In the northwest corner of Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on Saturday afternoon, the only thing some Longhorn players could do was simply kneel down and process another agonizing loss.
The play that had dashed Texas’ hopes of a breakthrough victory over No. 10 Oklahoma State was just too excruciating to accept.
Freshman quarterback Sam Ehlinger stood bewildered and pointed in the direction of where everything came crashing down. He couldn’t believe what he had just done.
Ehlinger’s pass into the corner of the north end zone on third and four in overtime was nowhere close to a Longhorn receiver. Oklahoma State safety Ramon Richards had no trouble intercepting Ehlinger’s gift of a pass, the final play of Texas’ 13-10 overtime loss to the Cowboys.
“I feel like we're in every game,” junior safety DeShon Elliott said. “We don't know how to finish. We'll get to that point. We'll keep digging and eventually we'll get to diamonds.”
As Oklahoma State players began to storm the field, senior wide receiver Lorenzo Joe dropped straight to a knee.
Senior wide receiver Dorian Leonard crouched down in disgust, then was consoled by injured senior tight end Andrew Beck.
Junior linebacker Malik Jefferson also went down to the turf. Jefferson had said earlier in the week that the Longhorns just needed one more turn for Texas to break through. But on Saturday afternoon, Texas took a turn back into the wrong direction, dropping to 3-4 on the season and 2-2 in Big 12 play.
It was the third time this season the Longhorns went into overtime, and it was the second time they came up a play short.
“It’s tough — I have no words for it honestly,” Jefferson said.
Fellow junior linebacker Breckyn Hager was the first to console Jefferson.
Hager turned in one of the best performances of his career on Saturday. The Austin Westlake High School product set a career-high in sacks with two, tallied three tackles and had a quarterback hurry. Hager said after the game he wanted to bounce back after dropping a crucial red-zone interception in the third quarter of last week’s loss to Oklahoma in Dallas.
“I just knew there was a lot of opportunity out there for me, and I had to take it,” Hager said. “I felt real down on myself about dropping that OU (interception).”
On a day when the Longhorns held the No. 1 offense in the nation to just 10 points in regulation, Texas still couldn’t close out another game. After the loss, few words were used to describe the pain of yet another gut-wrenching result.
The one question seemingly hanging over the Longhorns’ minds after Saturday’s defeat was simple: when will things finally turn around?
And maybe that was the question so many Longhorn players on bended knee were trying to answer in the wake of another painful loss on Saturday afternoon. The upperclassmen in particular — Joe, Leonard, Elliott, Jefferson and Hager — have spent their entire Texas careers confronting that question and dealing with frustration.
And they know time is running thin.
“This upper class — it’s special,” Hager said. “We’re tired of talking about it to you guys and saying that. But we are special, and we are bringing positives out of these negative outcomes.”
But the only positives that haven’t followed are the ones that teams are ultimately judged by — wins.
“We’re very close. It’s still not over with,” Elliott said. “Because we believe in each other. The defense believes in the offense, the offense believes in the defense and we believe in our coaches. We’re a family. So eventually, we’ll rally together and get things right.”