Football

Daily Longhorn football history: The 2011 season

Posted September 11th, 2017

The Texas football program dates back to 1893. Each day, we look at a little piece of Longhorn history. We’re starting by looking at each Longhorn football season. 

The start of the 2011 season brought the launch of the Longhorn Network, which would air the first game of the season against Rice.

All Texas fans wanted to know was who would start at quarterback. They got their answer during the week leading up to the opener, but it wasn’t the one they had hoped for. Garrett Gilbert, who threw for 10 touchdowns and 17 interceptions in 2010, was getting another shot.

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It didn’t last long.

From left to right David Ash, Case McCoy, Garrett Gilbert were all options to start at quarterback for the 2011 season. (Ricardo Brazziell/American-Statesman)

Gilbert did enough to keep his job against the Owls, completing 13 of 23 passes for 239 yards and a touchdown — and no interceptions — in a 34-9 win. True freshman running back Malcolm Brown also rushed for 86 yards in his debut.

The next week’s game against BYU was a different story. After five possessions that ended in three punts and two interceptions, Gilbert was pulled for Case McCoy. A combination of McCoy and freshman David Ash helped lead a second-half comeback for a 17-16 win that would’ve been ugly if not for the seven losses suffered the year before.

The next week’s depth chart listed Gilbert third, and just like that the local product hailed as the next Colt McCoy or Vince Young had thrown his final pass in burnt orange. Texas announced Sept. 20 that Gilbert had undergone season-ending surgery, and Gilbert announced a few weeks later that we would transfer from the program.

(He wound up at SMU, where he threw for more than 6,000 yards his final two seasons. The St. Louis Rams selected Gilbert in the sixth round of the 2014 NFL Draft.)

Meanwhile, Texas avenged losses from the previous season by beating UCLA 49-20 at the Rose Bowl and Iowa State 37-14 in Ames. Heading to Dallas to face No. 3-ranked Oklahoma, the Longhorns were 4-0 and had climbed all the way to No. 11.

They were in for a rude awakening. Behind a blistering 28-point second quarter, the Sooners blew away Texas 55-17 at the Cotton Bowl. The following week brought another ranked opponent from that state up north, and Texas didn’t have the horses to hang with No. 6 Oklahoma State, either, falling 38-26 to the eventual third-ranked team that forever changed college football.

Back-to-back wins over Kansas (43-0) and Texas Tech (52-20) got Texas back on track, but the worst was yet to come. With their top three running backs injured, the Longhorns managed only five points in a head-scratching loss at Missouri. The offense appeared to be a lost cause, and a 17-13 defeat to Kansas State the following week only furthered that narrative.

There was no time to point fingers though, as Texas headed to College Station for the final Big 12 meeting against bitter rival Texas A&M. The Aggies were bolting for the SEC, and whichever school won would have bragging rights for an indefinite — if not infinite — amount of time.

Kicker Justin Tucker celebrates his game-winning 40-yard field goal against Texas A&M in 2011, that gave the Longhorns the win in what has been the last match-up between the two old rivals to date. (Rodolfo Gonzalez / American-Statesman)

It all came down to the foot of Longhorns kicker Justin Tucker, who wrote his name in program lore with a 40-yard kick that sailed true.

Here’s what Austin American-Statesman columnist Kirk Bohls wrote afterward:

In the only way this rich, century-old series could end, a fierce but ragged competition came down to the final play of the final game.

And there’s never been sweeter music to the ears of Longhorns than Justin Tucker’s 40-yard field goal through the uprights in the south end zone of Kyle Field, a kick that sounded a 27-25 Texas win over an arch-rival that will now become an absent rival.

A loss to Baylor and eventual Heisman Trophy-winner Robert Griffin III and a Holiday Bowl win over California hardly mattered. The lasting memory of a mostly forgettable 2011 season will forever be Tucker’s Aggie-slaying kick at Kyle Field.

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