MANHATTAN, Kan. — As the Longhorns walked off the field Saturday, their heads hung low as a cold wind carried the chant, “We own Texas,” courtesy of the Kansas State faithful.
The eyes of Texas looked glazed over; like they’d been searching too long for the answers that would save their season. Like they’d just lost their fifth game of the year.
“If you like this, you should quit football,” head coach Mack Brown told his players after the game. “This is not Texas football.”
After a 39-14 loss to Kansas State, Texas is 4-5 and last in the Big 12 South. After nine consecutive 10-win seasons, the Longhorns have to win two of their three remaining games just to become bowl eligible.
“It hurts,” said offensive tackle Britt Mitchell. “You win some, you lose some — you can’t always be No. 1.”
Garrett Gilbert was the No. 1-rated quarterback coming out of high school, but the sophomore hasn’t played like it at Texas. He hasn’t found any consistency. He’s not on the same page as his wide receivers — he overthrows them similar to how a drunken frat guy tosses washers.
After Kansas State intercepted him for the fifth time, you were probably screaming from your couch for Texas to put in Case McCoy, if you hadn’t changed the channel already.
“[Garrett] hasn’t had much luck,” Brown said. “I know he’s hurting tonight.”
Gilbert’s five interceptions tied the school record for number of interceptions in a game and brought his total to 14 on the year. It was his third game of the season with three or more picks.
“He’s a guy that will let one play go and come back and play the next one, which a quarterback has to do,” Brown said. “He has to have a short memory.”
Gilbert would probably like to erase a five-play stretch completely from his memory, when he threw the ball three times and was intercepted on all three attempts.
“I put our defense in some bad situations,” he said. “We dug ourselves a hole, and we had to throw the ball almost every play in the second half.”
Brown did consider putting in Case McCoy with seven minutes remaining and the game already decided, but McCoy wasn’t loose enough. Then Gilbert got a drive going, so coaches let him stay in and lead Texas to a touchdown.
“We know what [Garrett’s] capable of doing, so we have his back 100 percent,” said running back Fozzy Whittaker. “No matter what.”
Maybe it’s the plays that are called for him, or maybe it’s just the way he plays, but Gilbert stares down his receivers far too frequently. Doing so allows defensive linemen to time his passes and tip them into the air, making it easy for any defender to intercept.
“It was one of those deals where Kansas State had all the right calls,” Whittaker said. “They were able to get all the balls that were tipped and be in the right place at the right time.”
Gilbert says he wants to make Texas bowl eligible, but does he have the talent to do it? There are countless great college quarterbacks that couldn’t make it in the NFL — maybe Gilbert is a great high school quarterback that can’t cut it at the college level. If he continues to struggle, perhaps it’s time to look elsewhere. He isn’t the only quarterback on the roster.