MANHATTAN, Kan. -- The curtain unceremoniously came down on Texas' 2012 regular season.
The guillotine might soon follow.
There is a feeling heads might roll after Texas finished with an 8-4 record, just one loss better than last season's record, with a Cotton Bowl game against a top 10 team from the SEC to go. Not the head that wears the crown, mind you.
Texas coach Mack Brown has enough cache and hubris to remain committed to the program. (Earlier this week he stated "for the 19th time" he is not stepping away.) That alone might be maddening enough for some portion of the fan base to be committed to a room with rubber walls.
As for the ceiling Texas continues to hit -- well, it is real and apparently impervious. Not even a change at quarterback could change things. Texas still lost to a top 10 team -- 42-24 to No. 6 Kansas State (11-1 overall, 8-1 Big 12) in front of 50,912 at Bill Snyder Family Stadium Saturday night -- just in a different, slightly less of a ho-hum fashion.
Quarterback Case McCoy can be thanked for that. The junior, starting for the first time this season, brought a sometimes mesmerizing spinning top quality to the game. It was hypnotic when he was completing 17 straight passes, but eye-crossingly hard to watch when he wasn't. But, like McCoy himself, it wasn't dull.
The offseason won't be, either. Instead, it has been set up to be one of the more tumultuous and scrutinized since, well, just a few seasons ago. That calamity could once again ensue is not exactly a talisman of good luck. Instead, someone must be twisting knives into voodoo dolls somewhere. (Madame Augusta Hipple, where are you when Texas needs you most? Oh, that's right, hexing TCU. Lot of good that did.)
By now, the assumption would have been that it would be safe to think the penance Texas had to pay after its years of success would be satisfied. But a mocking "no" continues to be the answer to all Texas' prayers.
In fact, things could get worse. Sure, Brown has said Texas is better and improvements are being made. It's an optimistic view for someone who is no longer just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, but now calling for sunny skies and smooth sailing. Given the manner in which his team has consistently played inconsistently against any team with a modicum of talent, his words have the hollowness of a carnival barker.
Here is where Texas is:
The Longhorns no longer know who their starting quarterback is for the bowl game or the 2013 season, McCoy or David Ash -- who started the first 11 games (co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin said "both those guys" have done good things).
The coaching staff, while possibly very good as individuals, do not appear to have the chemistry necessary to be a cohesive staff. (Both Harsin and defensive coordinator Manny Diaz summarily dismissed this notion, with Diaz going as far to say if there were not cohesion it would be represented on the field. To which the appropriate response is Kansas State, TCU, Oklahoma, Kansas and West Virginia.)
Texas A&M, an SEC powerhouse now, is on the verge of securing the top 2013 recruit in the state, Ricky Seals-Jones, after he decommitted from Texas, and Hoza Scott, the best player in 2014, said he wants to go to Texas A&M. ("Really, honestly, my decision and my mindset is on A&M," Scott told HornsNation this week. "That's where I really want to go.")
Baylor and TCU have emerged as legitimate threats to what used to be a quick two-step through the state dating back to the Southwest Conference days. (Baylor won its final three. And again, TCU beat Texas.)
Kansas State has won five straight against Texas and its fans chanted "We own Texas" at the end of the game. (Brown said KSU had a "great, not good, quarterback" so at least he was accurate in his superlatives in this trip to the state of Kansas.)
Oh and did anyone mention, Oklahoma? Yeah, the Sooners are on the verge of a BCS bowl again. (Even if the Sooners somehow do tumble, they would take the Longhorns down to the much-less-glamorous Alamo Bowl.)
Brown will rightly contend Texas is young and building. Texas did have 16 true freshmen playing this season. So did TCU, which beat Texas at Texas 20-13 on Thanksgiving.
Still the coach has pointed his finger to 2013 and 2014 as the seasons Texas returns to prominence. The problem is so many have started to point fingers at Brown and are beginning to wonder if he is indeed the coach to lead Texas back there. At this point, the coach believes he is, and that is enough for an administration that has reaped millions because of Brown's success.
So things will remain the same at the top. But ultimately Texas might have to change something to get to the top again.