There isn’t going to be much that I can say to make you feel better on this Sunday morning. Saturday night was a missed opportunity for the Texas Longhorns football program in prime time with a lot of eyes on the matchup.
There will be silver linings to get to in my observations, but at the crux of everything is that one side of the ball did all the lifting last night in Austin and if you want to be able to beat good teams that simply can’t happen. Finding a way to win on Saturday could have changed the entire trajectory for Steve Sarkisian’s tenure at Texas, but instead we are sitting here without a lot more questions about what is going on with his side of the ball.
The next week is going to be a little uncomfortable for the staff and team alike. Next on the docket is a trip to Lawrence to take on the Kansas Jayhawks. The same Jayhawks who took them down at home last year to give Kansas their second win over the Longhorns in the last decade. I don’t want to begin to think about what the Longhorn interwebs will look like if the Texas offense from last night makes another appearance this week.
Let’s get into it.
Quinn Ewers and the offense played their worst game of the year
There is no way to sugarcoat this one. This was another stinker of a performance from Ewers in the biggest game of the year, but he wasn’t alone when it comes to underwhelming performances on that side of the ball. Ewers was once again not on the same page with his receivers for a good portion of the game and racked up several passes that were long on Xavier Worthy, but when he did put passes on target they were often dropped.
Longhorn receivers took turns dropping passes that would have certainly benefit an offense who struggled to find their footing all night. Both Worthy and Ja’Tavion Sanders dropped passes that would have likely moved the chains in spots where the Longhorns were trying to move the ball from the shadow of their own end zone. The offense’s inability to sustain drives consistently put the defense in tough spots and while they played their asses off, they eventually cracked in the second half. Speaking of Worthy, he is a good player but he has definitely found himself in a sophomore slump in 2022. We can talk about the quarterback issues plenty, but he has exacerbated things at times with things that he is in control of. Plain and simple: He has to do a better job of helping out his quarterback when the opportunities present themselves.
The book is out on the Texas offense at this point in the season. They are going to take away Bijan Robinson and Roschon Johnson and make Ewers beat them down the field with his arm. TCU was essentially daring him to do it all night by keeping defenders close to the line of scrimmage and aggressively attacking downhill any time a Longhorn other than Ewers touched the ball in the backfield. What resulted was Robinson and Johnson having their worst collective offensive output of the season and maybe worst offensive output in the last two seasons.
This was a collective failure on this side of the ball. And that goes right up to the coaches on the headsets, because I feel like they deserve an F for how this unit prepared and executed on gameday. Texas scored less than Colorado and Tarleton State (!!!) did against TCU earlier in the season. That’s about as damning as it can get for Sarkisian, who was hired due to his ability to produce offense and put his quarterback and skill players in positions to succeed. He should rightfully be feeling some heat this morning. His young quarterback has hit the freshman wall running 100 MPH and Sarkisian has not done a quality job of coaching Ewers out of the funk he is in. If he doesn’t find a way to do that, then he and his team will struggle in these final two ball games.
It is probably time to start trying to simplifying things for Ewers. He is clearly neck deep in water just trying to swim, but his coaches have not done a good job of throwing him a life preserver. Ewers hasn’t completed better than 60 percent of his passes since Iowa State. The Kansas game will be his eighth start of the season and his production is heading in the wrong direction. If Sark can’t get him right this week despite being on the road, it is going to be a long offseason discussing quarterback development whether you like it or not (and I don’t).
If you want some kind of silver lining for the offense, then you can take solace that offensive line turned in a nice night in pass protection. Right guard Cole Hutson turned in the lone clunker of the group (allowed a sack, three hurries, and four pressures per PFF), but outside of that the group held up well. The run game was another story, but when your quarterback is that ineffective throwing the ball the effect trickles down to other parts of the offense.
The TCU defense won this matchup on the field and on the headsets and deserves a lot credit. They were equally as confident and effective as the Texas defense, who I am about to heap some praise onto. They won the battle upfront to keep the Texas run game in check and they made passing lanes tight for Ewers for most of the night.
The Texas defense played their best game of the year
I thought the Texas defense may have peaked early with its performance against Alabama in Week Two, but then they showed up to the yard with their hair on fire and absolutely mauled Max Duggan and the TCU offense from the opening series.
Texas’ defense has 8 TFLs on 18 plays so far tonight. Off to a ridiculous start.— Max Olson (@max_olson) November 13, 2022
The TCU offense entered the matchup as one of the highest scoring offenses in the country and they were as shell shocked as the Texas offense was for most of the matchup. The defensive line was absolutely dominant and Barryn Sorrell turned in a monster performance, as he continues to blossom into the edge rusher that Texas defense desperately needed this year.
Barryn Sorrell is pretty good at this football thing, eh? pic.twitter.com/1qaaJU5DAE— Longhorn Network (@LonghornNetwork) November 13, 2022
Sorrell ended the night with 11 tackles, three TFLs, 1.5 sacks, one pass deflection, and had two more hurries on Duggan. That’s game wrecker production and proof in the pudding that development is happening on that side of the ball. Sorrell looks like a million bucks both in and out of pads, but now he is playing like it as well.
Sorrell wasn’t alone in his efforts upfront either. Keondre Coburn, T’Vondre Sweat, Moro Ojomo, and Ovie Oghoufo all took turns being disruptive and causing chaos, then they were backed up by guys like Jahdae Barron, Jaylan Ford, and DeMarvion Overshown who all turned in productive nights for Pete Kwiatkowski’s defense. Speaking of Barron, he is was right up there with Sorrell as far as dominant efforts go and he had one of the biggest plays of the game with a scoop in score that kept Texas in the game late.
Here’s a look at that 60+ yard Jahdae Barron fumble return for a touchdown. Texas defense will have a chance to give the offense the ball back late in the 4Q #HookEm pic.twitter.com/92kpbW8nPX— Hudson Standish (@247Hudson) November 13, 2022
Last but not least, let’ss talk about the Longhorn secondary. They entered the matchup down a starter at corner in D’Shawn Jamison, who we learned after the game was held out due to a concussion suffered during the week in practice. Enter true freshman cornerback Terrance Brooks, who probably logged his best game to date as a Longhorn by having the second best defensive grade among the defensive backs (Barron had the best) and had the second best coverage grade on the defense (Barron once again at the top). TCU has one of the best skill position groups in the country and has been able to score on anyone they have played. While the secondary conceded the touchdown to Quentin Johnston on a busted coverage by Anthony Cook, the TCU air attack was grounded otherwise. Johnston had three catches for 66 of TCU’s 124 passing yards. The next closest TCU pass catcher had 10 yards.
TCU broke two big plays on two blown assignments. Otherwise they were absolutely hemmed up offensively and what makes that even more impressive is the fact that the defense was playing with bad field position for a good portion of the contest due to the fact the offense couldn’t sustain drives. Several times during game TCU started with the ball at midfield or better and they were still only able to get muster 17 points with the bulk of it coming off two explosive plays. They came in averaging better than 40 per game.
My hat is truly off to the Texas defense because they played winning football for probably 90-95 percent of the game, but got shouldered with an impossible task of having to bail out the offense time and time again. They held up their end of the bargain even when you account for the miscues.
Five sacks, 14 TFLs, a scoop and score, and deflected field goal that kept TCU off the board early on. This unit played winning football and wasn’t rewarded with a win.
Missed opportunities in the red zone
This will be a pretty short and sweet section, because the Texas offense didn’t have many attempts inside the red zone last night. It was clear from how the first half played out that points were going to be at a premium, so when you got the chance to cash in you had to make the most of the opportunity. Needless to say that didn’t happen for the Longhorn offense.
The Texas offense made two trips to the red zone all night long. They had it 1st and goal from the 2-yard line and 1st and goal from the 5-yard line. Neither time inside the five yard line did Bijan Robinson touch the football and only once was a run attempted. I get that it was tough sledding all night for the run game, but I figure you would at least attempt to get your best player the football at some point there. I also wasn’t a big fan of trying to attack TCU in the run game in conventional ways, as that wasn’t effective at any point in the matchup. Sarkisian did opt to try play action one the first time down, but I said in real time I would have gone to a pla- action boot pass on first down because of how TCU was selling out for the run, but instead it came on second down when TCU was more alert for the pass due to inflicting a negative result on the play before.
The biggest missed opportunity of them all came just before the second 1st and goal sequence though. On 2nd and 3 from the TCU 25, Ewers missed a wide open Robinson going up the sideline after the defender in coverage fell down. He was looking that way, but instead threw it to Sanders for a five-yard gain. If he sees him he walks in for a touchdown and it changes a lot of things down the home stretch.
That pretty much sums up the night for the Texas offense.
The call to go after the punt in the second half cost Texas
This is a play where I place the blame squarely on the Texas coaches. Sure, you can blame the players for not properly executing a properly attempt when going for a punt block, but they should have never been put in the position in the first place given the circumstances.
Earlier in the game Texas went aggressively after a punt as they have often done this year with some success, but like in this situation they made contact with the punter and were fortunate they weren’t flag for roughing the punter. Instead, it was only running into the punter and they were still able to take possession of the football. The second time around they were not nearly as fortunate and it ended up resulting in points for TCU.
The block attempt was once again messy and contact was made with the punter. While the punter may have flopped a bit, keep in mind how hard Sonny Dykes was lobbying to the refs after the first penalty. You think that wasn’t firmly in their mind when Texas decided to put themselves right back in the same situation?
This happens right at the beginning of the fourth quarter with plenty of time left to make something shake. It was going to be a three and out for the defense and TCU was going to have to punt from their own 27. Instead it results in 9-play, 80-yard scoring drive that is capped off by one of few defensive miscues all night where Anthony Cook let their best receiver run right by him and catch a touchdown with nobody within 10 yards of him.
It was a nightmare scenario that could have been avoided if the coaching staff not outsmarted themselves trying to get aggressive too early. There are situations where I understand them trying to go after the kick, but when you look at the context of how things had gone earlier in the game then you had to know you were playing with fire if you sent the dogs after the kicker again.
The score goes from being only down one score at 10-3 to being down 17-3. And an offense who was trying to ice skate uphill all night had an even bigger hill to try to climb.
The Texas defensive line earned a game ball in my book
Barryn Sorrell. Keondre Coburn. T’Vondre Sweat. Moro Ojomo. Byron Murphy. Ovie Oghoufo.
These were the tone setters for Longhorns last night. They were an absolute mismatch for the TCU offense all night and they never allowed the Horn Frog offenses to get out of neutral. I saw Murphy abuse a TCU guard so bad that the refs wrongly assumed that he had his hands in the facemask of the offensive lineman. Nope. Murphy had both hands firmly on the jersey (you could see the jersey in hands on replay) and he was literally bull rushing him so hard that he was folding backwards. It was a damn ass kicking.
Everyone recalls Bo Davis’ rant last year after the Iowa State loss and he deserves credit for how well his fellas have played this year.
Kendre Miller (he’s a damn good back and can ROLL) recorded the first 100-yard performance of any kind on the Texas defense this year. And his 75-yard run was the only reason it happened. If Diamonte Tucker-Dorsey isn’t a step slow to his gap the streak might still be intact today.
The defensive front ended up on the losing side of this matchup, but it was not because of how they played or the effort they displayed throughout the matchup. Texas can win with players and performances like the one they got from this unit last night.
This was a disappointing one to watch unfold. The opportunity to really take recruiting efforts to the next level was squandered even though the game was close and competitive against a top five opponent once again.
The dreaded matchup in Kansas is upon us. I will never take a game against the Jayhawks for granted because how things have played out for Texas in the past decade. You can bet your ass that Kansas will be ready to play and it wouldn’t shock me if their starting quarterback was somehow magically ready to return from the injury list just in time to grief the Longhorns again.
Texas has two games left and can still hit the 8-4 mark that I predicted before the season. But they will need to fix the quarterback spot if they want to get there.