Texas Loss to Kansas Grabbed Attention For All The Wrong Reasons

The Texas Longhorns entered Saturday’s game well out of our Top 30 at No. 44, but on a week when most of the top teams were going through the motions against lesser opponents, the Longhorns managed to grab attention Saturday night with one of the day’s biggest stories.

Unfortunately for Texas, it’s not a good story. After trailing by double digits for most of the night at home against a 1-8 Kansas team, the Longhorns rallied for a couple of late touchdowns to send the game to overtime tied at 49. Texas then scored quickly to take a 56-49 lead, but an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on a Longhorn player allowed Kansas to start its first possession of overtime on the 12-yard line. The Jayhawks then scored to make it 56-55 when first-year head coach Lance Leipold decided to go for two and end it.

If you follow college football closely, you know the rest of the story. Kansas converted the try to win in Austin for the first time in school history. The Jayhawks ended several long losing streaks with the win — most notably, a 56-game losing streak in conference road games dating back to 2008. Coupled with a near upset of Oklahoma earlier this season, the game should serve notice that Leipold is changing the culture in Lawrence, Kansas.

This is a Jayhawks team that firmly believes it can win games, and it shouldn’t be overlooked that the team got the win with a third-string quarterback — Jalon Daniels — at the controls. He wasn’t perfect, but he never blinked and has the look of a future star. Less than a month ago, he was likely to be redshirted, but after last night, he’s likely to be the Jayhawks’ starter for the foreseeable future.

As for losing streaks, well, one remarkable streak lived on Saturday night, but it belongs to the Texas Longhorns. The loss to Kansas was Texas’ fifth straight loss, the first time that’s happened since the Longhorns finished 1-9 under Ed Price in 1956. At 4-6, the ‘Horns would have to win their final two contests to go bowling so there’s still something left to play for beyond pride. But that means winning on the road next Saturday at West Virginia and returning to Austin for the finale on the Friday after Thanksgiving to host a Top 25 Kansas State squad. And in Saturday’s listless performance, it wasn’t even clear that pride remains a motivating factor.

You can even make a solid argument that, at least with two games remaining, this is the worst Texas team since that 1956 squad. Only two Texas squads since then have finished with four wins — the 4-7 outfit from 1988 coached by David McWilliams, and the 4-7 debacle that was John Mackovic’s final team from 1997.

I was a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin by then and attended every game of that 1997 season except one — home and away — and I can attest that it was bad. Like really bad. The Longhorns were the defending conference champions after winning the inaugural Big 12 Championship Game the previous season so they were wearing a target on their backs. After opening the season with a 48-14 win over Rutgers, they were mauled by UCLA in Austin, coming up on the short end of a 66-3 result. Remarkably, though, they bounced back to win two of their next three games, including a 27-24 win over Oklahoma in the Red River Shootout. But Texas went on to lose five of its final six games that season with only a win over, you guessed it, Kansas, saving Texas from its first season with fewer than three wins since the disaster of 1956.

What that team didn’t do is lose five games in a row, but the 4-7 finish in 1997 did earn Mackovic a one-way ticket out of Austin. First-year head coach Steve Sarkisian is presumably safe even if Texas loses its final two games to finish 4-8. But if that happens, it would mean Texas will enter the 2022 season on a seven-game losing streak, the second-longest in school history behind that 1956 team that finished the season with an eight-game losing streak. Somehow, so far, Sark isn’t even meeting the lowered expectations of the Charlie Strong and Tom Herman eras that followed the ousting of the legendary Mack Brown following the 2013 season.

So while Sark may be safe for now, one thing’s for certain after Saturday night — he is officially on the hot seat. Texas is, of course, moving to the SEC by 2025, and they already have a home game scheduled against Alabama early in the 2022 season — the first time the two teams will have met since the 2009 BCS National Championship Game. That isn’t likely to go well either, and will likely mean the 2022 season gets off to a rough start as well.

Meanwhile, the current losing streak is the longest most current Texas fans have ever experienced, and it underscores the fact that the Steve Sarkisian Era in Austin is already in a full-blown crisis.

The College Football America Top 30

Outside of No. 3 Oklahoma’s loss to No. 20 Baylor, there weren’t many surprises in the Top 10, and even that wasn’t an entirely unexpected result considering the way the Sooners have struggled against lesser opponents like Tulane and Kansas this season. The loss dropped the Sooners to No. 10.

At the top of the rankings, No. 1 Georgia continued to cruise with an easy win at Tennessee. No. 2 Alabama rolled past No. 130 New Mexico State, and Ohio State and Oregon both won easily. With Oregon back on a solid winning streak, we moved them to No. 3 by virtue of their head-to-head win over Ohio State earlier this year which holds steady at No. 4.

After several weeks at No. 6, Cincinnati moves up to No. 5 as a beneficiary of Oklahoma’s loss. Notre Dame, which lost at home to Cincinnati earlier this season, stays in the mix moving up to No. 6. No. 8 Texas A&M’s loss to previous No. 13 Ole Miss also caused a shakeup as the Aggies drop to No. 13 allowing Michigan State and Michigan to each move up two spots into the Nos. 7 and 8 positions. Ole Miss settles in at No. 9 with the win followed by the Sooners in that No. 10 position.

1. Georgia (10-0)

2. Alabama (9-1)

3. Oregon (9-1)

4. Ohio State (9-1)

5. Cincinnati (10-0)

6. Notre Dame (9-1)

7. Michigan State (9-1)

8. Michigan (9-1)

9. Ole Miss (8-2)

10. Oklahoma (9-1)

11. Oklahoma State (9-1)

12. Iowa (8-2)

13. Texas A&M (7-3)

14. Baylor (8-2)

15. Wisconsin (7-3)

16. Pittsburgh (8-2)

17. Wake Forest (9-1)

18. Clemson (7-3)

19. Arkansas (7-3)

20. Kansas St. (7-3)

21. Mississippi St. (6-4)

22. Auburn (6-4)

23. Kentucky (7-3)

24. Penn State (6-4)

25. NC State (7-3)

26. BYU (8-2)

27. Utah (7-3)

28. Purdue (6-4)

29. Virginia (6-4)

30. Minnesota (6-4)

Published by Kendall Webb

Kendall Webb is a sports writer and photographer based in Middle Tennessee. He is a graduate of Kilgore College (A.A., 1992), the University of Texas at Austin (B.J., 1995) and Middle Tennessee State University (B.S., 2000), and is currently a master's candidate (A.L.M.) in Harvard University's extension studies program with a major in journalism.

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