The Texas Longhorns cruised to a 38-7 win over the Baylor Bears on Saturday afternoon to advance to 4-4 on the season and 3-2 in Big 12 play.
The dominating display came on the strength of yet another smothering effort from Todd Orlando’s defense, an efficient performance from Shane Buechele and a much-needed spark in the running game from the Longhorns freshmen, Toneil Carter and Daniel Young.
For as much as there was to like, though, there’s still plenty of room for improvement going forward.
DeShon Elliott strengthened his Thorpe Award case
On Monday, safety DeShon Elliott was named a Jim Thorpe Award semifinalist, which honors the nation’s top defensive back.
On Saturday, Elliott took another step towards potentially securing that illustrious honor, as the junior opened up the Longhorns meeting with Baylor by intercepting a Zach Smith pass and taking it 43 yards for his second pick-six of the season.
Week eight is still DeShon Elliott season. Here's the pick-six pic.twitter.com/QtjEXGjj9K— Ezra Siegel (@SiegelEzra) October 28, 2017
Elliott entered the game tied for first nationally with five interceptions and increased that total to six against Baylor, marking the fourth time time in the past six games that he’s hauled in an opposing quarterback’s pass. Not surprisingly, Elliott has secured Jim Thorpe Award National Player of the Week honors and was recognized as the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week twice during that span.
A Longhorn hasn’t taken home the Jim Thorpe Award since Aaron Ross in 2006. Michael Huff secured the award the year before in 2005, as well.
Shane Buechele can run the Texas offense
Arguably the only knock on Shane Buechele as the Longhorns starting gunslinger is his perceived fit — or lack thereof — in an offensive system that clearly likes to utilize its quarterbacks legs. Dual-threat freshman Sam Ehlinger fits that mold and has relied upon his legs 84 times for 265 yards this season, and although he’s undoubtably the more competent ball-carrier, Buechele isn’t exactly a sitting duck in the pocket.
Herman on Shane Buechele’s mobility: “He’s not a statue by any stretch of the imagination.” #HookEm— Horns247 (@Horns247) October 28, 2017
Although his 42-yard rushing effort was statistically hampered by a couple sacks, Buechele proved on be quite effective on the ground, recording two 10-yard runs to move the chains and a 28-yard touchdown scamper.
Who said Buechele doesn't have wheels? pic.twitter.com/lYIF0YbHvz— Ezra Siegel (@SiegelEzra) October 28, 2017
Along with his rushing display, Buechele completed 27 of 34 attempts for 256 yards and a touchdown, along with an interception.
Eight games in, Texas is still getting in its own way
The final scoreboard read 38-7, but that won’t reveal just how significantly Texas hampered itself at times.
Up 7-0 early, a false start to begin Texas’ third drive of the game pushed the ‘Horns to Baylor’s 21-yard line and after a three-and-out, a Joshua Rowland field goal was blocked.
Personal fouls penalties provided Baylor with free yardage throughout, keeping one drive alive, while another led to the Bears starting at their own 45-yard line. The following play, Charlie Brewer found a streaking Blake Lynch down the sideline for 52 yards and two plays later, Baylor punched in its only points of the game.
In the second half, as the Longhorns enjoyed a 1st and Goal from the Baylor 2-yard line, a Daniel Young false start on third down led to Texas settling for a field goal, and thus, leaving four potential points on the field. The following drive, a Terrell Cuney holding call negated a Toneil Carter 12-yard touchdown run and the very next play, a Buechele heave to the end zone was intercepted. Considering those two missed opportunities, Texas left 11 points on the field in what could have been a 49-7 victory. Factor in the blocked field goal and Texas realistically eyed its second 50-point performance of the season.
Of course, it didn’t matter much against a winless Baylor team, but the ‘Horns will need to avoid such costly mistakes with a road matchup against No. 4 TCU looming next weekend.