UT's Historically Bad Bowl

Charlie Strong chokes: Even Texas A&M's punching coach can't hide UT's historically pathetic Texas Bowl game

Charlie Strong fail: Texas A&M's punch coach can't hide UT embrassment

Texas fan no Christmas Texas bowl
University of Texas fans quickly found their holiday bowl spirits crushed thanks to Charlie Strong team's historic low of a Texas Bowl. Photo by Michelle Watson/CultureMapSnap
Charlie Strong UT Texas Bowl
First-year Texas coach Charlie Strong had one of the worst days of his coaching life in the Texas Bowl. Photo by Michelle Watson/CultureMapSnap
Texas Bowl trophy
Arkansas hoisted the Texas Bowl trophy with ease. Photo by Michelle Watson/CultureMapSnap
UT handoff Texas Bowl
The University of Texas even had trouble with simple handoffs in the Texas Bowl. Photo by Michelle Watson/CultureMapSnap
Arkansas reach Texas Bowl
Arkansas didn't have to reach far to exert the SEC's dominance in the Texas Bowl. Photo by Michelle Watson/CultureMapSnap
Arkansas fans Texas Bowl
Arkansas fans were outnumbered but they soon took over NRG Stadium in the Texas Bowl.  Photo by Michelle Watson/CultureMapSnap
Texas Bowl Arkansas QB run
Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen ended up winning the Texas Bowl MVP, even if its his defense that truly dominated. Photo by Michelle Watson/CultureMapSnap
Charlie Strong UT Texas Bowl team run
Running out for the pregame turned out to be the highlight for Charlie Strong and UT in the Texas Bowl. Photo by Michelle Watson/CultureMapSnap
Texas fan glum rival Texas Bowl
You do not want to be a Texas fan with an Arkansas buddy this morning. Photo by Michelle Watson/CultureMapSnap
Arkansas selfie Texas bowl
Arkansas tight end Jeremy Sprinkle took a selfie with some happy coeds. Photo by Michelle Watson/CultureMapSnap
Texas fans annoyed Texas Bowl
Texas fans did not need a picture to remind themselves of their Texas Bowl misery. Photo by Michelle Watson/CultureMapSnap
Texas fan no Christmas Texas bowl
Charlie Strong UT Texas Bowl
Texas Bowl trophy
UT handoff Texas Bowl
Arkansas reach Texas Bowl
Arkansas fans Texas Bowl
Texas Bowl Arkansas QB run
Charlie Strong UT Texas Bowl team run
Texas fan glum rival Texas Bowl
Arkansas selfie Texas bowl
Texas fans annoyed Texas Bowl

The NRG Stadium 'Fan Cam' keeps catching Longhorn believers at inopportune moments. Not that there are any good times the camera operators can choose from.

The whole Texas Bowl is one big whoops for the University of Texas. And there the orange clad citizens who yearned for more than Mack Brown are up on the giant scoreboard screens, pained glum expressions locked on their faces, arms crossed or hands over their heads, shaking their noggins and looking around in bitter, bewildered wonder. 

At least, the Fan Cam never captures a UT backer slugging a stadium chair.

It's a long lost night for Charlie Strong's program. On a day when a Texas A&M student assistant coach goes haywire and punches West Virginia players in a bowl game, Texas somehow manages to end up looking even worse. Oh in any real-life comparison, the Aggie brat's crime is much, much more egregious than the Longhorns no show in the largest attended bowl game in Houston history.

 Texas looks thoroughly unprepared for the skill and power of a bottom-rung 2-6 SEC team. It's an embarrassing, awkward, sometimes pathetic performance. 

But this isn't real life. It's the warped world of college football. And there are plenty of A&M fans pumped about the shootout win over West Virginia, sideline punches no matter. It's sad to say but Arkansas' SEC-level 31-7 beat down of Texas is liable to linger much longer.

When you're a reputed big-time college football program and you manage 29 total yards of offense in three quarters and less than 60 for the entire game, you're not going to be allowed to forget it. Texas' 59 yards of total offense is the low for any FBS team this year.

That's right no offense in college football has been worse than the Longhorns are in the Texas Bowl. There's bad — and then there's historically putrid.

"You don't ever expect to go out and get hammered 31-7 in a bowl game when you've had a month to prepare," Strong says afterwards.

Texas' first-year coach looks livid. And he should be. For all the needed shock and awe culture change that Strong's rained down on the UT program, for all the discipline dismissals, for all stand-up talk . . . some games are still nearly unforgivable. And this is one of them. Texas clearly isn't ready to play. It doesn't come close to matching the "Monday Night Football" intensity that Arkansas coach Bret Bielema drills into his guys.   

Texas looks thoroughly unprepared for the skill and power of a bottom-rung 2-6 SEC team. It's an embarrassing, awkward, sometimes pathetic performance.      

It's the last thing Strong needs now that he's building real recruiting momentum, having landed the No. 1 rated prospect in all of Texas.

It's only one supersized game. But there's no denying that Charlie Strong chokes in his first Longhorns bowl experience. No wonder it's so hard for all those UT fans to do anything but grimace. This one stings . . . and it leaves Texas saddled with the type of 6-7 final record that it took Brown 13 seasons in Austin to ever approach.

"We have a long way to go," Strong says. "You can't lose seven games. You can't have losing seasons. That's not what this program is all about. It's not the standard at Texas."

It is hard to talk standards when your offense averages 1.4 yards per play.  

It's so bad for the Longhorns that an 8-yard UT second quarter pass completion draws raucous cheers. Hey, that's nearly a third of the Longhorns total offense in one play!

At one point, Texas running back Johnathan Gray — a junior who should know something about ball security by now — just drops a handoff put on his hip in his own end zone, gifting Arkansas a touchdown. The Fan Cam shots after this gaffe are particularly revealing.

"It's about execution," Strong says. "It's not about what another team does to you. It's about what you do to yourself."

It's also about the SEC getting another pelt on its wall. The night starts with UT having at least 65 percent of the crowd. It ends all Arkansas.

" I told our guys before we took the field to start the game that there were a lot of Razorback fans ready to go hog-wild, and we gave them every reason to do it," Bielema, the coach who walked away from a Big Ten power to take on an SEC rebuilding job, says. 

Kevin Sumlin's Shadow Looms Larger

Strong suffers in comparison to Kevin Sumlin's first season at Texas A&M when the Aggies burst onto the SEC scene like a supernova, blazing a new way for college football in Texas. Arkansas fans breaking into "SEC! SEC! SEC!" chants when the Grand Canyon-sized margin grows to 31-7 really seems like piling on.

"We've just got to execute our plays better," says Tyrone Swoopes, the Texas quarterback who completes two passes longer than 10 yards and none longer than 15 yards.

When a reporter asks Swoopes if it's really that simple, he shrugs.

"It kind of feels like that's what Arkansas was doing," he shoots back.

Swoopes is sitting on a raised dais in the Houston Texans' team auditorium, still in his No. 18 orange Longhorns jersey. TV cameras dominate the center of the room, with overflow reporters hugging the walls.

It is amazing how far the Texas Bowl (which has undergone more name changes than a child of overenthusiastic hippie parents of the 1970s) has come in just the last few years. The 2010 game — which saw Baylor and a pre-stardom Robert Griffin III get completely dismantled by Illinois — produced less buzz locally than some high school football games.

This Texas-Arkansas game matters though. It truly packs the stadium (no need for inflated crowd figures on this night). It's something people are talking about.

The Monday night football stage — on the first Monday of the season that there's not NFL Monday Night Football — only adds to the game's big-time feel.

Run by Jamey Rootes and the Lone Star Sports & Entertainment subsidiary of the Texans, Houston's college football bowl game has always been a first-class operation (it quickly gained a reputation with coaches' wives for being one of the better run bowls). Now, it is starting to get the type of matchups worthy of its operators, its stadium and its city.

There is history in the building and not just the old Southwest Conference matchup renewed.

Texas legend Earl Campbell, sitting in a golf cart to rest his football ravaged body, draws the loudest cheers during the pregame ceremonies. When you do something great at a football school like Texas, it matters forever.

When you do something blah . . . well, Charlie Strong suddenly seems to be on his way to finding out.

"Texas has got to mean something," Strong says. "Right now it doesn't mean much."

That's on Strong. Just like this bowl game.