Yesterday was a frustrating watch for Texas Longhorns fans. There is probably not a bunch I can type today to ease those frustrations on this Sunday afternoon after what we watched transpire in Stillwater in the 41-34 loss to the Oklahoma State Cowboys.
After yesterday’s watch I felt like I came away with way more questions than answers and that is a weird place to be in at this point in the season. The Longhorns are at the start of a very tough stretch of the schedule where they are going to face competent teams from now until the end of the season. The hope was for them to be finding their stride at this point in the season and for them to be figuring out who they are going to be.
Yesterday felt like things unraveled a bit for the team as a whole and I will touch on that here in a bit because I don’t think you can point your finger at one person for how things played out. I am going to do my best to sprinkle in some positive because I hate being the guy that just rails on a team who is licking their wounds after a tough loss, but I also have to shoot it straight because that’s how I get down.
With that said, let’s get down to business and go over some observations from the trip to Stillwater.
Quinn Ewers turns in a clunker on the road
This was the worst version we’ve seen of Ewers to date by a longshot. No way around it and no way to sugarcoat it. The stat line says plenty (19/49, 38 percent, three INTs), but the eye in the sky will likely be even more unkind to him.
Quinn Ewers is one of only 3 QBs since 2000 to attempt 49+ passes in a game and complete less than 20, per @collegefb_ref.— Max Olson (@max_olson) October 22, 2022
From the opening series Ewers was off and it never got better as the game wore on. Everything he threw yesterday was either high or long and to make matters worse it seemed like he and his receivers were constantly out of sync and not on the same page. The latter is particularly frustrating because these are guys that Ewers has had all offseason to build chemistry with and has worked well with during the season.
I expected the wind to be an issue for the passing game, but the much bigger problem was the dysfunction between the quarterback and his wide receivers and it ultimately impacted the flow of the entire offense. This was Ewers’ first true road game of his career at Texas, so I expected some jitters and hiccups, but this was well past that and he never got his feet under him.
Part of this can be chalked up to growing pains, but I also question if Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian could have done a better job to help his young quarterback out at times with play calling to maybe help build his confidence, but it seemed like as the game wore on the offense was predictable and stale to the point Oklahoma State was teeing off on the run game on early downs to put Texas in third and long situations.
I like others wondered if Sarkisian should have turned to Hudson Card at some point when it looked like Ewers just didn’t have it, but he said after the game that he never considered pulling Ewers.
Texas HC Steve Sarkisian says he did not consider pulling Quinn Ewers.— Joe Cook (@josephcook89) October 23, 2022
While it certainly looks Sark is going to stick to his guns this year after giving an early hook to Card in 2021, I am still left wondering if Card could have provided a bit of a jolt throwing the football given how off Ewers was all game. Ultimately, I can hear arguments for it either way and I totally understand why Sark wanted to let Ewers play his way out of the slump,
Either way you go, the entire bye week needs to be spent getting the young signal caller right between the ears and they need to get the receivers on the same page if they want any shot at winning games down the home stretch.
Penalties and turnovers
When you are trying to win games on the road you can’t continuously shoot yourself in the foot and give your opponent extra opportunities to beat you. The Longhorns did that several times over yesterday in Stillwater against the 11th-ranked opponent in the country.
Texas turned the ball over three times yesterday (all interceptions by Ewers, including two on the final two drives) and they racked up 14 penalties to the tune of 119 yards. That will get you beat everyday and twice on Sundays. To make matters worse, Oklahoma State wasn’t penalized a single time throughout the matchup, though I have a hard time believing that the Cowboys played penalty-free football considering how flag happy this crew was.
The Longhorns extended drives for Cowboys and they ended drives of their own with killer penalties and turnovers. It was incredibly frustrating to watch unfold, so I can only imagine the frustration in the building as they look over the film. The most brutal penalty of them all may have been on the second to last offensive drive of the game, when Ewers scrambled for a 33-yard gain and it was wiped away due to a holding penalty. It pretty much summed up the whole game for Texas.
The run game faded down the home stretch
The Oklahoma State defense hasn’t been great this year after losing its defensive coordinator and several key components during the offseason. It was known coming in that they struggled against the run and it showed pretty quickly, as both Bijan Robinson and Roschon Johnson took turns taking it to the Cowboy defense in the first half. Robinson nearly went over 100 yards on the ground in the first half after ripping off a 42-yard touchdown run, so it was clear the run game was clicking early and had a chance to have a big day.
Well, as Ewers and the passing game continued to sputter throughout the game that allowed the Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Derek Mason to be more aggressive in attacking the run on early downs to help his front seven out and that started to turn into more negative plays and less room to work for the Texas backs. Texas is used to wearing down defenses in the second half with the run game, but they were not able to accomplish that this week since they couldn’t sustain drives in the second half.
Texas accumulated 523 total yards of offense, but only 152 yards of it came in the second half. Once it became clear the offense was pretty much one dimensional the effectiveness of 2 and 5 decreased dramatically and it showed.
Texas ended the game with 204 rushing yards, with Robinson going for 140 and Johnson netting 73 yards on only five carries. Those are decent numbers, but it could have been even more if the passing game showed up to the yard.
Injuries piling up in the secondary
Last week we saw a Texas secondary who had to play a lot of reserves for varying reasons and this week there was more shuffling going on due to guys getting banged up. The Longhorns will likely be without Anthony Cook for awhile, as it was revealed by Sarkisian after the game that he broke his arm and missed the entire second half. On top of that, Ryan Watts was in and out of the game and I can’t recall off the top of my head if he actually finished the game. To make matters worse, Jaylon Guilbeau had to leave the game after suffering some friendly fire from a teammate and he needed help from the trainers to make it to the sideline.
The Longhorn secondary conceded their second 100-yard receiver of the season to Bryson Green (five catches, 133 yards), after allowing zero prior to Xavier Hutchinson’s performance in Austin last week. The trend line is not promising considering you are now having to ask your backups to log heavier snap loads at both safety and corner and opposing passing offenses seem to be finding their footing against the Texas secondary.
This team needed the bye week whether they won or lost in Stillwater, but they need it badly to try to heal up before heading to Manhattan to take on Kansas State.
The tackling issues are back
Listen. Nothing will get my blood running hotter than watching guys give poor effort on one of the game’s most basic tasks. Learning how to tackle ball carriers is taught from day one dating back to Pop Warner and Peewee leagues. It comes down to effort and want to and if you try to cheat the system you are going to end up costing your team.
Poor tackling has been an issue for the Texas defense in previous years, but early on this year it looked like Texas was much improved in that department. Well, unfortunately, much like an annoying rash, the tackling issue flared back up on Saturday and it both allowed Oklahoma State to move the chains and score a touchdown at different points in the ball game.
I’m not going to name names because I’m sure if you were watching the game like I was you can see it vividly in your mind and probably wanted to throw your remote at the TV like I did.
Texas is going to have to get back to the fundamentals in a few areas during the bye week and I would probably start by reemphasizing the importance of wrapping up ball carriers and gang tackling at all times.
BONUS: Special teams turned in a solid day across the board
Because I like to try to end things on a positive note I have to give a shoutout to Jeff Banks and the special teams unit. From the kickoff team, to the return teams, to the individual specialists, it was a solid all-around performance in Stillwater.
The Texas special teams registered yet another block, as Morice Blackwell was able to get his hand on one. Daniel Trejo had a nice night punting the football, as he was able to land four inside the 20-yard line, including one that went out right at Oklahoma State one-yard line. Bert Auburn was 2-for-3 on field goals (though the one miss never had a chance) and was perfect on PATs, and Will Stone consistently was putting kickoffs into the end zone.
Both Xavier Worthy and Keilan Robinson notched solid returns when they had opportunities to field kicks with Worthy having a long of 29 yards and Robinson a long of 38 yards.
Hard to ask for much more from this group as a whole.
Time to nurse bumps and bruises before heading to the dreaded land of Manhattan. This team needs to get healthy both physically and mentally, because the game aren’t getting any easier going forward.