At the end of a game Texas really wasn’t expected to steal, Mack Brown couldn’t have said it better than this: “We put ourselves in position to win.”
Kansas State won 42-24 by dominating the second half. Yet, at the end of three quarters, this ballgame wasn’t over.
In this loss, like two others before it, Texas had more than a fair shot at escaping with a victory. Here are five reasons the Longhorns came close, and what those lessons mean for 2013.
1. Need for speed
They attacked Kansas State with their speed, entrusting Monroe and Johnson with a combined nine touches.
It’s no surprise, then, that the duo led Texas in all-purpose yardage with a combined 295 yards. That was more than half of UT’s total yards on the night.
Johnson’s big play came on a 70-yard fly sweep in the second quarter that nearly went for six points. Monroe’s was a 46-yard sprint off a sweep right from midfield. Once each found his hole near the sideline, there was almost no stopping either.
Johnson is averaging 11.1 on his touches on offense this year. If the freshman continues to progress, he can be a weapon on par with West Virginia’s Tavon Austin and Oregon’s De'Anthony Thomas. But like them, he’ll need his touches.
2. Jinkens a revelation
On second-and-10, Jinkens broke off the right edge and shot past the tackle blocking him as Klein moved up in the pocket. The freshman shook off the lineman and went straight for Klein, sprinting 7 yards in seconds to take him down from behind.
Texas hasn't seen that combination of speed and quick thinking on a regular basis from an outside linebacker since Hicks went down for the season.
Jinkens wasn’t ready for many snaps when the year began, but he has come a long way. He should have every opportunity this offseason to beat out Demarco Cobbs for a starting gig.
3. Brown off the bench
Did this game ensure Malcolm Brown won’t be leaving Texas?
Hard to say. Even harder to fault Brown if he did look into finding more playing time elsewhere -- not that he has given any indication of being unhappy at UT. Against KSU, Brown reminded folks that Johnathan Gray isn’t the king of the Longhorns backfield just yet.
Brown’s rushing day (7 carries, 40 yards) proved he still has plenty to offer. The highlight was a 27-yarder on a counter in which Brown displayed excellent burst at the second level.
But it was his 43 yards on receptions that stood out, particularly a catch on second-and-8. Brown hauled in a swing pass and plowed his way over KSU’s Dante Barnett to pick up the first down.
With Joe Bergeron settling for a short-yardage role, Brown could be in line for a breakout 2013 -- that is, if he’s willing to share the load with Gray and perhaps play second fiddle.
4. The case for McCoy
Case McCoy gives you a dose of solid (17 straight completions), but he can’t do so without dashes of dangerous (two near pick-sixes).
Is he enough of a game manager to hold down the starting quarterback job next season?
It’s doubtful. The Horns get a more downfield passing attack when David Ash is at his best, but three bad showings this season raise fair questions about whether he’s ready to really make this his team.
McCoy was good enough to keep Ash on the sidelines Saturday, but he’ll have to hold off Ash through 15 bowl practices.
5. On the ropes
This was, quite frankly, the kind of game that the 2013 Texas Longhorns have to win.
Taking a 10-7 lead into halftime against the No. 6 Wildcats wasn’t good enough. The Longhorns missed a legitimate chance to take control of the ballgame.
In the second quarter, Kansas State punted twice and Texas got into KSU territory on three drives. To pull off an upset like this, the Longhorns needed to put up 21 in that quarter, not 10.
Texas showed poise and that much-needed killer instinct from time to time in 2012, but not nearly enough. Maybe that comes from experience or veteran leadership. Maybe the three close losses will teach a lesson.
Road tests at TCU, West Virginia and Baylor next season look tough right now. Texas can’t reach a BCS bowl and palpable progress without winning a few or all of those games.