Conquering demons, how Texas hopes to get over TCU hump

Matthew Boncosky, Sports Reporter

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared as part of the October 1 Double Coverage flipbook.

Steve Sarkisian did not once mince words when asked about his messaging to the Longhorns ahead of preparing to take on TCU this Saturday.

“We’re going to show up Saturday at 11 o’clock and kick off and play football,” the head coach said.

While Texas boasts a 63–27–1 record against TCU in a series that dates back to 1897, it’s no secret that the Horned Frogs have had the Longhorns’ number since they first joined the Big 12 Conference in 2012.

Getting over the TCU hump is a task that neither former head coaches Charlie Strong nor Tom Herman could manage during their stints at Texas. Saturday’s showdown in Fort Worth provides Sarkisian a chance, in his first season as head coach, to finally put to rest one of the many sources of frustration that have existed among the Texas faithful for the past decade: the Horned Frogs.

“We’re not naive to the elephant in the room that we’re 2–7 against TCU (in) the last nine years,” Sarkisian said.

The former Alabama offensive coordinator has not been at Texas long enough to experience numerous losses as a Longhorn, but his players have. Senior left guard Denzel Okafor remembers former running back Keaontay Ingram’s fumble on the 1-yard line in last year’s matchup against TCU.

The costly fumble occurred with just four minutes left in the game and would have given Texas the lead. Instead, TCU took over, and a timely first down allowed the Horned Frogs to run out the remainder of the clock, further deepening the Longhorns’ frustrations after yet another loss.

“There’s some things you can’t control,” Okafor said. “You can’t get mad at the guy who makes a mistake every now and then, so you just got to go to the next game.”

What the Longhorns can control is how they prepare for anticipation of the Horned Frogs’ offensive attack led by junior quarterback Max Duggan.

The 6-foot-2-inch, 214-pound quarterback has given Texas fits in recent years with his abilities both as a thrower and a runner. In his previous two games against Texas, Duggan accounted for 655 yards and five touchdowns combined through the air and on the ground. He is the epitome of a mobile pocket passer.

“He knows how to make plays,” nose tackle Keondre Coburn said. “We have to make sure we … contain (coverage) on him.”

Coburn said the defense needs to be prepared for situations when Duggan will extend plays outside of the pocket. Duggan has the ability to make it look like he’s going to run the ball, only for him to throw it over a defensive back’s head after the defense commits to pursuing Duggan on the ground.

“He’s done that a lot to us the past two years,” Coburn said.

Duggan isn’t the only player on the TCU offense that has torched defenses on the ground, however. Sophomore running back Zach Evans is one of the best backs in the nation, and senior defensive back Anthony Cook knows all about him.

As a Lamar High School product from Houston, Cook played against Evans and North Shore High School in the regional round of the 2017 6A playoffs. Cook said he doesn’t remember much about that game outside of how physical a runner Evans is. Against Cook and Lamar High School, North Shore won 44-29, a memory that still pains Cook years later.

“He was successful, that’s why I remember him,” Cook said. “They won. That’s all that matters.”

Whether it’s personal rivalries that date back to gloried high school days, painful memories from recent failures against the Horned Frogs or the fact that Texas still isn’t ranked after two blowout wins, the Longhorns have plenty of chips on their shoulders heading into Amon G. Carter Stadium on Saturday.

But the Longhorns will have to properly channel those frustrations into a complete, mistake-free win if they hope to finally conquer their TCU demons.

“We want to be dominant in the Big 12 and TCU is in front of us,” Coburn said. “We got to take them off the table.”