Life proved to be cruel Saturday when freshman punter Michael Dickson mishandled a snap with 42 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
He corralled the ball, but his punt only traveled 10 yards, setting up another heartbreaking loss. Oklahoma State junior kicker Ben Grogan sealed the Longhorns’ fate with a game-winning 41-yard field goal. Texas lost 30-27.
“[Football] is a game of life. You’ve just got to let it happen,” head coach Charlie Strong said. “You look at two straight weekends, two straight Saturdays, that we had [the game] right there in our hands, and we let it slip away from us.”
Texas walked off the field against California last Saturday in disappointment after senior kicker Nick Rose missed a game-tying extra point. The Longhorns made the same frustrated trek after their loss to the Cowboys. It was Texas’ third loss, dropping the Longhorns to their worst start since 1956.
“Obviously it hurts a little worse because it’s the second time in a row,” junior safety Dylan Haines said. “It’s always very disappointing when you go out there and play as hard as we played and as hard as we fought. It was just kind of a game that went back-and-forth, and we just couldn’t finish.”
The Longhorns put themselves in a position to win, despite giving up two touchdowns in the first quarter. Texas pulled within one when junior defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway grabbed a loose fumble and ran 34 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter.
With the help of backup quarterback junior Tyrone Swoopes, who appeared three times in a third-and-short package, the Longhorns gained a 20-17 lead when he scored on a seven-yard run.
Texas added its second defensive touchdown when freshman cornerback Holton Hill intercepted a pass from Oklahoma State sophomore quarterback Mason Rudolph.
But penalties hurt the Longhorns as they racked up 16 penalties for 128 yards. None hurt worse than when sophomore defensive tackle Poona Ford was called for defensive holding. Strong and his coaches erupted on the sideline, resulting in a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.
“I probably shouldn’t have got the call I got, but I got upset, and I got to learn to just control my composure,” Strong said. “I’ve never heard of [defensive holding]. In all my years of coaching, I’ve never seen that.”
Groban tied the game with a fourth-quarter field goal, and then he won it with another in the final seconds of the game. For the Longhorn players, it felt like déjà vu — the loss was swift and painful.
“We’re close. We know we’re right there,” Ridgeway said. “It’s just disappointing. We came so close to winning like that. Two times — it’s not just once — it’s twice like that. We missed it by a field goal. We were right there. It hurts.”
The Longhorns couldn’t afford a loss as they face a grueling two-game stretch against No. 4 TCU and No. 15 Oklahoma. But for the second consecutive week, the Longhorns will have to regroup after heartbreak. Senior linebacker Peter Jinkens said Strong told the team it has to pick its heads up.
“It’s all about being able to pick yourself back up,” Strong said. “You’re going to get knocked down, but you have to battle through. We’re not going to give up, and we have a lot of games left to go play.”