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The Good, Bad, and Expected from Texas’ 36-30 win over Oklahoma State

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Texas took control in the trenches, and QB1 was his typical self, but the Longhorns allowed the game to be much closer than it should have been.

Oklahoma State v Texas Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

It wasn’t pretty, but the Texas Longhorns held on to a 36-30 win against the Oklahoma State Cowboys to secure the program’s first victory over Mike Gundy since 2014. With the win, head coach Tom Herman remains undefeated in conference openers at Texas.

This will be a weekly column throughout the season as I’ll categorize takeaways from each game into the good, bad, and expected for UT football standards.

The Good

Holding Chuba Hubbard and Tylan Wallace in check

Despite being on the field for nearly 90 plays last night, the Longhorns defense battled through plenty of adversity and overcame Oklahoma State’s up-tempo style of play. And considering all the injuries that the defense endured throughout the game, defensive coordinator Todd Orlando deserves a ton of credit for having everyone mentally prepared and ready to execute his game plan.

Orlando went with a more conservative schematic approach against the Cowboys this time around. This approach limited the Pokes to only a few big plays. Unlike last year’s matchup in Stillwater, Orlando bracketed Wallace by putting a safety over the top to prevent any one-on-one mismatches. With Wallace limited on the outside, this allowed Texas to zone in on the runs up-the-middle from Hubbard.

Overall, Orlando’s defense made sure that the nation’s leading rusher and receiver didn’t beat them. Hubbard was held to 3.3 yards per carry on 37 touches, while Wallace only had five receptions for 83 yards.

Instilling their will at the line of scrimmage

Texas simply outworked the Cowboys up front from start to finish. A stout performance from both the offensive and defensive line units dictated the pace of play in this one.

Offensive coordinator Tim Beck countered Oklahoma State’s passive defensive game plan with a run-first mentality on offense. Excellent blocking led to an established run game early in downs. All 13 of Texas’ first and second-down play calls were runs in the first quarter. For the game, 23-of-the-35 first-down play calls were runs. By doing this, Texas wore out Oklahoma State’s defense on the ground and it eventually opened things up for Ehlinger through the air.

On defense, guys like Ta’Quon Graham, Keondre Coburn, Moro Ojomo, and Malcolm Roach set the tone for the rest of the defense. They consistently produced an effective push along the line, which increased the activeness among the front seven. Chuba Hubbard had minimal room to work with before being contacted as Texas’ defense pursued the run very well.

Big game Sam

Per usual, quarterback Sam Ehlinger was the one in control of this game. He had minimal problems against Oklahoma State’s soft zone coverage look. The Cowboys defensive backs tended to play 10-15 yards off the ball so Ehlinger took what the defense gave him, used his legs when he needed to, and didn’t force any unnecessary throws. He led the offense to 498 total yards and converted 8-of-14 third-down attempts. This was another complete performance for the QB1.

Through four games, Ehlinger is on pace to break Colt McCoy’s school record for total touchdowns in a season (45).

Tim Beck’s trickery

Unlike against LSU, Beck waited on the perfect moment to break out a trick play and delivered with his most creative one yet this time. The reverse-flea flicker pass wrinkle was called and executed to perfection for a score. Now, the wait begins for a double pass trick play attempt with Roschon Johnson...

The Bad

Tom Herman’s game management, failing to put Oklahoma State away late

Herman openly criticized himself and admitted that he coached poorly after the game. Although he doesn’t regret his decision to go for it on fourth-down while ahead 14-6, Herman has to learn to just take three points in that situation. Especially with a kicker as reliable as Cameron Dicker on the sideline.

When it looked as if Oklahoma State was ready to wave the white flag, in true Longhorn fashion, Texas went on to make things way more interesting late in this game. The offense had several opportunities to put the Cowboys away with a two-possession lead but they failed to do so. Texas decided to take a conservative approach on offense and ran clock instead of playing loose and keeping the pressure on.

Tackling in space

While they’ve had few problems tackling inside the box, tackling in the open-field has become a reoccurring problem for this Texas defense each week. Safety Caden Sterns missed two crucial one-on-one tackles against a scrambling Sanders on third-down — both conversions resulted in Oklahoma State touchdowns.

The Longhorns have three weeks to get their open-field tackling in order before facing Lincoln Riley’s explosive offense.

Simple and unnecessary mistakes

Simple: Two muffed punts led to two Cowboy touchdowns.

Unnecessary: Defense was flagged for two late-hit penalties while playing with a lead (Ossai was nearly ejected).

The Expected

Devin Duvernay

Even without Collin Johnson on the field, Duvernay was as reliable as he’s been all season from the slot on Saturday. The sure-handed receiver was once again Ehlinger’s go-to target — Duvernay hauled in 12 of his 20 completions for 108 yards.

Given the cushion he was facing, Duvernay had no problem finding soft spots over-the-middle against Oklahoma State’s zone coverage. When the adjustments were made, Texas went right back to the outside with quick-hitting bubble screens.

Duvernay’s efficiency from the slot receiver position has been all-Big 12 worthy thus far. He’s produced 377 yards and four touchdowns on 39 receptions (9.6 YPC).

The next Oklahoma State star QB has been born

Redshirt freshman quarterback Spencer Sanders is the truth, and now Mike Gundy finally has a true dual-threat quarterback to build his air-raid offense upon. Behind Sanders, the Cowboys will likely remain a Big 12 force to be reckoned with for years to come.