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Inside the Numbers: Tight margins finally catch up with Texas against Oklahoma

The Longhorns have struggled to score in the red zone all year and it finally cost them the game.

Syndication: Austin American-Statesman Ricardo B. Brazziell/American-Statesman / USA TODAY NETWORK

It was a frustrating outing for the Texas Longhorns against the Oklahoma Sooners, with miscues on both side of the ball leading them to their first loss of the season on Saturday in the Red River Rivalry.

The offense started the game slowly but managed to pick up after the emotional rollercoaster that is the first quarter of any Red River Rivalry game. That being said, the offense struggled to close out drives and put points on the board in crucial red zone moments. Conversely, it appears like the pace and tempo of the Oklahoma offense, led by a dynamic performance from its quarterback, wore down the Texas defense and ultimately put the game away.

Red-zone Conversions: Texas - 1-3 (3 points), Oklahoma 6-6 (34 points)

The biggest issue that has plagued the Longhorns' offensive this season reared its ugly head yet again and may have been the biggest differentiator in the matchup.

Texas struggled to score when they got the ball inside the 20-yard line, while Oklahoma did not.

The two most egregious examples of this against Oklahoma are clearly the interception and the Longhorns’ four attempts to punch it in from the one-yard line, but this was not an isolated incident. The Longhorns’ inability to punch the ball into the end zone has plagued them all year, with Texas currently sitting No. 122 in the country in red zone touchdown percentage at an abysmal 45.83 percent — which would be the worst season since the 5-7 season in 2010. Texas has been 50 percent or worse in four of six games this year, but had enough offensive production elsewhere to make up for it.

That being said, it marked just the second time under Steve Sarkisian that Texas was held without a red-zone touchdown, following the low-scoring loss to TCU a year ago.

Conversely, the Oklahoma Sooners took advantage of the Longhorns’ bend- but-don’t-break mentality and forced them to do both, reaching the red zone six times and scoring on every trip. The Longhorns have allowed opponents to reach the red zone five or more times nine times in the 31 games under Pete Kwiatkowski, with just two wins in those performances.

Texas defense: 486 total yards allowed (285 passing, 201 rushing)

While the early offensive struggles are going to get much of the headlines, it was one of the worst outings for the Longhorns under Kiwatkowski, who was outmaneuvered by the Oklahoma offense. The 486 total yards are the most allowed since the 2021 installment of the Red River Rivalry, when Oklahoma came back from a massive deficit to steal a win from Texas.

Much like that year, much of the damage was done late in the game, with the Sooners turning it on in the fourth quarter.

This year, Oklahoma racked up 137 yards in the fourth frame, the second-worst quarter for the defense this year, behind the fourth quarter against Baylor. The only difference between that outing and this one is that Texas led 38-6 in Waco and played backups for all of that quarter.

Perhaps the most frustrating part for the defense is that 61 of the 137 yards came on the game-winning drive.

Dillon Gabriel’s legs were the big unlock in the game, with the Sooners’ quarterback going for 113 of their 201 rushing yards in the game. The Sooners leaned on quarterback draws and designed runs that took advantage of the Longhorns defensive line’s aggression, using a strength against them. That performance marks the first time a Kwiatkowski defense has allowed a quarterback to rush for more than 100 yards since Brandon Dawkins did it in 2016 at Arizona, playing in Rich Rodriguez’s quarterback run-heavy offense.

Jonathan Brooks: 22 carries, 129 yards, TD

While the loss was frustrating for the Longhorn faithful, we once again saw that Jonathon Brooks is yet another in the long line of elite running backs from the University of Texas.

His fourth-consecutive 100-yard performance puts his name alongside players like Ricky Williams, Cedric Benson, Jam Jones, and Earl Campbell on the list of players to have four or more consecutive 100-yard games. That performance brings his total for the year to 726 yards and 6.7 yards per carry, which ranks No. 3 and No. 2 nationally, respectively. That puts him right in the mix for the Doak Walker Award, which was won by Bijan Robinson in the 2022 season.

To put it in perspective, at this point in the year Robinson’s award-winning season, he had 645 yards with a 5.86 ypc average.

If Brooks does manage to bring home the award, that would give Texas the most winners in the history of the trophy, the first team to win the award in consecutive years twice, and the first to repeat with different players.