MANHATTAN, Kan. — Stepping onto the field Saturday, the Longhorns hoped to notch their first signature victory of the Charlie Strong era.
Instead, the Wildcats blanked the Longhorns, 23-0, for Texas’ first shutout in a decade.
That 2004 team bounced back to win 21 straight games, including the 2006 BCS National Championship. This team will likely not follow that trajectory, much less secure a bowl appearance this year. But here are a few key faults from Saturday’s loss:
Tyrone Swoopes struggles
After playing at a high level in the loss to Oklahoma and last weekend’s win over Iowa State, sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes crashed back
down to earth.
Swoopes completed only 13-of-25 passes for 106 yards — less than 5 yards per pass attempt. He struggled both on his passes and in the pocket, throwing many near-picks and taking sacks, including one that knocked the Longhorns out of field-goal range.
“He looked a little flustered,” senior wide receiver John Harris said.
Swoopes made a few plays on his feet — rushing for 31 yards on eight attempts — but those plays occurred only sporadically.
Longhorns unable to execute in all three phases
The Longhorns again failed to piece together the three phases this game.
The scoreless offense only controlled the ball for a third of the game, as it converted just 4-of-13 third-down attempts. It punted on all six first-half possessions and lost a crucial fumble early in its first possession of the second half.
“When you do what we did today and go three and out, it’s a long day,” said Shawn Watson, assistant head coach for the offense and quarterbacks coach.
While the defense showed signs of strength, it allowed the Wildcats to convert 9-of-17 third-down attempts including a 29-yard reception in Longhorn territory for the Wildcats’ first touchdown.
“We’re a lot better [than that] on third down,” senior defensive end Cedric Reed said. “We know that, man. That’s what’s so disappointing.”
To top it all off, an early shanked 12-yard punt set up Kansas State’s second field goal.
Defense fails to force a turnover
Sticking true to its usual losing formula, the Longhorns lost the turnover battle. The defense has forced 11 turnovers in its three victories this season but only three in its defeats. With the offense playing as poorly as it did, the defense needed to make a big play. It failed to produce.
“We’ve got to get turnovers to win,“ senior linebacker Jordan Hicks said. “Especially if they get a turnover, their defense gets a turnover, we need to get a turnover. We weren’t able to do that, so that’s on us.”