If this was the curtain call for the Charlie Strong era at Texas, it ended just the way more than half of his other previous did — with a loss.
With speculation regarding Tom Herman enveloping the football program, there was a school of thought that, with a blowout win over TCU Friday afternoon, Strong had a chance to save his job and make it back for a fourth season in Austin. If that’s the case, it’s not meant to be for Strong as red zone woes played a role early on before the Longhorns’ fourth-quarter mini-meltdown pushed the Horned Frogs to a 31-9 win.
Darius Anderson ran for 103 yards on just three carries, including a backbreaking 70-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter that put an emphatic exclamation point on the win. With one game remaining, TCU has now hit the six-win mark and will go bowling for the third straight season and 14th time in 16 seasons under Gary Patterson.
As has been the case most of the season, one of the few bright spots for UT was D’Onta Foreman. The junior running back ran for 165 yards, his 13th straight game with 100-plus yards. The performance also pushed him over 2,000 yards on the season, making him, along with Ricky Williams, just the second player in UT history to go for 2K yards in a single season.
He failed, though, to find the end zone, which was an overriding theme of this latest loss.
The ‘Horns made six trips into the red zone through the first three quarters, and came away with just nine points in what was a 17-9 game at the end of the third. Twice they turned the ball over on downs, and once they gave the ball back on a missed field goal.
It was not only symptomatic and symbolic of this game, but of Strong’s first three years at UT as a whole as he simply couldn’t get his team over the hump regardless of how close people thought he was.
After a 6-7 mark his first year, Strong has gone 5-7 in back-to-back seasons. Those 16 wins are the fewest in a three-year stretch since David McWilliams hit the same number in his first three seasons from 1987-89. McWilliams ended up getting two more seasons at the helm, although patience isn’t what it was three decades ago.
This will also be the first time since a three-year stretch from 1991-93 that the ‘Horns have failed to go bowling in two or more consecutive seasons, yet another data point trending toward a dismissal.
The true lowpoint under Strong, and what will likely prove to be the proverbial final nail in his coaching coffin, though, was the loss to Kansas last Saturday, the first to the Jayhawks since the 1938 season. The group think is that no UT head coach could survive a loss to KU, especially a sub-.500 one like Strong.
With the Longhorns’ 2016 season over, all the attention will now turn to when, possibly (probably?), the trigger is pulled and Strong is dismissed. If Strong is to be fired, UT’s administration needs to do it immediately and not string it out. You may have questions about his coaching ability, but Strong is a good and honorable man who doesn’t deserve any further embarrassment and indignity.
The rumor mill has done more than enough of that these last couple of months, especially the past week or so.