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Longhorns earn postseason in resounding destruction of Pokes, 28-7

This felt good. Really good.

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

By the end of a second straight dominating performance, there were only Texas Longhorns fans left in Stillwater as the Oklahoma State Cowboys fell to the Horns, 28-7, pushing the Horns to 4-0 when head coach Charlie Strong wears his burnt orange turtleneck and 1-0 when wearing the new metallic decals on the helmets.

It was a fitting scene, as the crowd mirrored the Cowboys -- late to arrive, never a factor at all, and early exiting, as Texas raced out to a 13-0 lead in the first quarter that ballooned to 19-0 at halftime.

Speaking of mirrored, the opinion here remains that the metallic logos are a beautiful little tweak to the stormtroopers and match the sheen on the rest of the uniform trim.

But back to that dominance -- not since 2005 had Oklahoma State been shut out in the first half at home, while the 51 total yards were the fewest since at least 2004.

This is what total dominance looks like statistically:

first half

A three and out on the opening possession gave to ball to the Longhorns, leading to a ball-control drive that was rolling until suffering from a fumble on a first down play-action pass when senior running back Malcolm Brown knocked the hand of sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes on his play fake.

Able to hit sophomore wide receiver Jacorey Warrick for 11 yards to set up a 3rd and 10. Then Swoopes dropped a perfect pass over the shoulder of senior wide receiver John Harris to get off to the quick start.

The throw provided crucial evidence that Swoopes was ready to show some improvement after three straight games in which he had seemingly regressed.

On the day, the big passer turned in his third career 300-yard game, going 24 of 33 for 305 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. Play caller Shawn Watson said after the game that Swoopes was "glowing" in the locker room afterwards because he knew that he "nailed it."

And so he did, pulling everyone back just like he always does.

For a second straight week, the Longhorns got off to a fast start, ultimately scoring on four of the five possession in the first half, with the only failure a missed 21-yard field goal by junior Nick Rose, who also hit a career long 51-yarder earlier in the second quarter and connected from 34 yards late in the half.

The defense was unquestionably dominant, harassing Oklahoma State quarterback Daxx Garman, who ended the game having thrown for 5.4 yards per attempt and an interception. By late in the second quarter, he was hurting and seemed generally discouraged about his chances against a hungry Texas defensive line.

In the running game, there were no answers. Through the air, there were no answers.

Behind the front, the defensive backs rallied quickly to the football, with one notable play featuring senior cornerback Quandre Diggs leveraging Oklahoma State star Tyreek Hill, then bring him down with a quickness when Hill made the mistake of trying to cut the play outside of Diggs instead of taking a vertical seam and picking up some yardage.

In the second half Diggs did the same thing on a kickoff return, making an appearance in that coverage unit just to make sure that Hill would stay properly

There were still some missed opportunities for the Horns, however, and the second half featured breakdowns in execution along the offensive line that consistently put Texas into long down-and-distance situations, compounded by a handful of penalties like two false starts from sophomore offensive tackle Camrhon Hughes and a hold on junior offensive guard Sedrick Flowers.

At times, it seemed as if the offense was content to pick up a first down here and there as the defense continued to contain an Oklahoma State attack that had no answers on that side of the ball.

When the defense finally relented and gave up a 10-play, 61-yard drive early in the fourth quarter that cut the lead to 22-7, the offense showed some real life for the first time in the second half.

Swoopes did a wonderful job stepping up in the pocket and delivering a bullet to junior wide receiver Marcus Johnson for 17 yards to keep the drive alive early, then made another fantastic throw on the run moving right putting the ball up with touch for Harris to make a play, picking up 24 yards on that throw.

A pitch play to senior running back Malcolm Brown was dropped for a seven-yard loss that looked like it might stall the drive until the Texas passer finally delivered the long-awaited knock-out punch with a beautiful, arcing 45-yard touchdown pass to a streaking Armanti Foreman that dropped right in the freshman wide receiver's bread basket.

Want to see the upside of Swoopes as a passer? That's it right there.

Now the staff will have some time to sit down and talk about those failures to execute in the running game and will need the bye week to get senior wide receiver Jaxon Shipley healthy after he left the game with a leg injury sustained in the end zone at the end of the first half when he slid into the wall of Boone Pickens Stadium.

However, the key is that the offense has established an identity as a power running team, consolidating the move away from a reliance on the zone game. There are now fewer POP passes in the arsenal and that will be something to consider in the future, but right now it doesn't seem to be part of the identity.

Getting the type of play from Swoopes, the wide receivers, the running backs, and the offensive line that Texas did on Saturday is the recipe for a victory as this team continues to play excellent defense, conceding some shorter passes and rallying to the football, while controlling the run game with three-man lines.

Again, identity.

The formula has resulted in a team that has won four of the last five games, three in a row, and will be playing the postseason after that possibility seemed remote just a few short weeks away.

Not to mention the fact that TCU struggled mightily on the road against Kansas, showing some flaws that Texas could exploit on Thanksgiving in front of a crowd with a chance to create one of the best atmospheres in recent history as the Longhorns try to assert some type of home-field advantage in Austin.

For now, it's enough to appreciate how well this team is playing as Strong's culture change in Austin takes hold.

The football feels good again.