The No. 7 Texas Longhorns pulled out another nail-biting win this past Saturday by a score of 29-26 against the TCU Horned Frogs in Fort Worth. In what has become a theme of the year, Texas looked dominant for a half before squandering a sizable lead, waking up, and holding on for the win.
Against TCU, Texas went into the fourth quarter with a 26-6 lead. A combination of offensive stagnation and defensive errors allowed TCU to storm back. In the fourth quarter, the Horned Frogs offense scored a touchdown on all three of their drives.
Was this worrisome fourth-quarter performance still worthy of strong grades in the four areas of emphasis — third downs, fourth downs, turnovers, and sacks? Let’s find out.
TCU went 3-of-11 (27.3 percent) on third downs. At halftime, the Horned Frogs hadn’t converted a single third down. I was particularly impressed by the third-down defense in the first quarter.
On the first TCU third down, the Horned Frogs were facing 3rd and 13. Defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski dialed up a blitz, bringing senior linebacker Jaylan Ford and freshman linebacker Anthony Hill Jr. The duo rushed the TCU quarterback and forced a low throw. The low throw was key because a TCU wide receiver was running free in the middle of the field.
A short time later, facing 3rd and 4 just outside the red zone, the defense got a huge stop. Defensive lineman Vernon Broughton evaded his blockers and brought the running back down in the backfield for a stop to force a field goal.
The final third down in the first quarter was once again third and long. With 17 yards to go, the Texas defensive front was able to pin their ears back. EDGEs Barryn Sorrell and Ethan Burke both collapsed the pocket while simultaneously drawing a holding call. The pass was errant as a result of the pressure so the penalty was declined but it was a solid stop.
The three third downs mentioned represent the winning formula for Texas. Twice they created third and more than 10 which allowed the front seven to put pressure on the quarterback. Creating third and long against this defense is a nightmare for an opponent. Secondly, when the opposing offense came into a short field, the defense held.
Surprisingly, the performance on third down didn’t suffer much during the fourth quarter collapse. TCU converted 1-of-2 third-down attempts in the final frame. To explain the 21 points, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
Season outlook: Texas has held opponents to a third-down conversion percentage of 26.3 percent on the year, second in the country.
TCU converted 1-of-2 fourth downs on Saturday. Both were huge plays and came inside the Texas 5-yard line. The first fourth down occurred with a score of 26-6 and around four minutes left in the third quarter. Facing 4th and goal from the 2-yard line, TCU lined up in five wide. Texas responded by rushing four and playing zone with the back seven. The TCU quarterback was looking to target a receiver in the back of the end zone but was unable to do so. Sophomore safety Michael Taaffe was in coverage. He was quite physical with the wide receiver and was able to disrupt the route such that no completion occurred.
The second fourth-down attempt was 4th and goal from the Texas 3-yard line. TCU once again opted for an empty set and five wide to which Texas rushed four and played zone in the back. Texas sophomore nickel back Jaylon Guilbeau was in the right spot but was unable to make the play. It appears as if he misjudged the ball which took him out of the play.
Season outlook: Texas has given up 45.5 percent of fourth-down attempts this year which is tied for 44th nationally.
Texas amassed three sacks during the game, which undoubtedly helped propel the Longhorns to such a sizable advantage for most of the game.
We are watching a truly special season for T'Vondre Sweat unfold in front of our eyes. pic.twitter.com/sqfyoLvZJn— Nash (@NashTalksTexas) November 12, 2023
Senior defensive lineman T’Vondre Sweat got the party started in the first quarter. The agile Sweat was able to swat the TCU center and burst through the hole before the guard could help giving him a free shot at the TCU quarterback which he capitalized on to set up a third and long that TCU was unable to convert.
This Texas defense has been a TOUGH matchup on 3rd downs and it has continued for TCU who is 0 for 6 today— Nash (@NashTalksTexas) November 12, 2023
Also nice sack from Trill Carter!!! pic.twitter.com/XdTbVM3ndu
The two other sacks also came from defensive lineman. Junior lineman Byron Murphy II added to his sack total for the year while senior lineman Trill Carter recorded his first sack of the season. Carter’s sack was his first in burnt orange as he transferred from Minnesota during the offseason. He was able to strip the ball as well but Texas was unable to recover.
Texas DL Trill Carter gets his first sack of the season to force fourth down!— Hook'em Headlines (@HookemHeadlines) November 12, 2023
Season outlook: Texas 26 sacks by 12 different players this year. This is good for T-28th nationally and one sack less than their total for the entire season last year.
The Texas defense forced one turnover on the day. However, they were unable to recover the previously strip sack from Carter. The sole turnover came via the air.
TERRANCE BROOKS INT ALERT— Nash (@NashTalksTexas) November 12, 2023
HORNS ARE BALLING pic.twitter.com/ztx8lIlyUw
With a minute left before halftime, TCU had 1st and 10 at their own 25. Looking to get a score before the break, the Horned Frogs dialed up a rollout to the right with multiple options down the field. Sophomore defensive back Terrance Brooks watched the quarterback and broke on the ball to swoop in for the interception. This was Brooks’ second of the year and set the Texas offensive up with a short field which they capitalized on by scoring a touchdown.
Season outlook: Texas has forced 17 turnovers, three more than their total from last year. The defense is currently ranked 32nd nationally in forced turnovers
The defense didn’t perform well in the fourth quarter but that was not the result of a breakdown in these four areas. In the four key areas of emphasis, the Longhorns continued to make plays and exceed their results from a year ago. While improvement remains critical, other aspects require more attention than third downs, fourth downs, sacks, and turnovers.