Big 12 Football

Next Step For Texas: Eliminate Close Losses

Texas will never be a “moral victory” program, but it seems like that’s all we can get from the football team nowadays. In fact, it’s beginning to become predictable. Every time the Longhorns face a ranked opponent, they always have a chance to win the game, but find a unique and creative way to lose it.

How predictable is it? I wrote the majority of this article before Saturday’s game against Oklahoma State was even played, minus the details of the actual game, of course.

Tom Herman has to find a way to eliminate these close losses, or things could go south quickly for his program. For the record, I believe Herman is a much different coach than Charlie Strong, but you can’t argue with some of these numbers.

  • Texas lost three games by three points or less in the 2015 season.
  • Texas lost five games by seven points or less in the 2016 season.
  • And through seven games in 2017, Texas has lost three games by five points or less.

And to take it further on the opposite end, this team’s biggest loss under Herman so far is by ten points. Strong’s team lost by 20+ points nine times in three years. So am I saying the close losses are an acceptable trade-off for getting blown out? Not at all.

The most gut-wrenching thing about the close losses this season is the Longhorns held a lead against the #4, #12 and #10 ranked teams in the country in the fourth quarter.

So what can Texas and Herman do to convert these close losses into wins going forward? I don’t see a solution this year, unfortunately.

With a depleted offensive line, the offense is going to be limited all year. That unit may get a little better, but Sam Ehlinger is going to continue to run for his life every time he drops back to pass. It’s just the reality of the situation. A patchwork offensive line is exactly that…patchwork. It can’t be completely fixed in the course of a season, and it’s not going to be.

Not trying to be negative here, but I see what I see and I’m calling it as it is.

The defense has made an admirable turnaround since week one, and they may have turned in their best performance of the season against the top-ranked Oklahoma State offense. When you hold that team to just ten points in regulation, there’s no excuse to not win the game.

People can blame and criticize playcaller Tim Beck all they want, but the playcalling isn’t the issue. Just look at what Ehlinger is forced to do every play. The offense may be better off adopting a backyard football scheme and just have receivers run around everywhere until they get open. And forget about handing the ball off to a running back.

The good news is the brunt of the Big 12 schedule is over for the Longhorns. The hope of being in contention for the conference championship went out the window against Oklahoma State, and now the goal has been lessened to making a bowl game for the first time in two years.

When you look at how competitive this Texas team has been in big games, wins over teams like Baylor, Kansas and Texas Tech seem like a given. However, the confidence of this team is clearly shaken on offense, and could result in a loss in any game left on the schedule.

Until Texas figures out how to win a close game over a ranked opponent, we are going to see a lot more of what we did on Saturday. It had to be the most frustrating loss of the season for fans, simply because the result was predictable when the Longhorns held a slight lead in the fourth quarter.

In a way, it seems like the mindset of the players is similar to the mindset of the fans, or me at least. Instead of thinking how Texas could possibly pull off the upset, you can’t help but think how they are going to possibly lose the game after playing so well.

It’s the unfortunate state of the program right now, and it may not get any better until next season, at the earliest.

E-mail Chase at chase [dot] holik [at] campuspressbox [dot] com and follow him on Twitter @chaseholik88.

Photo: Flickr

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