On Saturday, the Texas Longhorns defeated the Kansas State Wildcats 27-24 at DKR Texas Memorial Stadium in front of 97,833. While that sentence is a traditional lede, it doesn’t begin to acknowledge the significance of the final score.
Put aside Texas’ remaining three games for a moment and consider that, until today, the season was split into halves. During the first four games, the Horns looked capable of continuing the skyrocketing trajectory set by winning the Sugar Bowl.
But the month of October had other ideas. A youthful roster was exposed by a rash of injuries, and the Longhorns morphed from “promising” to “dismal” during a four-game stretch in which the team went 2-2.
As the season turned to November, a timely bye week greeted Texas. With two weeks to heal and focus on their deficiencies, Tom Herman’s team was tasked with flipping a switch along with their calendars.
Could the Horns find a winning brand of football and finish the season the way they started it? No one knew the answer with Kansas State coming to town fresh off an upset win over Oklahoma.
After ten minutes of comically inept football, Kansas State led Texas 14-0. In those initial ten minutes, all of shortcomings that plagued the Longhorns throughout October were on full display. Worse yet, after an off week where Tom Herman and his charges had ostensibly worked on those habits, there they were at kickoff in the first quarter. With the season’s goals, and likely several coaches’ futures hanging in the balance, Texas’ known flaws were putting the season in a stranglehold and dictating the theme for the Story of the Season.
Then pride kicked in.
Herman recognized the balancing act after the game, “You know, with what these guys have been through these last few weeks and every — all the misinformation that’s been out there and said and written about this team and the attitude and togetherness of this team – teams that aren’t together, teams that don’t love each other, teams that are splintered, teams that are selfish…Teams that are all those things, they splinter, and it turns into a blowout.”
Texas reeled off the next 24 points and kicked a field goal as time expired to win 27-24. In doing so, the Horns kept their chances at earning a berth in the Big 12 championship game alive.
Herman acknowledged the gravity of the situation, saying “Obviously extremely proud of the win, but maybe — not maybe, but definitely more importantly, the things that this crew has been through these last few weeks, to overcome what they overcame, it was special.”
In the grand scheme of the 2019 season, it is difficult to discern whether the Kansas State game will eventually align itself with the first four games or the second quartet. Whether Saturday was a springboard to a return to September’s trajectory or if it represented another iteration of consistent flaws masked by a win remains unknown.
It is a fool’s errand to predict how Texas finishes their season. With consecutive road trips over the next two weeks, the Longhorns are still standing at the crossroad they were in before the Kansas State game.
The obvious advantage to their position is the confidence the team gained by responding to their difficult start against the Wildcats. Whether that confidence can overcome the team’s weaknesses will determine how the season is remembered.
Each week Matt Cotcher will continue to build “The Story of the Season” as it unfolds.
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