Texas built a 23-14 lead in the first half against nationally ranked Ole Miss Saturday. That was as good as it would get for the embattled Longhorns, which dipped below .500 with their second three-touchdown loss in as many outings.
The Rebels rolled off 30 unanswered points, suggesting the 40-21 debacle last week at BYU was not entirely the fault of dismissed defensive coordinator Manny Diaz. His replacement, Greg Robinson, did not oversee a historically bad showing like the Depantsing in Provo. Nevertheless, the Rebels’ 449 total yards and again exploited the issues the Longhorns have stopping the rush with 272 on the ground.
Ole Miss also exposed a very serious issue that has arisen for Texas the last two weeks: energy coming out of the locker room. Brown said in his post-game press conference that second half struggles are critical for his staff to solve moving forward.
Mack Brown: For some reason we didn't play consistently well in the second half and we have to go back and figure out why.
— Longhorn Network (@LonghornNetwork) September 15, 2013
Head coach Mack Brown is facing a perfect storm of problems. The Longhorns’ defensive woes coincide with an injury to quarterback David Ash, which left the offense in the hands of Case McCoy. The senior is experienced, but simply lacks the big play ability necessary to complement Texas’ multifaceted running game.
Brown was faced with the unenviable choice of either starting McCoy, a quarterback who came into Saturday’s game with the dubious distinction of going 1-5 in games in which he passed more than 16 times. That mark extended to 1-6 in his 24-of-36, 196-yard showing against Ole Miss.
The head coach’s other option was burning the redshirt of Tyrone Swoopes, a ballyhooed but unproven freshman. Swoopes has generated plenty of buzz, and Brown has been quiet on his options with the dual-threat play-maker. But Brown deciding not to play Swoopes in the face of mounting criticism suggests the youngster simply isn’t ready. Sacrificing his redshirt to appease naysayers would be a disservice to the promising Swoopes.
Nevertheless, the quarterback situation is a glaring issue. Brown was left with the choice of either starting the ineffective McCoy or ending Swoopes’ redshirt because the Longhorns lost Connor Brewer in the offseason.
Brewer transferred to Arizona as the writing on the wall suggested he was buried on the depth chart. The situation is not unlike the circumstances leading up to 2010 and 2011, when Texas struggled with quarterback play under Garrett Gilbert and two very young players in Ash and McCoy.
Gilbert’s anointment as starter led to the transfer for GJ Kinne, who flourished at Tulsa.
That’s not all that feels oddly reminiscent of 2010. With a 1-2 mark and a Kansas State program that has traditionally given Brown’s Longhorns fits coming to town next week, the reality of another historically disappointing campaign stares down this proud program.