Texas loss to Oklahoma State shows Longhorns’ feats were house of cards
Tom Herman got really, really angry on Saturday night.
Watching a six-game win streak come to an end has a way of doing that to even the most measured of personalities.
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No. 6-ranked Texas lost 38-35 at Oklahoma State in an emotional Big 12 Conference game at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Okla. In the closing seconds, both Herman and OSU’s Mike Gundy lost their cool while being restrained at the midfield logo.
Afterward, there was a routine, even cordial handshake as both coaches tried to explain their actions. Gundy had taken umbrage to Texas’ Breckyn Hager’s unnecessary aggression as the Cowboys knelt in victory formation. Gundy ran onto the field — first to complain about Hager, and then to restrain his players from retaliating.
When Herman saw Gundy on the field, he sprinted out angrily to meet him, shouting, gesturing, only to be held back — but just barely. They shouted and pointed at each other for several seconds before retreating to the sidelines for the final snap.
Both Herman and Hager were assessed unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.
“I thought Mike had come out and was having words with one of our players,” Herman said. “I took exception to that. When I shook his hand at the end he said, ‘Hey, I was just trying to make sure we were smart and no fight ensued.’ I believe him, we smiled. We go way back, and I have no issues.”
Still, Herman’s agitation was understandable.
After weeks of fighting off “Texas is back” talk, the Longhorns (6-2, 4-1 Big 12) are all but eliminated from any College Football Playoff discussion. (In reality, it was a significant setback for the entire Big 12). UT still control its own destiny for a spot in the Big 12 championship game, but Herman saw the obvious on Saturday: This is no championship team.
In fact, this is a program that just lost to Oklahoma State for the seventh time in their last eight meetings.
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This Longhorns’ season — at least since an ugly 34-29 loss at Maryland in the season opener — had stood tall, a two-month monument built on qualities Tom Herman had identified as “grit and tenacity.”
But that monument was also a house of cards:
— Tulsa dropped two passes in the end zone and missed four field goals in a 28-21 loss to the Longhorns in Austin. The Golden Hurricane on Saturday fell to 1-7 on the season with a home loss to Tulane.
— USC came to The Forty Acres ranked No. 22, but two thirds of the way through the season, the Trojans are merely a 4-4 team. Yet USC started fast against Texas and led the game just before halftime before Texas dominated the second half.
— TCU led the Longhorns 16-10 late in the third quarter before Texas pulled away in the final period. The Horned Frogs on Saturday dropped to 3-5 with a loss at Kansas.
— Kansas State also dropped a pass in the end zone as the first half expired in a 19-14 Texas win in Manhattan. The Wildcats were blown out by Oklahoma on Saturday and fell to 3-5.
— Texas did beat No. 8 Oklahoma 48-45 on a late field goal — after blowing a 21-point fourth-quarter lead — but the Sooners immediately fired defensive coordinator Mike Stoops and have been markedly better ever since.
— Last week in Austin, Baylor threw into the end zone on its final two plays before losing to the Longhorns 23-17. The Bears fell to 4-4 this season after Thursday’s 58-14 loss at West Virginia.
Texas’ resume was just that — accomplishments written down on paper. Nothing else.
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“Extremely proud of the way that our guys fought in the second half,” Herman said. “This was a big learning moment for our guys, I think. We are in a point in our program right now where we can’t not play our best, especially on the road, especially against a really good football team, and expect to win. It’s not going to happen.”
Oklahoma State came in having lost two in a row and three of its last four, but on this night in Stillwater, it was the Cowboys (5-3, 2-3) who showed grit and tenacity, led by former walk-on and fifth-year senior Taylor Cornelius.
Cornelius completed 23 of 34 passes for 321 yards and accounted for all five Oklahoma State touchdowns, including his dramatic third-and-10 pylon plunge to make it a 38-28 game with 5:44 to play.
Cornelius launched deep throws all night, and Tylan Wallace caught 10 passes for 222 yards and two touchdowns.
“That one was a little more fun than the last couple,” Gundy said. “We were pretty good across the board.”
Quarterback Sam Ehlinger nearly led Texas back in the closing moments. Ehlinger, coming off a shoulder sprain two weeks ago against Baylor (Texas was off last week), started slow but finished 22 of 42 for 283 yards with four total touchdowns (two passing, two rushing).
“That’s a really upset and dejected locker room,” Herman said. “I love the fact that one loss hurts that bad. We had guys in tears. To think how far we’ve come, to where one loss matters that much — and it should. That means we are headed in the right direction.”
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