Football

Culpepper Commentary: TCU aftermath

Pat Culpepper. (Will Gallagher/IT)
Pat Culpepper. (Will Gallagher/IT)

6-6. I didn’t see that coming.

For the last month, the Texas football team has shown tremendous growth. They continued to play outstanding on defense, cleaned up the kicking game, and Tyrone Swoopes showed progress.

What caused this horrible defeat to TCU on Thanksgiving night? How did the running game get shutdown to a whisper? Where was the deep ball to John Harris?

One thing I noticed while sitting four rows behind the TCU bench was coach Gary Patterson and his energy. He was enthusiastically coaching up his guys every time they came off the field. The media’s attention to the Texas defense was all the rage last week. Patterson was determined to show how good his defense was. It was his personal motivation all week. The Horned Frogs had held Minnesota (seven points), OSU (nine points), and K-State (20 points) in check offensively this season, but it was the UT defense the media focused on. It was though that the Horns defense could hold TCU’s offense down, while allowing Swoopes to to settle in, drop passes over the heads of TCU defenders, which would allow for wide running lanes for Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray. Texas had a real chance. Or so we thought.

It didn’t happen. The Texas o-line got its butt whipped. TCU’s Davion Pierson (6-foot-2, 305 pounds) not only plugged up the middle, but got big shots on Swoopes and the UT running backs. He was so emotionally charged that the referee had to warn him about excessive celebration early in the contest. The entire TCU defense was on a mission. It was as if Texas was still in Stillwater and TCU was out to prove its high ranking was valid. Point proven.

As a former coach, what I can’t understand is how TCU could sit in a 2-deep secondary, with what amounted to three down lineman at times and Texas still couldn’t run the football. The UT o-line struggled and were no match for the quicker, stronger Horned Frogs d-line, but why they couldn’t fire off the ball and create anything is a mystery to me.

Somehow this Texas offense had no apparent fight or desire to compete this night. The defense, as expected, held up early, harassing TCU’s Trevone Boykin almost every snap. They got in his head and it showed. It reminded me of how UT flustered Baylor’s Bryce Petty earlier in the year.

It was apparent the Longhorns missed Jaxon Shipley, the most reliable 3rd down receiver on the 40 Acres in years. Swoopes lost his security blanket. But TCU put a blanket over the UT wideouts and the Horns had no answer. Believe me, it wasn’t how TCU was playing, rather how poorly Texas was executing. But to their credit, the Frogs defense was the best Texas faced all season. Only freshman Armanti Foreman’s 73-yard pitch-and-catch TD served as a highlight for UT.

There is no solution for Texas at QB at this point. At any other school, the backup QB would be playing by now. Any five-turnover performance at the high school or collegiate level would warrant a QB change.

Coach Patterson and his Horned Frogs were motivated and on a mission. Texas was not. The 2014 Longhorns missed an opportunity to put an exclamation point on coach Strong’s first season in Austin. But Swoopes took a huge step backwards as the future signal-caller at Texas, and opened the door for stiff competition this Spring. At least three times, Swoopes could have made 1st downs with his scrambles, but he slid short of the marker instead of using his 6-foot-4, 245-pound frame to get the extra yardage. You’re playing one of the top teams in the nation and you can’t give everything you got to get that 1st down?

Please allow me to explain the emotion that should’ve been there for UT. In 1962, while a senior LB at Texas, we were the nation’s No. 1 team hosting No. 7 Arkansas on a hot night in Austin. We were all jacked up on nothing but pure emotion. Our offense couldn’t move the ball, and Arkansas was driving late. From our own 2-yard line, we buried the Razorbacks’ RB at the goal line and he fumbled the ball.  Joe Dixon scooped it up for a touchback.

We drove the field and with :36 seconds left, our RB Tommy Ford dove into the end zone for the game-winner, 7-3, good guys. The Texas fans refused to leave the stands until we came out of the locker room. In the last year, I’ve had three people ask me for a photo taken of that hit on the goal line that saved our season.

I thought the 2014 Longhorns would play their best game of the season. They didn’t. They embarrassed every Texas fan in this great state. The same fans who stayed late after UT’s loss to Oklahoma in Dallas this year to applaud the great effort left early this night. These Longhorns left a bad taste in everybody that pulls for the burnt orange. Texas didn’t want it.

Hook’em,

Pat

Pat Culpepper played for The University of Texas from 1960-62 and graduated from UT with a B.A. degree with honors in history. He coached college football for 12 years as an assistant at Texas, Colorado, Tulane, Baylor, and Memphis State and was head coach at Northern Illinois from 1976-79. He also spent 16 years as a high school coach in Texas at Midland, Lufkin, Galveston Ball, Westfield and his hometown of Cleburne. He was selected to the Longhorn Hall of Honor in 1991. His commentary appears regularly in the Inside Texas magazine and at InsideTexas.com.