Texas Loses Texas Bowl to Arkansas, 31-7

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The Advocare V100 Texas Bowl was the perfect place for Texas to reassert its dominance after a lackluster 6-6 regular season. NRG Stadium was sold out for the first time in the bowl’s history. Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema fanned the flames of the old rivalry by throwing up a quick horns-down symbol while shaking Charlie Strong’s hand earlier in the week. Arkansas finished the season at a mediocre 6-6 like Texas, but beat impressive teams like LSU and Ole Miss. Winning against the formidable Razorbacks would have been assurance of a better future to come for an ailing Longhorn Football program. The stage was set, but Texas floundered.

“Texas has got to mean something. Right now, it doesn’t mean much,” Strong said in his opening remarks during the post-Texas Bowl press conference.

There is no doubt to the truth of Strong’s words. In Texas’s first losing season since 2010, fans took pride in things like beating a ranked WVU team, and qualifying for a bowl game—things that used to be a given.

On Monday night, Texas played at its worst since the 41-7 spanking BYU administered at DKR early in the season. Even though they only put three points on the board, Arkansas broke out of the gates and put pressure on Texas in the first quarter, setting the tone for the rest of the game. Arkansas’ defense limited quarterback Tyrone Swoopes to a cool -1 yards in the first quarter. Things didn’t get much better for Swoopes. He rushed for a total of -32 yards and passed for 57. His worst moment came in a poorly communicated handoff to Jonathan Gray that led to a fumble in Texas’s own endzone.

The Longhorns also lacked explosiveness on the field. “I feel like we knew that they were going to be physical and we just didn’t match how physical they were with us,” Swoopes said. “We just didn’t execute.“

Following a theme of the season, Texas’ offense and defense just did not execute at the same time. The offense composed itself in the second quarter, going on a tight 44 yard drive, culminating in Swoopes blazing into the corner of the end zone. The move earned him redemption for the fumble and reminded everyone for a brief moment of why he was hyped so much coming out of high school. Those 7 points ended up meaning very little as the Texas defense gave up 14 points to Arkansas in that quarter alone, in addition to the 7 points  that Arkansas scored off the Swoopes/Gray fumble. As the defense regained its footing in the third quarter, Texas’s offense had all but disappeared from the game, not scoring again after Swoopes’ lone touchdown.

Like much of the season, the offense played the third quarter like it had already checked out, and maintained its abysmal third down efficiency record of 3-11. “It’s little things like that, that pile up and end up killing you—especially on third down. You can’t have those types of mistakes on third down and that’s what we did,” senior linebacker Jordan Hicks lamented.

Despite the losing season, Texas’ future isn’t hopeless. There have been moments of brilliance throughout the season, revealing Texas’ talent and potential that have yet to be actualized. Near wins with deft playing against UCLA and Oklahoma plus decisive victories against West Virginia and Oklahoma State are evidence of that.

The good news is that Strong has made sure that there is a culture of accountability at Texas moving forward. He noted he and his staff’s failure and took responsibility for the loss. Swoopes and Hicks both took ownership of their failures and the failures of their teammates.

Hicks echoed Strong’s opening remarks about Texas failing to live up to its name, saying, “You’ve got to keep working to get this program back where it’s supposed to be.”

 Image courtesy UT Athletics.

 

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