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Inside the Numbers: Another second-half near-miss for Texas

The Longhorns struggle to put teams away and a lack of second half offense is to blame.

NCAA Football: Texas at Texas Christian Ricardo B. Brazziell-USA TODAY Sports

It was another nail-biter that shouldn’t have happened, but the No.7 Texas Longhorns continue to embody the “survive and advance” mantra with their narrow escape from Fort Worth over the TCU Horned Frogs to grab their ninth win of the year and hold the top spot in the conference.

The Longhorns’ defense continued to be stellar, both on the ground and on the money downs, while running back Jonathon Brooks, in what unfortunately turned out to be his last game of the year, once again paced the offense and kept them on track. A lack of complimentary football coupled with the Longhorns’ second-half offensive woes continue to cost Texas, creating an inability to close out teams and win comfortably.

Texas: 3 Second-half points

The Longhorns found themselves in a familiar position, up big early with a chance to put away their opponent, but were unable to do it. In a flashback to a myriad of second-half meltdowns, Texas led the Horned Frogs by three scores heading into the fourth quarter after keeping them out of the end zone for the first 45 minutes of the contest.

Of their first nine possessions, TCU had three drives of just three or fewer plays and had seven consecutive drives that ended without points.

Texas looked strong early in that run, scoring 20 points in the second quarter, but then the third quarter struck. On their first two drives of the second half, TCU punted and turned the ball over on downs, a spot in which Texas could have put the game away. Instead, Texas answered with a pair of punts itself. If Texas manages to score on either of those drives, the tenor of the game changes and TCU’s strategy likely does as well.

Second halves have been absolutely brutal for Texas, with seven of their 10 games featuring at least one scoreless quarter in the second half. Of their 338 total points this year, 198 of them have come in the first halves of games. Texas has had four scoreless third quarters, including back-to-back outings.

Rush defense: 28 attempts, 88 yards (3.14 ypc), TD

It seems like a general compliment to say that this is a championship-level run defense, but at this point, it’s the only accurate descriptor for the 2023 Texas Longhorns. When you look at the list of 10 best rushing performances, whether yardage or touchdowns, the vast majority of teams played 10 games — except for 2006 and 2009.

This marks the fourth consecutive game that Texas allowed fewer than 100 yards on the ground, compared to just four combined in the previous two seasons combined. A streak that long hasn’t happened since 2009 when the Texas Longhorns went from Week Two to Week Eight without allowing a team to go over 100 yards, the last time Texas was truly competitive on the national stage.

Over those last four contests, Texas is averaging just 56.75 yards per game and 2.23 yards per carry, with opponents coming away with just one rushing touchdown for their troubles. Texas has been an absolute menace in the backfield as of late, with 34 of their 69 tackles for loss coming in the past five contests.

Jonathon Brooks: 178 total yards (104 rushing, 74 receiving), 2 TD

In one of the toughest moments of the season, Texas fans watched workhorse Jonathon Brooks crawl off of the field and painfully walk his way to the locker room, seeing a special season end early due to an ACL injury.

It feels appropriate to celebrate the former three-star recruit who helped helm keep the offense afloat this year, after starting the season as RB2 and making the most of his opportunities.

Through 10 weeks, Brooks sits No. 6 in the country in rushing yards and No. 7 in yards per carry, after spending the first two weeks fully splitting carries with CJ Baxter. Once Baxter went down due to injury and Brooks took over, he truly transformed into a featured back and helmed the offense.

In his first four games as the true RB1, he cracked off four consecutive 100-yard games, a streak broken by a pair of 98- and 99-yard games. He resumed his pace in the last two contests, giving him six on the year – tying him with Bijan Robinson and Cedric Benson’s sophomore years on the top 10 list of 100-yard games. If he manages to keep the streak alive for those two games, he jumps to third-all time.

In his streak of starts as RB1, Brooks was electric, racking up 1,030 yards on 161 carries, a 6.39 yards per carry clip. Perhaps the most impressive stat for Brooks was his ability to avoid losing yardage as a rusher, with just 15 total yards lost this year.