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BON Roundtable: 3rd Down defense, troubles on the road, and Oklahoma State

Plus, predictions for Saturday’s game

NCAA Football: Iowa State at Texas Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

Gritty win. Culture win. Confidence building win. Those are just a few of the adjectives used to describe the Longhorns comeback victory over Iowa State. Steve Sarkisian said on Monday he’s not sure last year's team had the ability to win that game. Do you agree?

Cameron Parker (@camerondparker) - There were two high-effort plays that ultimately won the game for Texas. Jordan Whittington pushing Roschon Johnson across the first down line and Anthony Cook’s tackle that forced Hunter Dekker’s fumble. Maybe both players make the same play last year but it sure felt Texas didn’t have any of those things go their way during the six-game losing streak. I think we’ll learn more about this team in the next five weeks when they face the four best teams in the conference.

Daniel Seahorn (@DanielSeahorn) - 100% agree. Texas found ways to lose the tight ones instead of finding ways to win them last year. Them finding a way to grit out a win against a team that has had them in the chokehold for several years now was encouraging to see.

Gerald Goodridge (@ghgoodridge) - I said it on the podcast this week, but they lost that game a month ago in Lubbock. Texas didn’t have its A stuff and still managed to gut out a win. I know that Ewers didn’t play in Lubbock, but that was a winnable ball game and they couldn’t make the plays. I still need them to find a way to knock out opponents, but one thing at a time I suppose.

Nik Patel (@NothingbutNik) - I am leaning towards yes for the offense. They were able to overcome struggles in both rushing and passing in the first half and continued to grind out a victory. I thought the defense struggled against what was supposed to be a weak ISU QB for the most part, but they were able to come up with clutch plays at the end of the game. The defense continues to be an emotional rollercoaster throughout the season every year. I would attribute the momentum more to the shutout against OU to helping the mentality shift.

Three wins in a row for the Horns and sit in 3rd place in the Big 12 standings with a chance to move into a tie for 1st with a win this week. Is Texas a top-3 team in the Big 12?

Cameron - I’m reluctant to say yes or no because Texas hasn’t played Oklahoma State, Kansas State, or TCU yet. Ask me again on Sunday.

Daniel - With how wide open the Big 12 is this year I think you can certainly make the case for this Texas team being a top 3 team. They have an offense that can score on anyone and a defense that has shown they have improved in year two under Pete Kwiatkowski. I’m saying they are the best team in the conference, but they have the ability to beat anyone left on the schedule, which includes the likes of Oklahoma State, TCU, and Baylor.

Gerald - I think so. I said it preseason - this was a crab in a barrel year for the conference and it played out just like that so far. Texas has shown improvements on both sides of the ball and is responding well to coaching. I think there’s a legitimate opportunity for this team to play for the conference championship, but we find out more Saturday.

Nik - I feel confident in saying I think the Texas offense is second only to TCU at the moment. And Texas has felt like a top 10 team in the nation at times. PK’s defense has improved but still shows variability. My top three are probably TCU, Texas, and OK State, with Baylor being my sleeper pick. Regardless, Texas needs to take each game at a time, and not underestimate their opponents if they want to make it through the back half of this season.

Despite the victory, Iowa State finished 9/15 on 3rd downs, including converting seven conversions on eight attempts in the 2nd half. Do you attribute that to a lot of inexperience in the secondary? Or a much deeper problem for PK’s defense?

Cameron - It’s been a problem the whole year. Opponents are converting 41% of 3rd downs against Texas which is 88th in the country. You could attribute Iowa State’s success against Texas due to Terrance Brooks, Austin Jordan, and Jaylon Guilbeau playing key snaps with Ryan Watts and Jamier Johnson injured. PK seems to be content with playing conservative, trying to prevent getting beat deep, but Iowa State failed to convert only one 3rd down attempt in the 2nd half. That has to be fixed.

Daniel - I saw a lot of reserves in the game on the back end of the defense last Saturday and when you combine that with Ryan Watts being out for most of the game I think it is easy to see why there were lapses back there on key downs. With that said, I think PK needs to start mixing some things up from a coverage standpoint on money downs because they have a tendency to concede some easy throws for QBs in those situations.

Gerald - I’m honestly not super caught up in the third down hysteria, simply because Texas is 3-0 on third downs. I think it’s not an indicator of success for the Longhorns, especially given the fact that when they have been able to get off the field, the offense hasn’t consistently rewarded that success. Now to answer the question, Iowa State capitalized on young reserves in the secondary trying to cover Xavier Hutchinson in the second half, which is an easily-exploitable matchup for the Cyclones.

Nik - So far this season, conversion rate hasn’t really had a strong correlation with predicting outcomes of games. Texas creates many pressures and forces turnovers that produce defensive scores. Xavier Hutchinson is regarded as one of the top receivers in the league for a reason and he took advantage of matchups against the youngins. I think if Texas struggles this weekend the way they did against Tech’s offense, that will be an indicator that PK has not made adequate adjustments.

Texas faces just their second true road test of the season tomorrow against Oklahoma State with Sark holding a 2-6 record away from DKR. What has been the Longhorns biggest reason for struggling on the road?

Cameron - Last year you could point to inexperience and lack of “buy in” from players who are no longer on this roster. The one loss on the road this season to Texas Tech might be just one of those games where everything went right for Tech. If Texas handles its business this week against Oklahoma State in Stillwater, I’ll say it’s not a problem. But if the Horns start looking tight and sloppy, it’s a bigger problem for Sark.

Daniel - Improving the culture and attitude in the locker room has been something Steve Sarkisian has been working hard to fix since arriving in Austin and I honestly think that played a big factor in why the team struggled to win games on the road. Fixing a losing mentality is not done overnight and that is something I think played a big factor in the issues. This team needs to learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, so that are able to remain composed when playing away from DKR.

Gerald - I think so much of it has been the “here we go again” clinch-up we have seen from this team, while not being able to feed off of the energy of the crowd. Specifically, the defense seems to ebb and flow with the crowd’s momentum, so can they fly to the football and be aggressive when they have to generate the momentum themselves?

Nik - The losing streak last year can be traced back to the OU loss and it was apparent that Texas was not able to shake off the 4th quarter curse. I think Sark has utilized his leaders on the team to aid in the culture shift. Roschon Johnson, Ja’Tavion Sanders, and De’Marvion Overshown have such electric energies after each play and I’m sure that mentality is infectious.

Can Texas snap their four-game losing on the road against Oklahoma State?

Cameron - It’s all about the health of Spencer Sanders. I don’t think he’ll be close to 100% and that favors the Longhorns. I expect a tighter game than what Vegas thinks but ultimately the Horns pull it out in the 4th quarter. Texas 35, Oklahoma State 31

Daniel - The last matchup in Stillwater was a barn burner that went in the Longhorns favor. Something about Spencer Sanders being banged up along with some other injuries for the Pokes gives me some optimism an upset can be had. I’m taking the Longhorns 28-24 over the Cowboys

Gerald - All of the advanced statistical models seem to favor Texas by varying degrees, so in spite of my own personal reservations I’m going to go with Texas 31-21.

Nik - I think it will be a potentially high scoring game with both passing defenses being vulnerable at this point in time. Texas has an edge because they have a running game as well so I’ll go with 42-31.