It once again wasn’t the prettiest win, but the No. 7 Texas Longhorns are the embodiment of survive and advance as they managed to mitigate yet another late-game meltdown and held off the TCU Horned Frogs in Fort Worth to move to 9-1 on the year.
Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers was back in the saddle after missing two starts due to injury and the offense looked the part early, but once again the Longhorns sputtered in the second half. It seems like the Longhorns will have to stick to water this week and skip coffee after once again failing to close out an opponent that was on the ropes.
1. Quarterback wasn’t the issue with the second-half offensive woes
Without the services of Ewers, the Texas offense struggled and sputtered in the close against the Houston Cougars and the Kansas State Wildcats, with an outmatched BYU Cougars squad in between. Much was made of Maalik Murphy’s struggles in the games as the redshirt freshman showed some of the longer development curve he’s on in late-game struggles.
That excuse is gone this week as Texas scored just three points in the second half and let TCU back in the game.
It seemed like the Texas offense, with Sarkisian calling the plays, was content to run the ball and play ball control, with 11 of Ewers’ 33 attempts coming in the second half and just three in the fourth quarter. While the game state makes sense to run the ball, the Longhorns averaged more than 6.6 yards per passing attempt in the second half, compared to 4.3 yards per attempt on the ground. The lack of complimentary football cost the defense as well, going three full quarters without surrendering a touchdown, while the offense couldn’t find the end zone for the entire second half.
2. Texas can’t just rely on Jonathon Brooks
The redshirt sophomore running back continued to be a huge piece of the offense for Texas, picking up 104 yards and two scores on 21 carries for the day before leaving the game with an injury.
On the following two drives, when Texas needed to get a first down to end the game, Texas couldn't move the ball and gave TCU a chance to come back. Texas ran gained just 16 yards on the ground on the final two drives of the game and needed a 35-yard prayer from Adonai Mitchell to convert the game-winning first down. It feels like Texas has fallen far from the team that went into Tuscaloosa and ran out the clock keeping the ball on the ground the entire time.
Whether it is more production from CJ Baxter and the other running backs or finding ways to keep the clock moving while putting the ball in the air, Texas needs to find a way to find success on offense in the second half.
3. Surviving is not the most fun way to win, but it's better than the alternative
While it’s not ideal for Texas to have to play its starters for 60 minutes, especially with how beat up the team is, a win is a win and Texas is 9-1 on the year with two more left on the schedule.
It would be great if Texas managed to close out its opponents, especially given how banged up the team is, but given the alternative for Texas its easy to take the win, The second-half struggles are nothing new for Texas, but managing to hold onto the lead — rather than give one up — is just the way of the world now-a-days. A year ago, TCU made its way to the CFP by managing the variance situations so maybe the way of the world now is to be talented enough to manage the variance and keep yourself in the win column.