Longhorns entering final game of rivalry without reliable offense

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The Longhorns know what they’ll eat on Thanksgiving. They’re not exactly sure how they’ll score points in the last rivalry game against Texas A&M.

The Texas offense is stuck in park and head coach Mack Brown said his biggest concern for Thursday’s matchup against the Aggies is reaching the end zone. UT enters the final game of the 118-year rivalry with an offense that has managed just 18 points in the last two games, losses to Missouri and Kansas State and scored a lone touchdown.

“We just keep stopping ourselves,” said Brown, who is 9-4 against A&M. “We have quarterbacks and running backs going the wrong way, low snaps that stop drives, turnovers that lead to points.”

He’s right. The offense has been a mess for two straight games, much like the kitchen after Thanksgiving dinner.

Texas has been ravaged by injuries in the second half of the season. The Longhorns looked like they had returned to the power running days of old, but that was before Fozzy Whittaker was lost for the year and Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron fell victim to the rigors of their first collegiate season.

Two straight games of more than 400 yards rushing gave way to a pair losses and an offense plagued by inconsistency and poor execution. With Brown (turf toe) and Bergeron (hamstring) dogged by injuries of late, the Longhorns lost their identity as a downhill running team.

“We can’t be that right now all the time,” Brown said. “We’re trying to figure out ways to win a ball game and at the same time moving forward.”

The Longhorns are in a rebuilding season, so it’s no wonder there have been growing pains along the way. Still, a 6-2 record and a No. 21 ranking on Nov. 6 quickly evaporated as the offense plummeted at Missouri, and then continued its freefall against Kansas State.

So what’s been the problem?

“You could say lot of different things,” said senior left guard David Snow. “There’s a lot of young guys. It will all come together. That’s what happens when you have a brand new offense, working out the kinks. We’re still growing as an offense, finding our place.”

The defense has held up its end of the bargain, though, and kept Texas in games while the offense struggles. That’s at least one thing UT can hang its hat on. There’s still time to turn things around, but the clock is ticking.

“The year hasn’t gone wrong,” said senior safety Blake Gideon. “We’ve got two games left and we’ve got a winning record. It’s not where we want to be but we’ve got an opportunity to send one of our Big 12 foes off with a bang.”

Last Thanksgiving, Texas was 5-6 and desperate for a win over the Aggies to become bowl-eligible. The Longhorns secured a bowl invite on Nov. 5 this year, so they’ve made some progress.

“We’re headed in the right direction,” Brown said. “We haven’t won as many games as I want to. But I’m fully convinced we’re getting close. I can see it, I can feel it, it’s so much better than last year.”

Texas has been a few bad bounces away from winning at least two more games.

Gideon intercepted a pass against Oklahoma State and returned it for six, but the quarterback was ruled down in the end zone after barely stepping out of bounds before releasing the ball, resulting in a safety. A blocked punt against Missouri hit the crossbar on the goal post, turning a sure touchdown into another safety.

“It’s not illegal to score on defense either,” Gideon said.

That might be the Longhorns’ best offense on Thanksgiving.