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Inside the Numbers: Ja’Tavion Sanders on record-setting pace

The tight end is on-pace to have an all-time season, plus a one-in-a-lifetime performance from the defense.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 08 AT&T Red River Showdown - Texas vs Oklahoma Photo by William Purnell/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

There’s no other way to say it, the Texas Longhorns put the boots to their archrival Oklahoma Sooners.

The Longhorns took advantage of a reeling Oklahoma team, coming off two humiliating losses, and managed to one-up the Kansas State Wildcats and the TCU Horned Frogs with the 49-point drubbing. Texas jumped out to an early lead, never looked back, and had a luxury rarely afforded to teams in this rivalry game, resting their starters for the entirety of the fourth quarter.

Ja’Tavion Sanders: 5 receptions, 71 yards, 2 TDs

With 1:57 left in the third quarter, Ja’Tavion Sanders came down with his second touchdown reception of the game and put his name among the greatest tight ends in school history.

His five receiving touchdowns tie him for the third-best season in school history, matching David Thomas (2004, 2005) and Bob Moses (1961). He now sits one shy of Derek Lewis (1998) and three back of Pat Fitzgerald (1995) for the single-season record. If he passes Lewis, he will put himself at No. 6 on the tight end career touchdowns list.

Sanders now has 25 receptions and 283 yards on the year, putting him in a position to put his name in the single-season record books for both of those categories as well. He’s six receptions shy of Jermichael Finley’s 31 receptions in 2006 and just 90 yards back of Fitzgerald’s 373 yards in 1995.

Quinn Ewers: 21-31, 289 yards, 4TD, INT

In his first trip to the Cotton Bowl, Quinn Ewers needed a drive to get warmed up, but once he hit his stride, he commanded the offense to the most lopsided win in Texas history.

Ewers started the game by completing 14 of his first 16 attempts for 163 yards and two touchdowns, putting Texas up 21-0 in the second quarter. He capped off the first half with a 24-yard touchdown pass to Ja’Tavion Sanders, his favorite target of the day, to give Texas a four-score lead.

Showing off what the Texas offense can be with a deep-threat quarterback, averaging 13.76 yards per completion. Much of his passing came on chunk plays, with 202 of his 289 yards coming on passes longer than 15 yards, including touchdowns of 15, 24, and 18 yards and completions of 38 and 32 yards.

Texas Defense: 0 points, 195 total yards (156 rushing yards, 39 passing yards, 3.31 yards per play)

Outside of the anomaly in Lubbock, the Texas defense has been good this year and was once again a big reason for the Longhorns’ victory. In five of six games this year, Pete Kwiatkowski’s unit has held the opponent to less than 21 points, pitching the second shutout of the Steve Sarkisian Era and the first one in the Red River Showdown since 1965.

Texas took advantage of an OU offense that has struggled as of late and was without its starting quarterback, turning in its lowest total yardage and yards per play since San Jose State in 2017. Texas has held opponents to less than 200 yards just twice in the last 10 seasons, SJSU and North Texas in 2014. After Dillon Gabriel went out with a concussion against TCU, the OU offense was bound to be limited, but the 39 passing yards in the lowest performance since North Texas in 2014.

Now, the Longhorns come back to Austin to host the Iowa State Cyclones, hoping to avenge one of the worst from the litany of embarrassing losses a year ago.