Texas was feeling better about itself following a 37-14 win over USC in Week 3, but the Longhorns are really feeling themselves here in Week 4.
The Longhorns got four years' worth of revenge against No. 17 TCU in a 31-16 win over the Frogs. It's the first time Texas has defeated TCU since a 30-7 victory in 2013. It's a monkey off of Texas' back, especially seeing as it's the state flagship program in a fertile recruiting ground. It's also a sign that maybe -- just maybe -- the Longhorns are taking actual steps forward.
Notice there was no use of the "back" word.
So, for now, it's cautious optimism for coach Tom Herman's team and bitter disappointment for TCU. Here's what we learned from the Big 12 showdown in the Lonestar State on Saturday.
Texas will have to win with defense again this year: Texas has about two or three offensive plays that it does well. One is running quarterback Sam Ehlinger, whether by design or on a scramble. Another is throwing downfield to Collin Johnson. Both of those items worked against TCU, but Johnson in particular had a monster game with seven catches for 124 yards and this diving score.
Having running back Tre Watson as an option (58 yards, one touchdown) helped, too. Because there are a limited number of things that work, Texas' offense is often streaky. Good thing the defense upheld its end of the deal. TCU averaged just five yards per play and the Horns had four takeaways. Texas can catch fire offensively, but more likely than not it'll have to win games in a fashion similar to how it did today.
TCU's turnovers are a major red flag: The Frogs are -7 in turnover margin over their past two games against Texas and Ohio State. To be clear, that would be seven turnovers and zero takeaways. Yeah, not something you'd expect from a Gary Patterson team. Texas had 14 points off of two TCU turnovers and another touchdown on a drive following a missed TCU field goal. This was a game of miscues and TCU simply made too many, and now they've lost two straight. If the Frogs are going to be a Big 12 title game contender, this needs to be rectified.
Is this the turning point for Tom Herman's team?: This question would have sounded insane after the Week 1 loss to Maryland. That's when Herman tried to convince reporters that this was, in fact, a different team than the one that also got slapped by the Terps in the 2017 season opener. While there have undoubtedly been a lot of ups and downs, and this is still far from a finished product, 17 games into a coaching tenure is about right for noticeable change to happen. Is that what's happening here? Herman has regained Texas' footing among blue-chip in-state talent. Now it's a matter of the results following suit. The Horns travel to Kansas State next before facing off against Oklahoma in Dallas. If you want to find challengers to Oklahoma's Big 12 crown, that ought to be a telling game.
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