Longhorns Notebook: UT comes into A&M clash a rare underdog
By Kevin Flaherty
It was only five weeks ago, but now, five weeks later, it feels like a whole season ago.
There sat Texas, with a 4-2 record, including a 2-1 conference mark, with the Longhorns coming off an impressive 20-13 victory at Nebraska. And there was Texas A&M at 3-3 and 0-2 in the Big 12, fresh of a disappointing 30-9 home loss to Missouri.
At the time, the two teams seemed like they were headed in opposite directions. And they were. They just weren't headed in the directions that made sense. Empowered by a quarterback change that started with a platoon effort at Kansas, the Aggies rolled off five straight wins, beating Big 12 heavyweights Oklahoma and Nebraska in the process.
Meanwhile the Longhorns, who appeared to be on strong footing five weeks ago, dropped their next four games, dropping games to teams like Iowa State, Baylor and Kansas State and only winning when a vastly inferior Florida Atlantic team visited Austin.
The Aggies, who were in last place in the Big 12 South, now sit tied for second place in the division with a shot at tying for the South championship should Oklahoma beat Oklahoma State in the Bedlam game this weekend. The Longhorns went the other way, from near the top in the South to the Big 12 cellar. At 5-6, the Longhorns have dropped four straight league games after winning two of their first three and are now fighting just to get to a bowl game.
The difference, for Texas A&M, has been quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who has leveled out the Aggies' turnover issues and brought a steadying presence to an offense already loaded with playmakers. The emergence of running back Cyrus Gray, who has topped the 100-yard mark in each of the last five games, was another key.
Meanwhile, Texas has been nipped by the same inconsistencies that hurt the Longhorns in an early season defeat to UCLA. Turnover problems, red zone scoring issues and an inability to prevent the big play defensively, when compounded with injuries, have set the stage for a rare rough season.
But it's a rivalry game Thursday, meaning that anything can happen. Texas was able to get some of its confidence back with its win over the Owls, and with the short turnaround, there isn't a lot of time to lose that edge.