Now that Texas has completed its regular season, a 2020 recap is in order.
Anxiety characterized the late summer months, as the COVID-19 pandemic raised questions of the college football season’s viability. Power Five programs went into a tailspin trying to keep their seasons alive. By August, it was clear Texas’ season would be played, even if its schedule was altered.
The Longhorns’ first game was a blowout win against UT-El Paso. The usual excited chants of an undefeated season brewed, while skeptics still saw the flaws in Texas’ defense and its reliance on senior quarterback and then-Heisman-contender Sam Ehlinger.
Texas’ 63-56 overtime win over Texas Tech put the team’s faults on display, These weaknesses were ever-present in the Longhorns’ 33-31 loss to TCU. In a year filled with uncertainty, Texas’ season hung in the balance –– a loss to TCU could either energize an undefeated run or be one of the cogs that would sit the team out of another Big 12 championship.
“I told our guys that the cool thing about the Big 12 is the teams with the two best records at the end of the season are going to play for the championship,” head coach Tom Herman said in the TCU postgame press conference. “So we've still got a long way to go, hopefully, in this season. We'll lick our wounds tonight (and) get back to the drawing board.”
In October, the Golden Hat took a quick trip down to Dallas and back to Norman, despite the Sooners entering the game with a losing record. Herman remained adamant that the back-to-back losses were a bump in the road, but the Longhorns’ mission remained clear. The national championship was out of the conversation at that point, but a Big 12 appearance was still plausible, right?
Even after a three-game win streak, Texas’ season would end in familiar territory. The team had highlights over Oklahoma State and a dominating performance against Kansas State, but its Big 12 hopes came to an end with a loss to Iowa State. It’s been discussed ad nauseum, but what needs to change in Texas to bring the Longhorns back?
Former Florida head coach and Texas fan-favorite Urban Meyer is now out of the equation to replace Herman, and another year of the fourth-year head coach seems to be the Longhorns’ fate. Everything has come full circle. The issues posed by the COVID-19 pandemic at the start of the season are still present at the end.
It was only a matter of time before the coronavirus caught up to the team. On Sunday, Texas announced that three players and two staff members tested positive for the coronavirus following the game in Manhattan against Kansas State.
Texas announced Thursday that its matchup against Kansas on Dec. 12 would be canceled and not rescheduled. The Longhorns were initially supposed to play the Jayhawks on Nov. 21 before that game was canceled due to Kansas’ failure to meet Big 12 roster requirements. Athletics director Chris Del Conte said in a statement that nine players and 13 staff members in the program have tested positive for the virus this week.
The new college football “normal” was the same as the national standard for handling COVID cases: Quarantine those who were sick and test those exposed on a daily basis, but still play football on Saturday.
Normalcy as we once knew it seems to be months away given current vaccine rollouts. Even then, it’ll take years to finally get back to what we once knew. But one thing is for sure –– 2020 is weeks from ending, and the Longhorns and people around the world alike are happy it’s coming to a close.