Thanksgiving is a day when people celebrate those things they feel blessed to have.
And while Texas likely entered the day giving thanks for its four-game winning streak buoyed by an improved defense, a pounding running game and the maturation of David Ash as the Big 12's most efficient passer, those blessings turned against the Longhorns in a 20-13 loss to the TCU Horned Frogs Thursday night.
Improved defense? TCU had more than 200 yards rushing through the first three quarters and moved the ball well despite throwing it just 10 times.
Pounding running game? The Horned Frogs stuffed the gaps and used their speed to swarm Longhorn runners to the tune of 86 yards on 33 carries.
And Ash had three devastating turnovers in the first half and was twice replaced by Case McCoy. The first two interceptions both ended drives inside the 30. And his third, a fumble where the ball simply slipped out of his hand, set up one of TCU's two touchdowns on the day. On a day where points were at a premium, the two Texas non-scores and one TCU set-up might have provided the difference.
Yet even with all of that, Texas still, somehow, had a chance to win. Leading 20-6 in the fourth quarter, TCU went into conservative mode, allowing McCoy — in for his second go-round as the Texas quarterback — to drive the Longhorns 82 yards in nine plays for a touchdown. McCoy was 6-of-6 for 73 yards on the drive, which ended with Jeremy Hills diving in from eight-yards out and left Texas just a touchdown back.
""Case did a great job, got us back in the game, gave us a chance to win," Brown said. "I actually thought we'd drive down and score because we scored so easily the time before."
After the Longhorn defense forced a three-and-out, McCoy had the ball at the 34, down seven, with 1:44 remaining in the game. On the first play, he ran for 13 yards and a first down, getting out of bounds to stop the clock. But unlike the Kansas game this year, or the Texas A&M game last Thanksgiving, McCoy didn't have enough magic to finish.
On the very next play, he scrambled away from pressure and lofted a pass into triple coverage, where it was picked off by TCU safety Sam Carter, essentially sealing the game. After the game, McCoy said he spotted freshman receiver Cayleb Jones breaking free on the scramble, but said that "The ball slipped and floated up in the air."
"We didn't take care of the ball when we needed to," McCoy said. "And we've talked about it all year."
In addition to the turnovers, Texas was gashed by a TCU running game that finished with 217 yards on 48 carries. Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz pointed to the Horned Frogs going to a two-back set more, something they hadn't shown much on film, after the bye week.
"We didn't adjust to that as fast as we needed to," Diaz said. "The credit goes to them. They blocked us better. They were able to possess the football and keep our offense out of rhythm with their running game."
But the star of the game might have been the TCU 4-2-5 defense, which entered the contest as the Big 12's top defense. The Horned Frogs held up to that reputation, holding Texas to 2.6 yards per carry and Ash to a 10-for-21 night with three turnovers.
Now the Longhorns (8-3, 5-3) have just one game left, a trip to always-difficult Kansas State. Texas hasn't beaten the Wildcats since 2003.
"We have one more game to win," said Texas guard Trey Hopkins. "We owe it to our seniors to send them off the right way. The season is definitely not over."
TCU — Matthew Tucker 2 run (Jared Oberkrom kick), 5:29 1Q
TEXAS — Nick Jordan 25 FG, 0:21 1Q
TCU — Tucker 1 run (Oberkrom kick), 1:40 2Q
TEXAS — Jordan 25 FG, 8:52 3Q
TCU — Oberkrom 18 FG, 3:48 3Q
TCU — Oberkrom 41 FG, 13:06 4Q
TEXAS — Jeremy Hills 8 run (Jordan kick), 3:07 4Q