it out. From my perspective, the biggest difference was early we gave up a couple big plays. We didn’t match that offensively. Then the defense settled down and had a stretch there in the first quarter all the way with a few minutes left played lights out, played well enough, played winning football.”
The lone Longhorn score came when Texas began on its own 25 down 17-0 with 9:19 left in the second. Sophomore Shane Buechele completed a 37-yard pass to sophomore Lil’Jordan Humphrey, and following a TCU penalty, completed another pass to sophomore Collin Johnson for a 33-yard score.
Besides those two big plays, Texas failed to establish much of an identity on offense. The team rushed for nine yards on 26 carries. Much of the negative net yardage came as a result of seven TCU sacks on Buechele, but even the team’s leading rusher, freshman Daniel Young, rushed 12 times for only 31 yards.
Though the defense put together a strong defensive effort, it still had its struggles early. TCU took its first drive 75 yards in three and a half minutes, capped off by a one yard rush from Kyle Hicks, the first of his two. TCU would add a field goal at the beginning of the second quarter to go ahead 10-0.
“I think that we were so worried about changing formations, personnel, looking at what they were doing, and they were going so fast we couldn’t get lined up and communicated,” junior Malik Jefferson said on the early defensive performance. “Moving forward, watching film, we’re going to make sure we do a better job of that.”
Texas would take the ensuing drive 45 yards to set up a field goal attempt from junior Joshua Rowland. Kicking into a headwind, Rowland’s effort fell in the TCU end zone short of the crossbar.
It would be Rowland’s only attempt.
Texas would score its lone touchdown on the next drive, but would have to punt on seven of their next 10 drives, with the other three drives ending in turnovers on downs.
TCU added another touchdown in the fourth quarter when Darius Anderson juked Brandon Jones on his 31-yard scamper to the end zone to complete the scoring for the evening.
The Longhorn offensive line continued to struggle, failing to open holes for running backs. When it came to passing downs, TCU spread defenders around to give Buechele little room to throw. Behind the bad offensive line, Buechele’s best options were throwing up long balls in the hope his receiver could come down with it.
Buechele finished 21-for-44 for 254 yards and one touchdown pass. Humphrey had a game high 109 yards on six receptions. Johnson hauled in 3 catches for 49 yards and Buechele’s lone score.
The defense limited TCU’s Kenny Hill to just 146 yards on 18-of-26 passing. The Horned Frogs rushed for 177 yards on 46 carries, with Anderson leading the way with 99 yards and a score.
On defense, Jefferson led the way with 10 tackles. Sophomore Brandon Jones and junior Gary Johnson tied for second with nine, and seniors Antwuan Davis and Poona Ford followed up with seven apiece.
Though the offensive line looked rough for most of the game, Herman said postgame he has seen improvement in the unit.
“We have to get better,” Herman said. “Surprisingly, I think we have. I know it doesn’t feel that way tonight, but I think we are steadily improving in that area. Offensive football is really hard when you have to be perfect. We’ve got to find ways, whether that’s throw some quick screens on first down to stay ahead of the chains and not get ourselves in third-and-long and we’ve got to make some more plays down the field too.”
With these struggles, it now is up to Herman and his offensive staff to try and remedy it to give Texas an opportunity to go to a bowl game.
“What I told them is that we have an opportunity to go 1-0 this week and be one step closer to getting to a bowl game,” Herman said. “These seniors deserve to a bowl game. That’s big picture. We have to worry about Kansas this week. We understand that it puts us one step closer to that big-picture bowl. I’m very confident. If we keep playing defense that way, we will find a way to gut out a couple wins here.”