Chants of “SEC” bellowed from the Ole Miss section and filled the stadium as time wound down in the fourth quarter. Many of the Longhorn faithfuls had departed well before the clock hit zero.
Texas struggled to maintain consistency on both sides of the ball for the second consecutive week en route to a 44-23 loss to the Rebels on Saturday, leaving the on-hand Longhorn base largely deflated. In the locker room after the game, the Texas players were disheartened as well.
“It was very quiet,” head coach Mack Brown said. “They were very disappointed.”
The Longhorns took a 23-17 lead into halftime but failed to continue their first half success in the third and fourth quarters. The Rebels, on the other hand, went back to work once play resumed, registering touchdowns on three of their first four drives of the half while also scoring on a 73-yard punt return by senior running back Jeff Scott.
After replacing defensive coordinator Manny Diaz with Greg Robinson following last week’s blowout loss against Brigham Young University, the Longhorns whiffed on stopping the run once again. The Rebels racked up 272 yards on the ground, with Scott leading the way with 164 yards and a touchdown.
“We’ve got to stop the run,” Brown said. “If you can’t stop the run, you’re not going to win football games. You’ve got to run it and you’ve got to stop the run, and we didn’t do either.”
Texas played well defensively in the first two quarters, limiting the Rebels to 17 points and just three after their first two drives of the second quarter. The Longhorns allowed 159 rushing yards after halftime, though, and junior linebacker Jordan Hicks believes that the players need time to get acclimated to Robinson’s new defensive scheme.
“We’re just trying to make the transition and learn as fast as possible,” Hicks said. “One thing we harped on this week is that we need to get to the ball and rally. I think we did a good job of that and we just need to keep improving.”
Robinson said he remains confident his players will turn things around and improve as a defense as the season progresses.
“I think we’ll continue to grow and get better,” Robinson said. “These are good young guys, and they want to win."
In addition to the defensive struggles, the Texas offense was inept in the second half. The Longhorns failed to score in the third or fourth quarters, managing just 100 yards of total offense.
Senior quarterback Case McCoy played well early in the absence of junior quarterback David Ash, completing 11 of 13 passes for 104 yards and a touchdown in the first half. His play dropped off after halftime as well, though, and he finished the game with 24 for 36 with 196 yards through the air.
The Longhorns enter next week’s matchup against Kansas State with a chance to rebound in their Big 12 opener. If they continue to scuffle, though, dreams of a conference championship could be unlikely.