Texas Football: What now after losing to Iowa State?

(Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images)
(Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images) /

What would it take for the 2019 regular season not to be considered a failure for the Texas football program after racking up their fourth loss?

On one of the most unfortunate plays in recent memory for the Texas football program, the Iowa State Cyclones somehow nabbed a win on a costly special teams mishap. Head Texas football coach Tom Herman saw his team get a very poorly timed offside call on fourth down on Iowa State’s final drive late in the fourth quarter which gave them a second chance to get a closer field goal.

Iowa State milked the clock and eventually knocked in the game-winning field goal with no time left on the clock. That effectively eliminated the Texas Longhorns football program from contention for the Big 12 Championship Game and handed them their fourth loss of the season. Now, the Longhorns are pretty much eliminated from New Year’s Six Bowl contention and will just be hoping for a spot in a decent postseason game like the Alamo Bowl or the Camping World Bowl.

Herman and the Longhorns now exit the bulk of their Big 12 schedule, with just two games remaining during the regular season, with a record of 6-4 (4-3 Big 12). They would need the Baylor Bears to lose out and to win their final two games to even have a shot at the Big 12 Title Game. The rival Oklahoma Sooners beating Baylor in an impressive second half comeback win knocked the 7-3 (4-3 Big 12) Oklahoma State Cowboys out of Big 12 Title Game contention.

Unlike the loss to the TCU Horned Frogs, or even the Red River loss to Oklahoma, the blame can’t fall on the shoulders of junior quarterback Sam Ehlinger. He didn’t have the best completion percentage in the world, going 22-of-40 passing, but he didn’t have any interceptions and racked up three touchdowns.

However, the fact that Ehlinger played pretty well doesn’t take the sting out of this loss. The entire Longhorns offense struggled throughout most of this game, which is an emerging theme from the past four outings. Texas didn’t get in the endzone more than three times in each of the past three games. They were lucky that it didn’t cost them in a big home win last weekend over the Kansas State Wildcats.

What can be learned from this heartbreaking defeat is that Herman needs to start getting separation from his opposition. Texas was down by a two possession margin for most of the third quarter, but they shouldn’t be down by that much in the first place. This was the healthiest Texas was since the start of Big 12 play.

Take advantage of where you have an edge and the Longhorns should be beating opponents like Iowa State with more ease. Just beating them in the first place here would be a step up. Granted Iowa State is never an easy out in a mid-November game at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames.

So where do the Longhorns go from here?

After a devastating loss like this one, it would be easy to lose sight of what could be in the immediate future for this program. So that the Longhorns don’t lose too much momentum on the recruiting trail and still make a good bowl game this season, they need to finish out the regular season strong.

Texas still has showdowns against one-loss Baylor and the Texas Tech Red Raiders. There is also still a glimmer of hope that Herman gets his team into the Big 12 Championship Game. They would need to beat Baylor on the road, and the Bears would also need to fall short against the Kansas Jayhawks, but there is at least still the possibility.

Beat Baylor and Texas Tech, and the Longhorns still have a shot at nine wins and a top 10 preseason ranking for what should be a very promising 2020 campaign. The Longhorns will be losing key players such as senior wide receiver Devin Duvernay and senior safety Brandon Jones, but they will be returning the likes of safety Caden Sterns and Ehlinger.

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Ride out the breakout of one of the nation’s best wide receivers in Duvernay and one of the most underrated safeties in Jones and the Longhorns could be in a good position by season’s end. This season would still be salvageable with nine wins and an appearance in something like the Alamo Bowl.