It still wasn’t the cleanest game for the Texas Longhorns in Saturday’s 35-6 win over the BYU Cougars at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, but it was a much prettier effort than the one they had a week ago in Houston. The Longhorns made it out of Houston by the narrowest of margins with a victory, but this week they left themselves plenty of room to breathe against BYU.
Texas quarterback Maalik Murphy made his first start of his collegiate career with Quinn Ewers out with a shoulder injury. It was hairy at times with the young signal caller, but ultimately Texas emerged with a comfortable win and that is all you can really ask for after how things went last week.
I don’t want to filibuster too much this week, so let’s jump into things and take a look at how things went against the gentlemen of Brigham Young University.
An up-and-down performance from Maalik Murphy
Let’s go ahead and start with the biggest storyline entering the game. Murphy took every snap for Texas on Saturday in the victory over the Cougars. Murphy finished the day 16-of-25 passing for 170 yards and two touchdowns while turning the ball over twice via an interception and a fumble that occurred in the red zone. The turnovers ultimately didn’t derail Texas from winning the games, but my biggest takeaway from them were that things were moving fast for Murphy early on and that teams are likely going to do their best to muddy his pocket knowing he isn’t the best athlete back there. He straight up didn’t see the linebacker that grabbed the interception, as he moved outside the pocket to his right and that will be something Steve Sarkisian undoubtedly harps on when they break down the film.
Ball security and cleaning up Murphy’s tendency to drift backward and throw off his back foot are going to be the biggest things that need to be tightened up from Saturday in my opinion.
On the positive side of the ledger, Murphy was able to successfully navigate the Texas offense up and down the field against BYU on Saturday. The drives didn’t always result in points, but he got Texas into the red zone several times and he hooked up with Adonai Mitchell for two touchdowns. He flashed his big arm which he has been known for as he was able to push the ball down the field when the opportunities presented itself, but he would also take what the defense would give him at times. That is all you can really ask for from a guy making his first-ever start against a team that has a bunch of guys who have mortgages and 401Ks.
He is going to get better with time and reps. He passed the first test on Saturday with what I’ll call a B-/C+ game. Yes ,I’m fence riding on the grade and I’ll let you the readers hash it out in the comments.
The defense was better this week
After almost giving up 400 yards through the air last week against Houston, the Texas defense got back to the basics this week. The results were the Longhorns holding the Cougars to 292 yards of total offense, with Kedon Slovis being turned over three times (two interceptions, one fumble).
Slovis threw just for 197 yards on 25-of-40 passing and was getting knocked around all day by the Longhorn defense. Despite being down a few starters for today’s contest, the Texas defense got corralled Slovis twice for sacks and inflicted an additional 12 negative plays on the afternoon. While the BYU offense mustered six points in the contest, they did not make it into the end zone against the Texas defense.
This unit needed this kind of performance after getting beat up a good bit the previous two contests. Ultimately, I think BYU offense presented a matchup and style that set up better for the Texas defense. We will see how they handle the Kansas State offense that rolls into town next week that presents a few more wrinkles than what they saw today.
The red-zone struggles continued this week
I don’t really know where to begin here, but I am going to try not to rant too long on this. Texas entered the matchup as one of the worst offenses in the country when it came to scoring red-zone touchdowns. They did not do much to help their cause on Saturday when they turned the ball over on downs twice inside the BYU 5-yard line.
The offensive red-zone struggles are well-documented at this point. Where I get particularly frustrated is not from the lack of execution in the situations we saw on Saturday, but more so on the decisions made to try to force the issue when it was clear the offense was struggling to get movement inside the 5-yard line. While I can understand that a coach wants to challenge his guys to finish drives and stay aggressive, I think you have to step back at times and stop being stubborn. In both situations, the Texas offense could have walked away with points and made it a three-score game. At the time the game wasn’t exactly decided and the offense had engineered solid drives that should have resulted in points. I know field goals are sexy to a lot of people, but sometimes the right decision is to lay up and take the three.
On Saturday, those decisions didn’t hurt Texas. But against better competition they absolutely will. Last week we witnessed the decision to try to execute a fake field goal on 4th down instead of keeping the offense on the field. The result was Houston driving right down the field and flipping the momentum firmly in their favor heading into halftime. This week the offense was left out there, but I ultimately think it was an unnecessary risk that was taken even if the win was eventually secured.
I’ll end by saying this. I think Steve Sarkisian is a very good offensive mind. But I think he has tendencies to be stubborn at times and it shows up in moments like we saw inside the 5-yard line. I commend him for wanting to stay aggressive and always wanting to apply pressure on opponents. But sometimes I think he can overcomplicate situations from time to time.
Jonathon Brooks continues to pace the offense
I am going to do my guy Gerald proud and continue to bang the drum for Mr. RB1 in Austin, Texas. If Brooks is going steady on the ground, then the Longhorn offense is clicking. He has been the most consistent part of the entire Texas offense and he had himself another nice outing on Saturday.
We told you to watch Jonathon Brooks at Texas! He had a cool 6.1 YPC tonight on 16 carries and added a TD. pic.twitter.com/3EkflRYA0R— Fantasy Wildcard Devy (@WildcardDevy) October 29, 2023
Brooks tallied 138 total yards of offense and had one rushing touchdown against the Cougars, but just like against Houston he came up just shy of cracking 100 yards on the ground (99 yards last week, 98 yards this week). Even though he didn’t make it to triple digits on the ground, Brooks continues to be a key piece of the Texas offense and is having a great season. If he continues on the pace he is on, he is going to hoist some hardware and accolades come the end of the season.
Xavier Worthy finally broke one on special teams
That is how you put the special in special teams. Worthy has been close to breaking off a big return all year and today he opened up the scoring by showing good vision and housing one untouched from 74 yards out. This is the primary reason why you put a player of Worthy’s caliber back on kicks. His elusiveness and burst in the open field makes him a big play waiting to happen and he has used that skillset to give Texas a big boost in this facet of special teams this year.
The Longhorns are right where they need to be heading into the home stretch of the season tied for first place in the Big 12 after Oklahoma’s loss to Kansas in Lawrence on Saturday. The Wildcats of Kansas State are up next and they will provide a stiff test for Texas as they typically do. The hope is that you can get some guys healthy and ready to go for this game, as this will likely have ramifications for who will make their way to Arlington come December.
The 24-hour rule is officially in effect. Then it is on to the Wildcats.
One more thing: Someone print Oklahoma Fears Kansas on a T-shirt and make a profit.