Despite coming into the game undefeated, the No. 3 Texas Longhorns had some questions to answer about their ability to achieve their goals to win the Big 12 in its final year in the conference. The Longhorns came out and finally did what elite teams do against overmatched teams, leaned on the Bears and came away with a 32-point win in the process.
A dominant win over the Baylor Bears in Waco answered several of the questions about the Longhorns’ ability to lift the trophy, but a new question emerged under the lights of McLane Stadium.
Special teams has to tighten up:
Normally a drama-free experience for the Longhorns from Jeff Banks’s unit, the Longhorns struggled with routine plays in special teams and gave the Bears second chances after getting stops.
Keilan Robinson, normally an ace, recovered his own muffed kickoff in the first, which was a portent of things to come. After the defense came up with a big stop in the second quarter, Xavier Worthy’s muffed punt turned into a Baylor recovery and three points, cutting the lead to 22 points. Texas adjusted its punt scheme later in the game and went to a safe punt, moving the sure-handed Jordan Whittington back with Worthy. But in the trend of the night, Whittington’s concentration broke and Baylor recovered in their own red zone again and put the defense back on the field.
Another uncharacteristic miscue from Banks’s unit, the consistent Burt Auburn was called on twice on the night, but missed his second attempt from 26 yards, marking his third miss this year. A year ago during his first time taking on the place kicking duties, he missed just five in the whole year.
The Longhorns got away with those struggles against a clearly outmatched Baylor team, but if they are going to achieve their goals this season they will need to tighten up those corners.
The defense can cover most wounds:
The Texas defense was elite in every area of the game, keeping the Bears behind the chains regularly and putting them in unenviable positions regularly. Baylor averaged just 2.2 yards per rush on first downs.
However, the biggest impact for the defense is how they recovered from quick changes from special teams miscues.
Baylor recovered the first muffed punt on the Longhorns’ 21-yard line and the defense, after forcing a punt had to get back on the field and deal with the quick change. They allowed just two yards on three plays and held the Bears to a field goal, minimizing the damage and keeping them from making a more significant dent in the lead. Texas gave up more yards following the Whittington punt, but a fourth-down sack by Justice Finkley ended the threat and kept them out of the end zone once again.
At this point, it’s fair to say that Pete Kwiatkowski’s unit is elite and will continue to be a strength for Texas as they work through conference play.
Texas can start quickly:
One of Steve Sarkisian’s talking points heading into the week was that Texas needed to match its big finishes with fast starts and the team did just that.
Heading into the Baylor matchup, Texas was averaging just 12.6 first-half points and had scored just three touchdowns in the first halves of its first three games. Texas clearly outdid themselves in this game, scoring 28 of its 38 points in the opening 30 minutes of the game. Jonathon Brooks was once again a big part of the plan for the offense, scoring two of those touchdowns — including his 40-yard burst in the first quarter to kick off things for Texas.
If Texas has truly found an answer to its first-half offensive woes, its ability to achieve its goals for the year becomes even more tangible heading into the second week of Big 12 play.