"Once they stop doing stupid s*** they’re going to start winning a lot of games." -- Pyro27 with a solid summary of Texas.
In one of the more bizarre stat-lines for the season, Texas more than doubled Oklahoma's offensive yardage, ran 30 more plays, gained twice as many first downs, enjoyed a nearly 2-to-1 time of possession advantage, and still lost. This bizarre stat-line brought to you by the 80 yards of Longhorn penalties and the Texas special teams. All covered excellently in Peter's post here.
I am finding myself uncomfortably filing a third Texas loss into the "feels okay" category, but I think that is what a season like this is about. We measure progress with wins and losses, yes, but beyond that we look for improvement within those wins and losses. I predicted Texas losing to each of UCLA, Baylor, BYU, and Oklahoma at the beginning of the season, and it's been frustrating being right because all of those games felt winnable. That frustration is a good thing, a sign of some life in this Texas team, and eventually (I tell myself) that will translate into wins.
Until then, onto the numbers...
Big plays and Bad plays.
In the chart above, "big gains" are 20+ yard passes or 10+ yard rushes. Medium gains are 10-20 yard passes and 5-10 yard rushes. Short gains are 0-10 yard passes or 0-5 yard rushes. Mouseover the bars to see run/pass splits.
After consistently yielding 80 plays to the opposing team a week, Texas allowed Oklahoma only 50 plays on offense. The last time an opponent ran fewer plays against us was in 2011 against Kansas (36 plays!). That's the good news. The bad news is that part of the reason Oklahoma ran only 50 plays because Oklahoma's defense and special teams scored a touchdown each, keeping their offense off the field. Since this was an Oklahoma offense that only managed 232 yards and went 1/11 on third downs, we'd have much rather have had their offense on the field a bit more.
Otherwise defensively Texas was relatively stout, allowing only 5 Oklahoma passes for more than 10 yards, and only 7 rushes for more than five.
On offense, while we did have the one costly pick-six and a few untimely penalties, we played more or less well enough to win. Tyrone Swoopes played better than expectation for his first start in the Cotton Bowl, and the running backs managed 8 rushes for 10 or more yards -- crucial to extending drives.
While they paint a rosy picture, what the charts above are missing is a 43 yard OU pick-six, and a 91 yard OU kickoff return for a TD. The pick-six is unfortunate, but our special teams have been downright abysmal, now ranking dead last in kickoff return yardage allowed. We are doing ourselves no favors here.
Although I know we are still seeing untimely penalties and inexplicably persistent bad C/QB exchanges, we are getting better on offense. To wit, Swoopes had his first 300 yard passing game, relying on the bulletproof Texas quarterbacking strategy of throwing the ball to the nearest member of the Shipley family. In the rushing game, Texas like weeks past showed success rushing to the outside, gaining almost 5 yards/carry to the left and the right.
Probability of Texas winning the game
The above chart shows the probability of Texas winning the game throughout the entire game. Mouse over the plays to see what they are. This is to see how much impact individual plays had on the outcome.
This win probability plot pretty much encapsulates the emotions of Texas fans in each of the last two losses. An initial despondence followed by a bit of hope that is eventually dashed, in this case by a Trevor Knight touchdown pass around minute 40. To the credit of this Texas team, they continued to fight with two late scoring drives, but neither appears to have significantly affected the odds of winning since Oklahoma by that point was ahead by three scores.
I should mention at this point that the win% model does take into account game situation, but does not explicitly take into account how we arrived at the current situation. So while the model knows what the score is, it doesn't know that the Oklahoma score includes two relatively fluke-y plays. So I'd expect that the "true" win probability is a bit higher for Texas and a bit lower for Oklahoma.
With this defensive performance, Texas is now ranked 17th in total defense at 316 yards/game and 4th in yards-per-play allowed at 4.3 yards per play. This, after facing Oklahoma and Baylor. According to Sagarin, who is generally sane, Texas' schedule ranks 9th in the country through the first seven weeks, which should make you feel a little better about being 2-4 (our worst start since... 1956?). Comically, Colley, who also likes our strength-of-schedule (ranks us 11th) lists as our "best win" a victory over 102nd ranked Kansas. Ouch.
Ranked near the 100s on both offense and defense, Iowa State seems a ripe candidate for a cathartic Texas stomping next week. But we warned. While they are not statistically a good team, they have played a strong schedule, including games against Baylor (#7), Kansas St. (#20), and Oklahoma St. (#21), and are looking to avenge a narrow (and somewhat controversial) loss from last season.
It won't be a season-changer or anything, but after a couple of weeks of increasingly good losses, I'd really like to see us put everything together and go get a damn W. This team and my liver both need it.