AUSTIN — Texas had no reason to celebrate on Senior Night.
In the regular-season finale of Longhorns head coach Charlie Strong’s debut campaign, everything went wrong.
Former Belton standout quarterback David Ash was not in the lineup as expected at the beginning of the season. Neither was Jaxon Shipley, the program’s third most prolific receiver of all-time, who sat out with a hamstring injury.
Additionally, fullback Chet Moss, safety Leroy Scott and running back Joe Bergeron were not on hand after being kicked off the team earlier in the year along with several of their younger teammates.
While 32 seniors, including Ash and Shipley, were honored during a pregame ceremony, there were very few highlights once the game kicked off as TCU capitalized on six Texas turnovers en route to a 48-10 win on Thanksgiving evening.
Following the loss, Strong admitted it was disappointing his players did not close their careers at home with a better performance.
“Senior night’s always emotional,” Strong said. “Guys put so much into a program, and you would like it to work in the right way for them. It’s the last time they’ll run out of the tunnel. This is it for them, but it’s been special.
“It’s been a special group, and you would like to see them play a lot better and come out the right way.”
Perhaps nobody felt worse than senior Quandre Diggs, who recorded a team-high nine tackles and moved up to ninth all-time on Texas’ career pass breakups list with 37.
Despite his effort, Horned Frogs receiver Josh Doctson burned the Longhorns cornerback and team captain for 115 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter that sparked a 28-point, TCU outburst in the period.
“We didn’t play the way we wanted,” Diggs said, “me especially. We just failed to execute. We have nobody to blame but ourselves. I feel like I let my team down tonight, and it definitely hurts.”
Later in the fourth quarter, a TCU punt Diggs decided not to field glanced off his foot, allowing the Horned Frogs to recover.
Sometimes, those things just happen, according to Texas senior linebacker Jordan Hicks.
“It’s disappointing,” he said, “very disappointing. As a senior leader, you want to lead the team to victory. It just wasn’t there tonight.”
But all the blame does not fall on the seniors or the defense.
Texas sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes threw four interceptions with three leading to Horned Frogs (10-1, 7-1 Big 12) touchdowns, and lost a fumble TCU defensive end Terrell Lathan returned 40 yards for score in the first quarter.
With turnovers preventing the offense from gaining any momentum, the Longhorns (6-6, 5-4) finished with just 290 total yards and never entered the Horned Frogs’ red zone.
“It was a mix of both turnovers and lacking offensive rhythm,” said senior running back Malcolm Brown, who ran for 29 yards on 10 carries. “As many turnovers as we had, you can’t win games. You’ve definitely got to get a rhythm going as well. It was equal with both.”
Now, the Longhorns, who had their three-game winning streak snapped after becoming bowl eligible by beating Oklahoma State 28-7 a dozen days earlier, wait to see where they go from here.
Regardless of what bowl game Texas ends up playing in, Longhorns senior receiver John Harris, who finished with five receptions for 39 yards, believes his team will be ready.
Nevertheless, the Senior Night loss stings.
“It’s real frustrating,” he said, “especially after the way we performed the last few weeks. Just to come out in your home stadium for the last game; I mean it is really frustrating.
“You just got to live with it and move on.”