The No. 7 Texas Longhorns went into the game with questions about how the offense could function without quarterback Quinn Ewers.
Maalik Murphy took over and flashed the big arm that made him Sark’s high school quarterback of choice, but Texas needed to rely on its defense to get right and compensate for what the offense lost.
1. The red zone woes are not fixed
A week ago, with Steve Sarkisian leaning into the wildcat formation in short-yardage situations, with quarterback Savion Red as the triggerman to great success. It looked to be the solution Texas needed to punch things in from short distance, but that success turned out to be short-lived.
Going into the game, Texas was No. 119 in the country in RZ touchdown conversions.
Against BYU, they went 2-5 in the red zone, with one FG and one touchdown, after another embarrassing stonewalling in short distance due to a combination of odd playcalling and poor execution. In the third quarter, the RedCat formation was unable to get the ball in from the five, so Texas turned to Maalik Murphy to try and score through the air, but a breakup and a route short of the sticks cost Texas the score.
The Texas defense got the ball back via three-and-out, but the offense rewarded them by petering out at the goal line again and keeping BYU in the game.
2. Maalik Murphy can get the job done but needs to improve
We saw flashes of brilliance from Murphy, with a sprinkling of struggle plays mixed in.
After starting the game 3-7 with an interception on a play that he should have just taken a sack, Murphy completed seven of his next eight attempts, capped off by a beautiful deep ball to Adonai Mitchell for a touchdown. He and Mitchell connected again on Murphy’s last pass of the game, a 13-yard laser to give Texas a 29-6 lead.
Murphy turned the ball over a second time, a fumble on the first drive of the second quarter, but did a great job taking care of the football following.
His production was good enough to comfortably beat BYU, but Texas will need more from him as they take on the Kansas State Wildcats.
3. The defense can still be elite, when healthy
BYU is far from the best offense that Texas has faced this year, but after struggling in its last two outings, the Texas defense needed a game to remind itself of how good it can be. Quarterback Kedon Slovis was guessing all day and frankly should have thrown more than two interceptions in this contest, with two clear turnover drops — highlighted by Jaylon Gilbeau’s should-have-been pick-six at the end of the game.
Not only did Texas keep Slovis in check, but they shut down the Cougars’ RB1, holding Aidan Robbins to 56 yards on 17 touches, with seven of them going for one or negative yards.
Ovearll, Texas held BYU to 4.5 yards per play, the Cougars’ second-worst performance of the year — while Texas breaks its streak of back-to-back games giving up more six yards per play.