Thursday night represents the coming of an end for 24 seniors – one last time the burnt orange-and-white-clad fans will cheer them on, one last rendition of ‘The Eyes of Texas,’ and one final trot off the field at Darrell K Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium.
“It’s been a crazy ride,” senior linebacker Peter Jinkens said. “We had a whole lot of ups and downs in my four years here, but I wouldn’t change anything.”
This senior class has played through changing times at Texas. They came to Austin as the No. 1-rated 2012 recruiting class in the nation, according to Scout.com. But they lost several teammates to transfer and dismissals. They played in the de-facto Big 12 championship in 2013, lost to Baylor 30-10 and saw former head coach Mack Brown retire after losing their bowl game to Oregon 30-7.
Then, head coach Charlie Strong was hired in 2014. Strong’s first season with the Longhorns didn’t go well — they limped to a 6-7 finish. This season followed the same trend. Texas sits at 4-6 and needs to win its final two games to make a bowl.
“It’s been a tough road for our senior class,” Strong said. “You think about it, when they signed on here, I don’t know what they were ranked in the recruiting class, but they had a vision. They had a lot of high goals. It hasn’t happened for them, but you just want them to go out the right way on Thursday night.”
Winning their final home game won’t be easy — Texas Tech brings the third-ranked offense in the nation to Austin on Thursday. Sophomore quarterback Patrick Mahomes has thrown for 3,911 yards and 31 touchdowns, while senior running back DeAndre Washington has rushed for 1,282 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Strong said he wants to win this game and the final game against Baylor for the senior class.
“When a young man gets to his senior year, you just want to make sure that they go out the right way,” Strong said. “You would like to have a winning season for them, and that’s still in place for us if we go out and get these next two.”
Junior safety Dylan Haines also wants to make a bowl game for his
Haines said he’ll remember these seniors as some of the best he’s played with.
“Just to have guys above me and have guys around me that also try to lead,” Haines said. “Duke Thomas, Taylor Doyle, J-Gray, all the guys just stood for a lot of the right things. [They] did things the right way, something that hasn’t always been done here … A lot of great players, and a lot of great young men, and a lot of great teammates.”
Senior tight end Alex De La Torre said he’s enjoyed his time as a Longhorn despite the up-and-down seasons and the potential to miss a bowl game this season.
“I wouldn’t take it back at all,” De La Torre said. “I’ve loved every experience, especially these past two years. I’ve learned to deal with adversity in a constructive way. It’s life lessons. It’s going to help you deal with tough times. If a bad season is the worst thing in your life, then you’re doing pretty good.”
The senior class signed to play for Texas 1,393 days ago, and Thursday they’ll play their last home game. Although they’re focused on trying to beat Texas Tech, they know the emotion of their last game in Austin will be there.
“It’s all football on Thursday night,” senior center Taylor Doyle said. “After the game I may get home and just get a half-gallon of Blue Bell and tear up.”