Commentary

Horns put themselves out to pasture

Texas compounds its situation with gaffes against Oklahoma and buries its hopes

Updated: October 3, 2010, 1:02 AM ET
By Jeff Caplan | ESPNDallas.com

DALLAS -- There's an old tune from the hazy San Francisco heyday that goes, "My problems' got problems."

Right about now, it could have been written for Mack Brown, the Texas coach whose team too often stumbled through a burnt-orange fog Saturday in what was one long and strange Red River Rivalry.

[+] EnlargeMack Brown
Tim Heitman/US PresswireTexas coach Mack Brown was left to wonder what could have been as his stumbling Longhorns lost their second straight game.

No. 8 Oklahoma left with a 28-20 decision over No. 21 Texas. But it was the Longhorns who piled onto their own problems -- from two defensive penalties on OU's opening drive to its own last gasp -- with a litany of antacid-inducing missteps.

It will sting because this one still, miraculously, could have gone the way of the Longhorns after the Sooners ran 30 more plays in the first half and led 21-7.

"My gosh," Brown said, reflecting on Oklahoma's failed fake field goal midway through the fourth quarter that yet again tried to jumpstart Texas, which took over at its 43-yard line and then went nine yards the wrong way. "If we'll just take it and score there -- and we lose yards and then have to punt. We had our chances."

Either way, neither the Longhorns and their schizoid offense, nor the Sooners and their frustrating inability to finish the job, look ready for prime time. And that was apparent to Brown, Stoops and the 90,009 crammed in at the Cotton Bowl.

"We even found a way to make this one not so pretty," Stoops said. "For a while, it was pretty darn pretty. Then we uglied it up at the end."

Oklahoma, however, is 5-0 (1-0 Big 12) and regardless of substance and style, all possibilities are on the table. Texas heads back to the drawing board at 3-2 (1-1), losers of two in a row for the first time since 2007.

All that stands in the way of its first three-game slump since 1999, Brown's second season which finished with a Cotton Bowl loss to Arkansas, are the salivating, sixth-ranked, Big Ten-bound Nebraska Cornhuskers in Lincoln.

Depending on whether the voters give the Longhorns points for competing to the end, Texas might head to Nebraska out of the AP poll after a school-record and NCAA-leading 162 consecutive weeks.

After committing five turnovers and eight penalties last week in the blowout home loss to UCLA, the Longhorns entered Saturday's game ranked No. 16 in the USA Today coaches poll. They've been stationed there for 190 weeks in a row.

If Texas drops out of either poll it will be nobody's fault but its own.

Two trips inside the 10-yard line resulted in six points. Senseless, game-altering penalties consistently ruined big plays or big gains. Somehow, OU quarterback Landry Jones' self-inflicted fumble with about 90 seconds to play eluded the oncoming Longhorns with the end zone in their sights.

"I actually thought, I'm not sure if it was Emmanuel [Acho] or Jared [Norton], I thought we were going to pick it up and run it back in for a touchdown, so I was thinking about the two-point play to be very honest with you," Brown said. "And then, it just kind of sat there and sat there, and rolled, and like the rest of the day, it rolled out of bounds."

And, finally, Aaron Williams, the Texas cornerback who helped limit dangerous OU wide receiver Ryan Broyles to five catches and 84 yards below his game average, muffed a punt with 1:02 to go. He fell to the turf, head-first, probably unable to process what had just happened or unwilling to believe it actually did just happen.

"Aaron was obviously devastated," Brown said. "I told him I made mistakes throughout the day and our entire football team did or we wouldn't be behind by eight with a minute and nine seconds left. He wishes he caught it. He didn't. ... But he did not lose the game. I mean, we could have gotten the fumble, we could not have been offsides when we got the other fumble, we could have scored instead of field goals. I mean, there's countless number of things we could have done."

Amen.

The costly offsides, one of nine brutal Texas penalties, belonged to defensive end Eddie Jones. It erased the play of the year for true freshman end Jackson Jeffcoat, who was home in Dallas, where his father Jim played for the Cowboys.

On third-and-7 from the OU 22 in the third quarter, the younger Jeffcoat tracked down Jones from behind and forced a fumble that the Longhorns recovered. Down 21-10, Texas was suddenly very much in business. Or so it thought until the yellow hanky took it away.

"They called offsides," said UT's Jones, a senior. "All I can do is deal with it and play the next down."

Then it was Jeffcoat's turn to wear the collar as the fourth quarter got under way with Texas somehow still in it. This time, the surging Longhorns defense had Oklahoma in a third-and-20 predicament at its 48. Landry Jones threw incomplete. The play was dead, but Jeffcoat inexplicably chucked OU left tackle Donald Stephenson.

The 15-yard personal foul gave Oklahoma a first down.

Three plays later, DeMarco Murray went 20 yards, tiptoeing the final eight along the sideline to score and put the Sooners up 28-10 with 12:54 to go.

"Just absolute killers. Absolute killers," Brown called the penalties. "We will go home, look at them and try to correct them."

Because right now, even Brown's problems have problems.

Jeff Caplan covers colleges for ESPNDallas.com. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his mailbag.

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