So close yet so far away: 5 Observations from No. 18 Texas’ 17-10 loss to No. 4 TCU

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Jeffrey McWhorter/AP/Shutterstock (13448896e) Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers (3) throws a pass during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Oklahoma at the Cotton Bowl, in Dallas Texas Oklahoma Football, Dallas, United States – 08 Oct 2022

So close yet so far away: 5 Observations from No. 18 Texas’ 17-10 loss to No. 4 TCU

In a matchup that lived up to the hype, No. 4 TCU kept its CFP playoff dreams alive, defeating No. 18 Texas 17-10. The Longhorn defense delivered a heroic effort, harassing Horned Frog quarterback Max Duggan repeatedly, but as the game wore on, the Horned Frogs were able to capitalize on key penalties and two big plays to secure the win. TCU improved to 10-0 and clinched a berth in the Big 12 Championship Game.

Shootout?: In a game that featured two vaunted offenses, it was the defenses of both teams that showed up first. The first quarter was dominated by the defensive fronts. In the opening stanza, the defenses combined for four sacks, and both quarterbacks were under constant pressure. For Texas, defensive lineman Barryn Sorrell led the charge in harassing TCU quarterback Max Duggan. The only scoring threat of the quarter was snuffed out when Texas blocked a field goal attempt just before the quarter ended. The Horned Frogs’ defense was aided by two dropped Longhorn passes, but TCU used solid special teams and ferocious defense to keep the Texas offense pinned in their own end of the field for the majority of the quarter. The Longhorns continued the outstanding play on defense throughout the night, eventually scoring on a fumble return to keep hope alive late in the fourth quarter.

Growing Pains: Quinn Ewers’ erratic play continues. The Longhorn signal caller did not complete his first pass until five minutes into the second quarter. Ewers was not helped by his receivers, drops wiped out two first downs, but he misfired on several throws and did not look comfortable in the early going. The talent is there, but at times Ewers’ inexperience has shown in the last few weeks. His problems compounded as the game went on, and he seemed to have difficulty handling the football, processing looks, and even keeping his footing. This type of stretch is a necessary part of the young quarterback’s development, but his inconsistency and inaccuracy have been costly this season. Quinn Ewers may very well be the quarterback that Texas fans and faithful have been waiting for, but he did not appear ready for the big stage tonight.

The Numbers That Tell the Story: Big games are won by controlling turnovers, red zone efficiency, and third downs. Texas failed to convert on its first 10 third down conversions. As well as Texas played on defense, it is almost impossible to defeat a top-five team without winning the battle on third down. In the red zone, the Longhorns fared no better. When opportunities presented themselves, Texas could only muster a field goal and failed to take advantage of two-goal-to-go situations. In the last of the three major categories in big games, Texas was even in turnover margin thanks to a late scoop and score that evened the tally after an Ewers interception.

The Big One: Leading up to tonight’s matchup, the Texas defense had only allowed four explosive plays all season. The Horns had been excellent at forcing opponents to drive for scores and earn every point.  Tonight, when the Longhorn offense struggled to move the ball, TCU capitalized on a 75-yard run and a 31-yard pass to secure the win and clinch a berth in the Big 12 Championship game.

Close, but no cigar: Texas is much better than they have been in years past. The defensive performance turned in tonight has not been seen in Austin in years. There is more talent on the team than there has been, and without question, the program is headed in the right direction. Tonight though, the Longhorns met a team that is on the same road they are, just miles ahead. Much as they have all year, TCU found a way to win. When the big play was needed, the Horned Frogs came up with a big run, catch, or tackle.  Every championship team can look back on a tough loss that served as an education. A time when they met a champion and came up short but learned what is required to attain that level. It would not be a surprise to see a championship Texas team in a year or two point back to this game as the night that forged the resolve necessary to achieve greatness.

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