Self-inflicted wounds continue to plague Texas

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Head coach Charlie Strong discusses a call with the officiating crew in Texas’ 30-27 loss to No. 24 Oklahoma State on Saturday. The Longhorns racked up 16 penalties for 128 yards.
Photo Credit: Joshua Guerra | Daily Texan Staff

There’s no shortage of frustration in Texas’ locker room following its heartbreaking 30-27 loss to No. 24 Oklahoma State. The Longhorns beat themselves for the second straight week.

Texas entered the contest hoping to cut down on mistakes after a clumsy 45-44 loss to California last week. However, the team’s blunders proved even more common — and equally costly — against the Cowboys.

“It’s nothing that someone else is doing to us,” head coach Charlie Strong said. “We do it to ourselves, and we’re going to have to create it ourselves.”

Once again, mistakes overshadowed a performance filled with big plays. Another staggering special teams disaster was the final nail in the coffin as freshman punter Michael Dickson mishandled a snap before shanking a punt with seconds remaining. The debacle set the Cowboys up deep in Longhorn territory to kick the game-winning field goal.

Texas also saw the return of its penalty woes, as the Longhorns drew 16 yellow flags for 128 yards. Those calls included two nullified touchdowns and a called-back interception. Late in the fourth quarter, the Longhorns’ defense also gave up 30 yards in penalties in two consecutive plays. The mishaps positioned Oklahoma State to kick a game-tying field goal.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever been in a game that was so lopsided penalty wise, but we seem to have a bunch and they didn’t seem to have many at all,” said Jay Norvell, wide receivers coach and offensive play-caller. “We just have to execute better. We don’t have anyone to blame but ourselves.”

Keeping games close while committing numerous penalties is a rare feat. Yet Texas lost by a combined four points the last two games, despite surrendering more than 200 combined penalty yards. There will be little margin for error in matchups against No. 4 TCU and No. 15 Oklahoma in the next two weeks.

Both the Horned Frogs and the Sooners rank in the nation’s top-20 scoring offenses. Every yard will count against those teams, and the Longhorns can’t afford to give any away for free.

“All of those penalties we had, that was a big turning point,” senior offensive guard Sedrick Flowers said. “You can’t have all of those penalties and give up all of those yards, not converting because of penalties and all that stuff and expect to win the game.”

Penalties weren’t the only self-inflicted mistakes that Texas committed. Senior wide receiver Marcus Johnson epitomized a night of dropped passes when he bobbled a ball right into an Oklahoma State defensive back’s hands for an interception. On the next drive, redshirt freshman Jerrod Heard lost 22 yards and pushed Texas out of field goal range while trying to avoid a sack.

The Longhorns know their glaring mistakes won’t cut it. They’re digging themselves into a hole with self-imposed losses, and now the clock is ticking. The players have emphasized that they’re better than their 1-3 record suggests. To prove it, they’ll need to play mistake-free football.

“You just have to overcome mistakes,” senior running back Johnathan Gray said. “This team is a very talented team, but we make mistakes and shoot ourselves in the foot. Guys just have to be more detailed, and we just have to get back to work this week.”