I could lead today's Inside the Numbers by posting our collective blood pressure counts, which all likely rose significantly during Saturday night's thriller in Stillwater. The Horns kicked off the season's defining stretch with a dramatic, come-from-behind 4th quarter win on the road against the conference's defending champions riding the arm of its sophomore QB. Write that sentence in August and people will think you've lost your noodle. But here we are, sitting at 4-0 with a confident, productive QB and a defense digging for answers. Let's take a look at how Stillwater was won.
30-37, 304, 3-1: David Ash completions - attempts, passing yards, passing TDs-INT
I think its safe to say he's arrived. The 3 TD throws to Jaxon Shipley were fantastic throws, and the TD fade to Shipley in the 3rd quarter was a real gem. But Ash's biggest moments came when the pressure was on. Nobody will forget the 4th and 6 completion to DJ Grant on the game's final and deciding drive. The 32 yard bomb that followed to Mike Davis on Justin Gilbert, OSU's best cover corner (the same Justin Gilbert who salivated at the opportunity to intercept Ash throws earlier in the week; he gotcha bro). Ash's 184.0 QB rating is now 2nd in the country, only to video game QB Geno Smith. Who would have thought the coming October 6th WVU-Texas game would match the top two signal callers in the country? Ash's third quarter INT ended his streak of attempts without an INT at 116, the fourth longest in school history. Ash also became the 4th QB in school history to throw for back-to-back 300-yard games. The Ash gushing isn't quite over.
3-4, 2: Texas drives ending in TDs after Ash's INT - total Texas drives after Ash's INT, separate occasions Texas trailed in the 4th quarter
The final story line in the David Ash development narrative was how Ash would respond to adversity. Performing well in non-conference blow outs is expected, but how would the young QB perform when the pressure provided by quality competition ratchets up? Respond, he did. After throwing his first INT of the season early in the third quarter, Texas went on to score TDs in 3 of the following 4 possessions, driving 75 yards each on possessions of 13 plays, 9 plays, and 8 plays. And the pressure was more than just self inflicted. Twice in the 4th quarter Oklahoma State took a lead, and each time Ash lead TD scoring drives. The first followed a 2 yard TD run by Joseph Randle creating a 33-28 OSU lead, where Ash responded by going 2-2 for 10 yards and letting determined runs by Joe Bergeron and Johnathan Gray return the lead to Texas 34-33. The second drive picked up with 2:34 following a Quinn Sharp field goal that gave OSU a 36-34 lead. Ash's response: going 4-5 for 70 yards, including the 29 yard 4th and 6 completion to DJ Grant and the jump ball for 32 yards to Mike Davis. If adversity is 4th quarter deficits on the road in conference, then adversity checks under the bed for David Ash at night. And as a quick aside, the Texas OL deserves a little bit of credit for the performance. Time and time again, Ash had an eternity in the pocket to make his reads. Credit to the OL for picking up blitzes and giving their QB time. But aside from that, the passing game got little help from the other units on the team.
42-136-2, 3.2: Texas rushing attempts - rushing yards - rushing TDs, yards per carry
A strong rushing performance by the Texas offense would have taken pressure off of the quarterback, silenced the Stillwater crowd, and kept the dynamic Cowboy offense off the field. Would have. Whether it was a failure to recover from the early loss of Malcolm Brown, an ability to get to the staple pin-and-pull, or a loaded box by the Cowboy defense, the Texas rushing attack was irrelevant for 11 of 12 Texas drives. Only a late 4th quarter TD drive featured strong performances by the running backs, with Johnathan Gray and Joe Bergeron combining for 7 carries, 65 yards, and a TD. The rest of the game? 35 carries, 71 yards, 1 TD. Not a recipe for success on the road, and definitely something the coaching staff will look to address this week.
40-275-2, 6.9: Oklahoma State rushing attempts - rushing yards - rushing TDs, yards per carry
Nothing really nice to say here, and we're all familiar with the problems. Poor run fits and poor tackles by a defense that looks absolutely befuddled in space. Joseph Randle is a fine RB, but 25 - 199 - 2 TDs? JW Walsh is a very mobile QB, but 8 - 71 and a 50 yard designed run? Just won't do.
18-27, 301, 2-1: JW Walsh completions - attempts, passing yards, passing TDs-INT
The redshirt freshman Walsh, in his first collegiate start, completed 66.7% of his passes at 11.1 yards per attempts and only one turnover. He turned out a solid night in a position primed for failure. He's not the prototype of what Mike Gundy wants in his quarterback, but his play gives him the chance at a serious look upon Wes Lunt's return from injury. Shifting the focus from Walsh to the Texas pass defense, it was a mixed night for the Texas defenders against the pass. Kenny Vaccaro had a nice play early jumping an inside route and forcing (in every sense of the word) a turnover. Alex Okafor and Jackson Jeffcoat chipped in a sack each. The first TD pass featured a missed tackle by Adrian Phillips, here a missed tackle meaning Phillips went to blow up the WR and failed to wrap up and bring him to the ground, and the second TD was a well thrown post route that beat Kenny Vaccaro in coverage. The passing TDs went for 44 and 20 yards respectively.
3 - 4: Oklahoma State TD drives consisting of three plays or less - total Oklahoma State TDs
Quick strike, explosive, whatever you want to call it, the OSU offense scored TDs in flashes. Of the 4 TDs the Texas defense gave up, 3 came on drives of 3 plays or less. The OSU TD drives: 2 plays - 75 yards, 3 plays - 62 yards, 2 plays - 43 yards, and 8 plays - 89 yards. Manny Diaz defenses are supposed to limit big plays and force opposing QBs to sustain long drives, but failed to do so against the Cowboys. But on a night the defense couldn't do much right, it was something it did do right that made the difference in the game.
5 - 5, 2: Oklahoma State red zone scores - attempts, TDs
Where Texas mostly failed to win in space on defense, it succeeded in winning in the red zone. In 5 offensive red zone possessions, the Cowboys managed 3 field goals and 2 TDs. The Texas defense, ranked 10th in the country at limiting TDs in the red zone, came up big when it needed to and gave just enough to escape Stillwater with a win. If there's a glimmer of hope to be had that the defense can get right, its in the red zone defense. If Texas can get its tackling in space corrected, and the defensive run fits back to limiting big plays, it can get to the red zone and clamp down on opponents. A lot of ifs, but hope is there.
4 - 4, 4: Texas red zone scores - attempts, TDs
Where the Oklahoma State offense could not capitalize on most of its red zone possessions, the Texas offense did. 4 trips to the red zone, 4 TDs. Now 6th in the country at scoring TDs in the red zone, the Texas offense is making the most of its opportunities and showing real maturity as a unit. To put the 6th ranking in perspective, the offense was 104th last year in the same category. The scores came on a pair of Ash to Shipley TD throws, and a pair of Joe Bergeron dives. The fact that the offense is able to get scores passing and throwing is a very good sign.
9 - 17 vs. 6 - 13: Texas 3rd down conversions - attempts vs. Oklahoma State conversions - attempts
As a team, Texas continues to separate itself on third downs. The offense put together another 50%+ performance, improving its season percentage to 58.33%, good for 4th in the country. While the 6 of 13 performance the defense allowed isn't extremely impressive for a unit ranked 31st in the country in third down percentage, it came against an Oklahoma State unit still 2nd in the country at nearly 59% completing third downs.
3: career kick returns for touchdowns by DJ Monroe
DJ Monroe's 100-yard kick return for a touchdown in the 1st quarter marked the 4th 100 yard kick return TD in school history, and DJ's third of his career. The mark sets the school record for career kick return TDs, a mark he shared after returning two kicks for TDs as a freshman. The senior has stepped up his game significantly this year and has now scored in each of the 4 games to start the year. While the Texas kick coverage unit made some very confusing choices in pooch kicking, DJ Monroe single handedly forced the specials teams performance into at least a split. All props to DJ Monroe and Bennie Wylie for putting in the work, and its great to see the results on the field.
12 - 68: Johnathan Gray carries - yards
Just a real quick shout out to a freshman who stepped up on the road and played like a veteran. With Malcolm Brown missing most of the game with an ankle injury, John Gray stepped in and filled in well attacking small holes and running the Wild formation with patience. On the first drive of the 4th quarter following OSU taking a lead, Gray had 45 of the team's 75 yards, including 4 straight carries for 30 yards that set up Bergeron's one yard TD plunge. It may not have been a flashy coming out party, but it's the kind of performance that perfectly highlights Gray's mentality and maturity beyond his years.
To sum it up, the defense did just enough by performing in the red zone to get us out of Stillwater alive. While the run game was largely ineffective, David Ash has stepped up and been a source of big plays and steady leadership in the red zone. If the offense can continue to take steps forward, and the defense can stop taking steps backwards, we might just have ourselves a team. Next week we see what is potentially the toughest test on the schedule, and West Virginia has an offense that will likely test my desire to look at numbers for any stretch of time. But for now, let's soak up a hard fought road win. What numbers are getting you interested in what this team is doing?