Texas’ loss to Kansas State is the last straw for Charlie Strong
If there is one play that perfectly sums up Texas’ 2016 season and the entire Charlie Strong era in Austin, it came in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s loss to Kansas State.
Trailing 24-14, the Longhorns were facing a 3rd and 17 with eight minutes to go. The fact they even had the ball was a minor miracle, after Shane Buechele fumbled the play before and UT somehow miraculously recovered it.
With the pressure coming, Buechele dropped back and threw a perfect ball about 30 yards down field, right into the waiting arms of Armanti Foreman. It looked like a sure-fire touchdown, but right as the ball hit Foreman’s fingertips, it fell lifelessly to the turf for an incomplete pass.
And that right there was the Strong era in a nutshell: Even when things go right, they find a way to turn out disastrously wrong.
Saturday’s eventual 24-21 loss to Kansas State felt like the unofficial funeral for Strong as Texas’ head coach. He’s done. Whether it’s tomorrow or the day after the season ends, his time has run out in Austin. This is a loss that you just don’t recover from.
Now understand, I was one of Strong’s last defenders in the national media. Just a few weeks ago I wrote that he needed more time, and that his team was too young to judge. That with a true freshman quarterback and (at the time) 11 of their top 14 tacklers being either freshmen or sophomores, we couldn’t really judge Strong until at least next season.
On Saturday, I officially flipped. I’m done with Strong. Even I can’t defend him anymore.
It wasn’t just because Texas lost, but how it happened. It’s one thing to lose to Oklahoma or Baylor but it’s quite another to lose to Kansas State, whether the game is played at home, on the road or the dark side of the moon. The Wildcats, who are 3-3 and coming off a three-touchdown loss to Oklahoma, frankly have no business being on the same field as Texas.
However, they completely dominated Texas right from the start. The Longhorns came out lifeless and never broke out of their funk. They were dominated at the line of scrimmage and as usual, even when their defense was in position to make tackles, the K-State offense usually ran right through them. Wildcats’ quarterback Jesse Ertz — who I have to imagine runs about a 4.9-second 40 — routinely picked up big chunks of yards with his feet, rushing for two touchdowns. The normally potent Texas offense was stagnant and the time of possession was a comical 38:27 to 19:33 advantage for K-State. To add insult to injury, the Longhorns missed a field goal that could have potentially tied things up.
And that's got to be the worst part if you're a Texas fan: This team isn’t getting better, isn’t showing any signs of progress but is instead getting progressively worse every Saturday. Heck, maybe the saddest part of Saturday was that K-State didn’t even play anything resembling their best game. And they still won with relative ease.
Maybe this is a fitting way for the Strong era to end at Texas. A once proud program losing on the road to an average team in a not particularly tough venue (Manhattan can be a crazy environment, but Saturday was not one of those days), on a day where the Wildcats didn't even play well. Maybe it's symbolic that Strong was completely outcoached by a guy who was born during World War II and was wearing shoes that were designed for the 1972 U.S. Olympic team.
That last part sounds like a joke, but it isn’t. In the end, the only joke is what the Longhorns’ program has become over the last couple years.
After defending Charlie Strong the entire season (and even before that) I can do it no more.
Saturday’s performance was the last straw. It’s time for him to go.