AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas cornerback Kris Boyd said perhaps the last thing Longhorns fans want to hear right now.
“I ain’t gonna lie,” Boyd said after Texas crushed then-No. 22 USC last week. “I kinda feel like we proved that we’re back.”
It’s time to test that bravado Saturday against No. 17 TCU.
Any talk of Texas being “back” just three games into the season is likely to make Longhorns fans cringe. Why? They’ve heard it before and the fallout was embarrassing. A television announcer’s “Texas is back!” declaration in 2016 turned into a national punchline in a 5-7 season that got former coach Charlie Strong fired.
And now here come the Horned Frogs (2-1). TCU will be another critical test to see if second-year coach Tom Herman really has the Longhorns (2-1) primed to break out in the Big 12, or if they’re still just scrapping around the middle of the league.
TCU has dominated Texas since 2014 with four straight lopsided wins as the Horned Frogs became a Big 12 heavyweight and Texas fell to three straight losing seasons before Herman guided them to 7-6 and a bowl win last year. That’s quite a run in a rivalry that has Texas dominated historically. Texas won 28 of 29 meetings between 1968 and 2007.
But since joining the Big 12 in 2012, the Horned Frogs and coach Gary Patterson are 5-1 against the Longhorns, and Saturday will be the Big 12 opener for both teams.
“We’ve played hard against Texas. You would think that we would do the same thing again,” Patterson said. “We have a younger football team, though. Going on the road, this is going the first time on the road with a little bit more of a hostile crowd. How will they react to all of that?”
TCU is coming off a tough loss to No. 4 Ohio State when a second-half lead collapsed under a string of turnovers. While Texas has to move past the euphoria of a big win and any talk of being “back,” TCU must deal with the fallout of letting a big win get away.
“We understand that last week doesn’t matter anymore,” Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger said. “In order to be the team we want to be we have to put big wins and stack them on top of each other.”
Some things to watch for when the Longhorns play the Horned Frogs:
STEADY EHLINGER: The sophomore didn’t have a turnover last week against USC but he completed just 15 of 33 passes. Two of those went for long touchdowns. He also ran for a score. He didn’t play against TCU last season because of an injury. “He’s a running back playing quarterback,” Patterson said. “He beats you with his feet. He’s won a lot of ballgames because of taking off, running draws, powers, quarterback stretches, all of those kind of things.”
GROUND GAME: TCU has rushed for more than 200 yards in each game this season, led by the speed of tailback Darius Anderson who went 93 yards against Ohio State last week. Texas smashed USC’s running game last week, holding the Trojans to minus-5 yards, one of the best performances in school history. That included a fourth-and-goal stop from the Texas 1. “That was a proud moment. Is it sustainable? I don’t know,” Texas senior defensive end Charles Omenihu said.
TCU TURNOVERS: Mistakes killed the Horned Frogs last week against Ohio State as TCU quarterback Shawn Robinson had a fumble recovered in the end zone and a shuffle pass intercepted for a touchdown. His confidence could erode quickly if he has another big mistake early against Texas.
RISING TEXAS FRESHMEN: Texas is starting to get some big plays from its highly-touted freshmen. Safety Caden Sterns has an interception and a blocked field goal in the last two games. Wide receiver Joshua Moore stretched for a 27-yard touchdown catch in the back of the end zone against USC.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Both teams have had punts blocked this season. TCU gave up one against Ohio State last week and it led to a touchdown. The Horned Frogs also have one of the most dangerous kick returners in the country in senior KeVontae Turpin. He’s returned a punt for a touchdown in each of the last four seasons.
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