TCU 20, Texas 13: Two teams heading in surprisingly different directions

When Texas A&M packed up for the SEC last year, Texas decided it wanted to start a new Thanksgiving game tradition with new teams. Right now, the Longhorns may be wondering if some traditions are best left to run their course.

Behind a bruising running game – TCU attempted just 9 passes on the night – the Horned Frogs hammered out a 20-13 win over the error-prone ‘Horns. TCU notched the biggest win of its brief tenure as a member of the Big 12, while the conference’s most high-profile program continued to notch disappointing losses.

After seemingly righting his team’s ship in the course of a four-game win streak, the heat on Mack Brown’s seat will get turned up to the “scorching” setting in the wake of this performance. His counterpart on the other sideline, TCU coach Gary Patterson, fielded a squad Thursday night that was better prepared, more disciplined and flat-out tougher than the team in burnt orange.

Maybe the most puzzling part of Texas’ slide in the last three years has been its quarterback play. This game embodied all of those struggles under center.

Sophomore David Ash looked almost as lost as he did as a true freshman. Not only did Ash wilt in the face of pressure from TCU’s underrated front four, he appeared completely flummoxed by the secondary’s coverage schemes. In total he accounted for a couple field goal drives, two momentum-crushing interceptions and an inexplicable fumble.

As was the case in UT’s lackluster win over Kansas earlier this season, the team appeared to respond better to back-up Case McCoy once he was inserted into the game. McCoy led the Longhorns on a late scoring drive to bring Texas within a touchdown before throwing a back-breaking pick with under two minutes to play. You may not believe this, but that sounds like the makings of a quarterback controversy in Austin.

Meanwhile, it’s now fair to say Texas Christian has provided some acceptable answers to questions about its ability to compete in the Big 12.

Sitting at 7-4 and 4-4 in conference play, TCU can’t tout the same kind of gleaming record that it had as a member of the Mountain West for all those years. However, Patterson has kept his young team battling through a series of setbacks that include the loss of a starting quarterback to four games into the season and the departure of a first-string tailback. That’s to say nothing of the Horned Frogs’ off-the-field issues earlier this year.

This Thanksgiving we may have witnessed a defining moment for both programs, albeit in vastly different ways.