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Inside the Numbers: Defense won for Texas against Oklahoma State

Forcing turnovers and getting after the quarterback was the path to victory for the Longhorns.

NCAA Football: Texas at Oklahoma State Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

The Texas Longhorns are seemingly in must-win games for the rest of the season, managing to do just that as they knocked off the No. 6 Oklahoma State Cowboys on Saturday in Stillwater. The offense struggled through most of the game, relying on the defense to create the margin they needed to win. The defense answered the call, specifically by getting after the quarterback and forcing the Cowboys into turnovers, led by linebacker Joseph Ossai.

Joseph Ossai: 12 tackles, six tackles for loss, and three sack

To say that Joseph Ossai proved all of his fans right on Saturday would be an understatement. Going into the game, Ossai had just one sack and 6.5 tackles for loss. Against the Cowboys, Ossai became the first Power Five player in the last 11 seasons — and the sixth FBS player since 2000 — to notch at least 12 tackles, six tackles for loss and three sacks. The last was Ndamukong Suh in 2009 against Texas. Ossai’s massive outing was enough to catapult him into the national lead for tackles for loss and the No. 3 spot in the conference for sacks.

This marks the second multi-sack performance of his career, the first in what seemed to be his breakout game, last year’s Alamo Bowl win over the Utah Utes. Those same two performances make Ossai just the fourth player in school history to have at least five tackles for loss on multiple occasions, joining Emmanuel Acho.

Four turnovers (three fumbles, INT)

All season it looked like the Longhorns have been on the cusp of really breaking things open in the turnover department, with 30 broken up passes in their first five games, including 10 a week ago against the Baylor Bears. The dam seemingly broke against the Cowboys, creating opportunities for the offense.

Under Tom Herman, Texas has forced three fumbles just twice — the the first time came against Missouri in the 2017 Texas Bowl. In the Herman era, the Longhorns have turned opponents over five times — winning all five matchups — and are are 11-1 when forcing at least three.

Sam Ehlinger: 18/34, 169 yards, three TD

It was yet another struggle for Sam Ehlinger, who has struggled with some accuracy and decision making this year. Ehlinger turned in a less-than-stellar performance from an accuracy perspective, as Saturday’s game ranked as his third-lowest completion percentage since taking over as the full-time starter in 2018. He also snapped a school-record 18-game streak of at least 200 passing yards, but still threw for three touchdowns in the win, including the game-winner in overtime.

In spite of his struggles all year, Ehlinger has had it when it counted — in crunch time situations and once again put together yet another game-wining drive. The overtime pass to Joshua Moore was game-winner No. 7 in Ehlinger’s career, moving him into a tie with Major Applewhite.

Texas needs a bit of help from the rest of the conference if they want to play for the championship, but needs to take care of its own business first. The Longhorns now head back home to host the West Virginia Mountaineers, who are coming off of a 37-10 upset win over the Kansas State Wildcats.