A 28-point victory. Win No. 12. Officially Big 12 champions. Clinched a playoff berth. It’s difficult to not be ecstatic for how this weekend unfolded for the Texas Longhorns football program.
The 49-21 win over Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Championship game in Arlington was more than just a victory. It was catharsis. However, that does not mean that the performance of the Longhorns cannot be crtically analyzed.
Before the season, defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski set our four areas of emphasis for the defense to improve on. After underperforming the previous season, Kwiatkowski made third downs, fourth downs, sacks, and turnovers a focus for the defense. How did the Horns perform in each of these metrics against the Pokes? Let’s find out.
Texas held Oklahoma State to 3-of-10 (30.0 percent) on third down. This is yet another extremely strong performance from the defense. Initially, the Horns struggled on third down. In the first quarter, the Cowboys converted 3-of-5 third downs. However, they wouldn’t convert another for the rest of the game, so Texas held Oklahoma State without a third-down conversion for three of the four quarters on Saturday. The only turnover Texas forced also came on an Oklahoma State third down. As a whole, the defense continues to excel in this metric and Saturday was no different.
Season outlook: Texas is ranked No. 2 nationally in third-down defense with a conversion rate of 26.5 percent. Washington’s offense ranks No. 11 in the country with a conversion rate of 48.3 percent.
Texas allowed Oklahoma State to convert their only fourth-down attempt of the game. With time running out in the fourth quarter and the score 49-14 in favor of Texas, Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy had nothing to lose when facing a 4th and 3 from the Texas 28-yard lime.
Oklahoma State motioned a receiver into the wide side of the field and sent him on an out-and-up route. Texas senior cornerback Jahdae Barron was in coverage, but looked as though he was unable to locate the ball in the air. The Oklahoma State receiver did locate the underthrown pass and made a relatively easy reception for a big gain.
Giving up a fourth-down conversion is never ideal. However, the play had little impact on the final result.
Season outlook: Texas finished t-44th nationally with a fourth-down conversion rate of 46.2 percent. Washington has attempted only 15 fourth downs on the year, which is exactly ½ as many as Texas, however the Huskies rank ninth in the country with a conversion rate of 73.3 percent.
Texas recorded one sack on the day; however, even calling this a sack is somewhat of a disgrace to the term. After junior kicker Bert Auburn missed a field goal, Oklahoma State had the ball with less than a minute left until half time. Texas rushed three, but good coverage allowed the defensive line to push the quarterback out of the pocket. He rolled right and opted to run out of bounds two yards behind the line of scrimmage. The nearest Texas player, freshman linebacker Anthony Hill Jr, was about four yards away. Nonetheless, he received credit for a sack.
The play pushed Hill’s total to five on the year and ties him with senior defensive lineman Byron Murphy II for second most on the team. Since Texas was granted a sack on the play, it continued the eight-game streak of recording a sack. However, for the first time since the Red River Rivalry, the Horns did not bring down the opposing signal caller down multiple times in the backfield. Getting pressure on Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. is going to be essential. Bringing him to the ground and setting up long down and distances will put Texas in positions to succeed.
Season outlook: Texas has recorded 32 sacks on the year, five more than last year, and good for 38th in the nation. The Washington offense has allowed 11 sacks in 13 games which places them tied for fifth nationally in best protecting their quarterback.
Texas was able to create one turnover, an interception by senior cornerback Kitan Crawford. From his safety position, Crawford made a great play on an underthrown deep ball in the middle of the field near the end zone. Crawford flipped his hips and laid out for the ball before securing the interception, his first of the year and the first interception of his career at Texas.
Kitan Crawford lays out for the insane interception! pic.twitter.com/XhIMus1DCm— Hook'em Headlines (@HookemHeadlines) December 2, 2023
Season outlook: Texas ranks fifth nationally with 16 interceptions and 13th overall with 23 total takeaways, a huge improvement from the 104th finish last season. Washington has lost seven fumbles and 10 interceptions on the year, placing them tied for 61st in the country for number of turnovers lost.
Texas didn’t perform all that well in the key areas of emphasis against Oklahoma State. While Texas dominated the game and did more than enough defensively to win, remaining sharp in these four areas will be critical if the Horns hope to avenge their loss in the Alamo Bowl last year.