HOUSTON-- For Texas, Monday night epitomized head coach Charlie Strong’s first year struggles and sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes’ inconsistent play.
At NRG Stadium in the AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl, Arkansas (7-6, 2-4 SEC) topped the Longhorns (6-7, 5-4 Big 12) 31-7 in a matchup of two historical Southwest Conference rivals. Texas gained just 59 yards in the contest, the fewest of any FBS team through all of 2014, according to ESPN.
“You don’t ever expect to go out and get hammered in a bowl game 31-7 when you had a month to go prepare,” Strong said. “Texas has got to mean something. Right now, it doesn’t mean much.”
Arkansas dominated the game throughout. When both teams started out slowly, Arkansas inched out to a 3-0 lead at first quarter’s end. The Razorbacks contained the Longhorns to just 17 yards and two first downs through the first quarter and began to pull away in the second.
The Razorbacks’ offense began to explode in the second quarter. Junior quarterback Brandon Allen began the streak with a 36-yard touchdown pass just 45 seconds into the second. Next, defensive tackle Taiwan Johnson ramped up momentum by recovering junior running back Johnathan Gray’s endzone fumble for a second touchdown halfway through the second quarter. The score marked just the third touchdown by Arkansas defense through 2014.
“[Gray and I] weren’t on the same page when he missed the handoff,” Swoopes said. “We just didn’t execute. At the end of the day, that’s what you got to do.”
As Swoopes—and the Texas offense as a whole—struggled to succeed with the pass game, the Longhorns alternated between the run game and short passes through the first half. Swoopes completed six-of-10 for 30 yards before halftime and lost 19 yards on two sacks. Even so, it was Swoopes’ run game alone that put Texas on the board. His nine-yard rush with 3:50 to go in the second quarter shrunk the Texas deficit to 17-7. The Longhorns entered the half down 24-7 and wouldn’t score again.
“They were just physical,” Swoopes said of the Arkansas defense. “They had a lot of guys to the point of the attack and just all played hard for 60 minutes.”
In addition to gaining a lowly 59 yards on offense, the Longhorns also played their eighth scoreless third quarter of the season. Texas ends its season with just 23 third-quarter points in 2014.
Strong said Texas’ game needs to improve in every quarter.
“A lot of time in the first half it’s a low-scoring game and in the second half, it just falls in on us,” Strong said. “It’s just about guys finishing and executing. We don’t finish. We didn’t do a great job of finishing.”
Texas allowed one more rushing touchdown in the fourth, as Arkansas capped off its day with 351 total offensive yards—292 more than the Longhorns produced. Allen, the game’s most valuable player, completed 12-of-23 passes for 160 yards.
Though Swoopes completed more passes than Allen did, his 13 balls were good for just 57 yards. He also lost 41 yards rushing. Strong and Shawn Watson, assistant head coach for offense/quarterbacks, said Swoopes will face competition for next year’s starting quarterback position.
“He knows he’s got a lot of work to do and understands he’s far from a finished product,” Watson said. “He’s got tons of work to do and he’s willing to go out and do it.”
The loss drops Texas’ all-time series record against Arkansas to 56-22, 1-2 at neutral sites. Texas also finishes the season at 6-7, its second losing season since 2010.
“We see there’s a lot of work to be done which is a great challenge and I don’t mind that—I accept that,” Strong said. “You look at the TCU game and this game and it’s not an indication of what Texas is all about. We have work to do and we got to get it done.”