This season hasn’t gone the way the Longhorns expected it to.
Losses to TCU, Oklahoma and Iowa State have dashed Texas’ hopes of returning to the Big 12 Championship game and left the Longhorns with little to play for in their final game of the regular season. Had Texas not had nine student-athletes and 13 staff members test positive for COVID-19 Thursday afternoon, it would have played against a Kansas team that also has fallen short of expectations.
The 6–3 Longhorns haven’t been as bleak as the winless Jayhawks, though they’ve fallen well short of their preseason hopes of rejoining the national championship conversation and dethroning Oklahoma as king of the Big 12. Head coach Tom Herman said he didn’t think this season has been up to his standards.
“We've done some really, really good things and come up short in a four-overtime game,” Herman said. “We've come up three points short and two points short in two other games, and we’ve got to find a way to win those close ones in the future and get us over that hump.”
If this week’s matchup between Texas and Kansas been played four weeks ago, when it was originally scheduled, the two teams would’ve had something to play for besides dignity and pride. At the time, the Longhorns were still clinging to their conference championship hopes, while the Jayhawks were hoping to match last season’s three-win total.
But this time, it’s Texas that has been hit by the virus. Nine positive players and 13 positive staff members led the team to suspend all operations after stating Wednesday the team would return to “limited outdoor activities.” The Big 12 announced Thursday that the matchup would be considered a “no contest” and would not be rescheduled a second time.
Had the game been played, the Jayhawks would have had little more to play for than Texas. Kansas fans initially rejoiced after the NCAA announced it was abandoning win requirements for bowl eligibility in the 2020 football season.
But nine grueling losses later, the Jayhawks’ chances of receiving a bowl invitation are becoming increasingly bleak. Kansas lost its season opener to Sun Belt member Coastal Carolina for the second consecutive season and has only lost one game by fewer than 15 points.
Both Miles and Herman cited the shortened spring practices as partial reasons for why their teams have struggled. Both claimed they weren’t making excuses.
“I think our team can be a more talented team,” Miles said after a 16-13 loss to Texas Tech last week. “I think we have to be with them in the spring. I think we could be a lot better team than we are right now, but there were some issues with our time frame.”
Although Texas hasn’t met any of its preseason goals, Herman said in last week’s press conference that he still hoped to send the seniors out with a fourth straight winning season. Though this weekend’s game against Kansas won’t be played, the Longhorns can still send their seniors out on a high note in a likely bowl game.
“They’re competitors,” Herman said. “This is what they do. They’re young men who compete. And they want to go out, and they want to win every game that they play.”