Gutting. Debilitating. Heartbreaking. Whatever adjective you want to use to describe the Texas Longhorns 34-30 loss to the Oklahoma Sooners - we can all agree it sucked. You can point at the turnovers, red zone offense, or the two-minute defense but in the end, the Horns needed to play better. Was Saturday’s performance just a fluke? Or does this team have bigger issues that could cost Texas a Big 12 Championship?
Daniel Seahorn (@DanielSeahorn) - Definitely wouldn’t call it a fluke. Texas shot itself in the foot several times and ultimately Oklahoma went and won the game when the opportunity was presented. There are things that happened on Saturday that can be fixed over the bye week, but I’m more concerned about starters who got banged up in Dallas and what that could mean at some key positions over the next few weeks.
Gerald Goodridge (@ghgoodridge) - I think three turnovers are a fluke, Kansas jumped that same opening script route and almost housed it, so I think that is something to keep an eye on. I think my two biggest glaring red flags coming out of the game are red zone performance and a lack of aggression late in the game from the defense. Going into the game, Texas was in the bottom 25 in red zone touchdown percentage and dropped to No. 122 after the abysmal performance against Oklahoma. The combination of the biggest guys on your team getting blown up by defensive backs, an untested backup center, and stubborn playcalling led to what is probably the biggest frustration of the game that I want to keep an eye on moving forward. I also think that Pete Kwiatkowski got spooked by Dillon Gabriel’s legs after Jeff Lebby relied on them to take away the aggression of the defensive front. So instead of playing aggressively on the final drive, Texas played soft and relied on exhausted defensive linemen to generate pressure, which allowed Gabriel to pick them apart.
Cameron Parker (@camerondparker) - The three turnovers might have been a fluke, but the red zone offense and allowing big runs from the opponent quarterbacks have been issues all year long. The Longhorns have turned just 45.8% of their red zone trips into touchdowns this season. That is good for 12th in the Big 12. The offense has to fix their red zone issues if they want to reach Arlington.
We wondered how the Texas defense would look against a good quarterback and what we got was a flawless performance from Dillon Gabriel. Was the defense exposed?
Daniel - Texas looked unprepared in some ways defensively and failed to truly adjust during the game against the wrinkles that were put in by the Sooners. I don’t know if they were caught off guard by the game plan, but it didn’t look like the guys were playing with confidence like we had seen leading into the matchup. I’m not hitting the panic button just yet. Let's see how this unit looks coming off the bye.
Gerald - The schematic choice from Jeff Lebby to lean on the QB draw was a conscious choice to take away the biggest advantage that Texas had in the game, the Longhorns’ defensive line against the Oklahoma offensive line. That type of offensive game plan is built to punish over-aggression, which is honestly something that has benefitted the Texas defense, and we saw the results of it on the field. It was all over the defense, but seeing Jaylan Ford in 4k playing flat-footed and waiting for Gabriel to make a move, rather than closing the distance and attacking like he normally does is emblematic of the conflict created by the QB run game on Saturday. OU hadn’t put it on film yet, so I’m willing to excuse not being prepared for it at kickoff, but not being able to adjust to it for the whole game is something to watch.
Cameron - I thought Oklahoma and Gabriel did a great job of taking away the Texas DL early and getting the ball out quickly. But don’t forget the defense had to defend a short field early and also forced four straight drives that yielded zero points from the OU offense in the second half. All of that good work was forgotten by allowing the game-winning drive that featured conservative defensive play-calling, missed tackles, and miscommunication. I won’t say exposed because the numbers didn’t suggest this was an elite defense but the second half of the season will tell us the full story.
Enough with the negatives - give us one positive takeaway from the Cotton Bowl.
Daniel - Despite all of the adversity that hit this team last Saturday, they still were a minute and a change from winning the game. Quinn Ewers had a very rocky start to the game, but he righted the ship and played damn good football for three quarters. If Ewers is able to keep playing well, Texas will have a chance to win every game left on the schedule and book a rematch with the Sooners in Arlington.
Gerald - It’s easy to say the way Quinn Ewers rebounded. It was even mentioned on the broadcast that he struggles mentally when he has a bad game and Saturday was a recipe for a quicksand game from the quarterback. The fact that he closed the game so strongly, after having a full opportunity to continue to flounder and let his early struggles get to him but he rebounded and led Texas down the field late in the fourth quarter to take the lead. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if the Texas defense can get a stop on that final drive, the narrative of the game includes “Quinn Ewers rebounds from a disastrous start to lead Texas to victory” and we’re talking about how this was a legacy-maker for him.
Cameron - I’m in between Quinn’s response after the two early turnovers and Jonathon Brooks turning into possibly the best running back in the country. I know the three turnovers from Ewers probably cost them the game, but they don’t get back in it without his play in the second half. Meanwhile, Brooks is leading Power 5 schools in rushing yards.
While Texas does not control their own destiny, if they can win out they’ll likely be back in the Big 12 Championship. Will they?
Daniel - They have a favorable draw schedule-wise. Barring some more bad news on the injury front I think Texas can navigate the second half and get another shot at OU.
Gerald - They’ve played the three best teams on their schedule and went 2-1. While Texas has to take everyone left on the schedule seriously, I don’t necessarily think there’s a squad that can stand toe-to-toe with them in the way that OU or Alabama did. I would be shocked to see them lose another game, so if the breaks go their way they’ll get a shot at the trophy.
Cameron - I think so - even with their B- or C+ game against Oklahoma, they were just over a minute left from winning. This roster is too good to struggle down the stretch and these types of losses usually fuel good teams to become great teams. Just like Oklahoma in 2018 after their loss in the Cotton Bowl, I think Texas wins out the rest of the way.