I am still processing a lot about this game and I am sure many people who are reading this are as well. This was a game that teetered on getting away from the No. 23 Kansas State Wildcats early, as the No. 7 Texas Longhorns appeared to be clicking on all cylinders. But just like we saw in Houston a couple weeks ago, Texas failed to put Kansas State away and before you knew it we had a barn burner on our hands.
As the clock ticked down in regulation all the typical signs pointed towards Texas losing a heartbreaker. But the end of this game was anything but typical and before you knew it we found ourselves with additional frame of football. Texas emerged from this contest victorious, but it sent every Longhorn fan’s blood pressure through the roof in the process. I hope everyone who made it through that game in one piece poured themselves a well deserved adult beverage at the conclusion. I know I sure as hell did.
Let’s get the conversation started about the nail biter we witnessed in Austin on Saturday.
Texas lost its composure in the second half
After being in almost complete control in the first half of the game, we watched things slowly unravel for Texas on both sides of the ball. The Longhorns were up 27-7 in the third quarter and then things went downhill pretty quickly. Kansas State ripped off three consecutive touchdown drives that were compounded by two Texas offensive turnovers that set up the Wildcats with short fields. While the Longhorns defense had long stretches of quality play, but each time they were tasked with defending short fields, the Wildcats were able to put six on the board. I don’t place the blame at their feet for being in those positions, but when things started spiraling someone on that side of the ball needed to stand up and stop the bleeding.
Speaking of losing composure, I think it is safe to say we saw Maalik Murphy lose his on Saturday. Murphy came out of the gates guns blazing and with sky-high confidence, but as things wore on and the Texas offense got off their script his performance levels dipped. Murphy was credited with two interceptions in the game, but Kansas State dropped two to three more when Murphy put the ball in dangerous spots. Once things started breaking bad, we never really saw the young quarterback get his feet back underneath him.
Murphy was only making his second career start today and while I understand it was against a tough opponent that has given Texas trouble in recent years, he has to be much better in the decision-making department and take better care of the football. There is going to be a lot of coaching points in the film room come Sunday before Texas begins prep for TCU.
The turnovers were critical on offense and defense
Turnovers can cost you a ball game and Texas was fortunate that wasn’t the case on Saturday. As I mentioned previously, Murphy was picked off twice and on top of that Jonathon Brooks had his first fumble of his Longhorns career. Texas also turned the ball over on downs in the red zone when there was a fumble at the mesh point by Savion Red. Typically, when you give a quality football team that many chances and opportunities to beat you, it ends horribly.
Fortunately for the Longhorns, they were able to force two big turnovers of their own. Safety Michael Taaffe got his hands on pass from Will Howard, who hadn’t thrown an interception in three weeks, and Jack end Ethan Burke wrangled him for a strip sack that was recovered deep in Wildcats territory. The Texas offense instantly cashed in on the fumble recovery to put themselves up 24-7 and had people feeling like they may be gearing up to pull away.
Just like Kansas State forced a turnover on downs, Texas was able to do the same and their defensive stand came at the biggest possible moment. On 4th and goal from the Texas 4-yard line in overtime, Kansas State head coach Chris Klieman opted to go for the win instead of kicking the field goal to send it into double overtime. The Longhorns defense covered everything up in the end zone and the defensive front was able to put pressure on Howard and make him essentially throw up a prayer while falling to the turf.
On paper Texas lost the turnover battle, but on the positive side of things they were able to create some big plays that ended up shaping the result of the game.
The ground game favored Texas
This is the phase of the game where Texas absolutely throttled Kansas State on Saturday. The Longhorns offense knew coming into the game they were going to have to be able run the football to help take pressure off Murphy and they succeeded in doing that. Texas ran the ball to the tune of 230 yards on 37 carries (6.2 yards per carry), as Brooks carried the mail for 112 yards and a touchdown. Brooks also eclipsed 1,000 yards rushing on the year, keeping Steve Sarkisian’s streak of a 1K rusher alive.
Jonathon Brooks has surpassed the 1,000-yards rushing mark on the season— John Bianco (@UT_Bianco) November 4, 2023
Coach Sark has now had a 1,000-yard rusher for the 12th-straight year as a head coach or offensive coordinator
CJ Baxter chipped in 90 rushing yards on 10 carries, and that included him busting one of the biggest plays of the game on fourth down where he took a toss from Murphy 54 yards to the house.
On the defensive side of things, the Longhorns absolutely manhandled the Wildcats run game from start to finish. Kansas State has a veteran offensive line group and they could not get things going in the run game despite an offensive identity build around running the football for as long as I can remember — I can’t recall a time they struggled this mightily to run the ball.
Here’s a pretty wild stat for you:
@TexasFootball snaps K-states streak of 100+ rushing yards in 28 straight games.— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) November 4, 2023
That’s a pretty nutty and the Texas defense deserves a hat tip for being stingy against the run on Saturday.
Texas made Avery Johnson irrelevant in this game
Speaking of the Kansas State run game, leading up to Saturday I was getting bad vibes when it came to the added dimension Johnson provides for the Wildcats rushing attack. I thought we might see some triple-option looks like Texas saw with Jason Bean in the Kansas game and that it could potentially give the Longhorns some issues like we saw then.
Well, I was way off on that prediction, and it was because of how stout the Texas defense was against the run all game long, a dominant performance against the opposing rushing attack that it essentially removed Johnson from the equation and the Wildcats opted to roll with Howard full time.
Removing Johnson from the game allowed Texas to play things a little more straight up, and while that didn’t necessarily help down the home stretch of the game it was encouraging to see in the moment. After Johnson ran for five touchdowns against Texas Tech, he had everyone else on the schedule on notice, and the Longhorns came prepared for everything on ground.
Johnson had one carry on the contest for a one-yard loss on Saturday and he misfired on his only passing attempt.
An ugly win is still a win
It was far from perfect and anything but pretty. At this time of year, however, style points don’t really matter — the goal is to survive and advance. I know this game probably shaved some years of the lives of some fans and got the blood pressure up, but when the dust settled the Longhorns were victorious and their goal to play for the Big 12 Championship still achievable.
If the Longhorns are able to survive and advance three more times they will be heading to Arlington and in position for an even bigger goal. Right now all that matters is that you reset mentally each week and try to go 1-0, then let the chips fall how they may come December.
Texas 33— Bob Ballou (@BobBallouSports) November 4, 2023
Kansas State 30
Final / OT pic.twitter.com/jocLy6SF4E
At the end of the day, Kansas State had four chances from inside the 5-yard line to win the game. They couldn’t get it done.
You know the drill by now. The 24-hour rule is officially in effect and then it is on to TCU. Time to refocus and be 1-0 this week in Fort Worth. And you can bet the farm that they would love nothing more than to play spoiler for the Texas chances of playing for the Big 12 title.