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Inside the Numbers: Texas vs. OU

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Two massive mistakes undermined season-best performances on both offense and defense. Despite the 31-26 loss, there are plenty of reasons to feel optimistic about the Horns down the back stretch of the season, and the numbers reflect that.

Ronald Martinez

50 - 232 (4.6) - 17: OU offensive plays - total yards (yards per play) - points by offense

1 - 11: OU third down conversions - attempts

Without a suffocating performance by the Texas defense, the Red River Shootout could have gotten out of hand as it had several times in the last few years. But the defense, in a testament to the reformed mentality Charlie Strong brought to Austin, kept the Horns in the game. The first half featured a particularly smothering Texas defense that held OU to 14 plays and 29 yards. The Sooners failed all four of their third down conversions in the half.

The second half featured a minor let-up, where the Sooners were able to score TDs on a 5 play 63 yard drive late in the 3rd quarter and 5 play 47 yard drive early in the 4th. But ultimately, the Sooners were held to 1 - 11 on third down and limited to 50 plays and 232 yards in total.

This defense is already playing at a very high level 6 games into the Strong era, and they'll need to continue to hold the fort as the offense finds its legs.

27-44, 334 (7.6), 2-1: Tyrone Swoopes completions-attempts, passing yards (yards per attempt), passing TDs-INTs

9 - 63 (7.0) - 1: Tyrone Swoopes after-sack rushing attempts - rushing yards (yards per carry) - rushing TDs

I'll try to keep this from becoming an "I told you so" moment or a Swoopes gush session, but it's hard not to get excited about the performance of the sophomore QB on the school's biggest stage. A week after the worst performance of his young career, where he was clearly (and admittedly) nervous, Swoopes stepped into the Cotton Bowl and delivered his best performance by far. He set career highs for completions, attempts, passing yards, yards per attempt, passing TDs, and rushing yards.

His improvement was obvious on several fronts. After the early pick six that dug the Horns in a 17-3 hole, Swoopes battled back and displayed dramatic improvement in pocket presence and anticipation. His first TD strike to John Harris came on 3rd and long, where he wasn't phased by outside pressure picked up by Malcolm Brown, and anticipated Harris opening up over the linebacker. Overall, Swoopes was not late on throws like he was against Baylor, and was much more comfortable in the pocket.

And it wasn't just as a passer that Swoopes displayed a better understanding of who he is and what he does well. As a runner, Shawn Watson emphasized Swoopes' ability to get north and south in the zone-read game to attack the Sooners' numbers in the run game. He was able to get chunk yardage off-tackle, and the TD run late in the 4th against a gassed Sooner defense showcased what the upside of an up-tempo offense with Swoopes punishing tired defenders can look like. But no play better highlights his ceiling as a running option than the 73 yarder called back in the first half.

Nobody is mistaking Swoopes for Colt McCoy as a passer, or Vince Young as a rusher, at this point. But the game in Dallas provided evidence for what this staff can do with the sophomore and what talents they can maximize. The next step for Swoopes is improve how consistent that performance is and further eliminate the critical errors, both turnovers and costly penalties.

Oh, and by the way, if you're wondering if that performance in the Cotton Bowl was any good...

9 - 115: Jaxon Shipley receptions - receiving yards

7 - 93: Marcus Johnson receptions - receiving yards

5 - 90 - 2: John Harris receptions - receiving yards - receiving TDs

With Swoopes having his best performance as a passer, the production was spread around to the three veteran receivers. Jaxon Shipley tied a career high 9 catches on the way to his 5th career 100 yard receiving game, while passing Kwame Cavil to move to 7th all time in receptions at Texas. Marcus Johnson had his best performance in the season, including a 41 yard catch and run to set up the 4th quarter TD that brought the score to 31-20. And a week after failing to score a TD for the first time this year, John Harris found the end zone twice on his 5 big catches.

While the offensive staff continues to work in young WRs Armanti Foreman, Lorenzo Joe, and now Dorian Leonard, it was the veterans that stepped up for the young QB.

19 - 78 (4.1): Malcolm Brown rush attempts - rushing yards (yards per carry)

Despite not being an overly impressive statistical performance, Malcolm Brown had a big game, gaining 78 yards on 19 tough carries. As far as I'm concerned, it was the best Malcolm has looked this season, getting north and south in a hurry while fighting through arm tackles and punishing would-be tacklers for an extra yard or two every carry. More of that, Malcolm.

84 - 482 (5.7) - 26: Texas offensive plays - total yards (yards per play) - points

7 - 18: Texas third down conversions - attempts

All of those individual performances added up to the best performance the Horns have put together all season, accumulating 84 plays and gaining 482 yards. The yardage output is second most for the Horns all-time against OU.

With the defense performing as it did in keeping OU off the field, the Horns' offense would perform well on third down. The third quarter struggles were there again, with the offense going 0-4 on third down in the 3rd quarter. But aside from that quarter, the offense converted 50% of third down opportunities. More improvement.