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Texas becoming strong 4th-quarter team

Behind a strong running game and emerging defense, the Longhorns have been finishing strong in the last three games.

Cooper Neill

The last two games have featured heartening victories for the Longhorns that have fans moving away from the ledge and starting to enjoy football again.

The Kansas game was hardly a celebration of Texas excellence, but it did prove to be the start of an emerging trend -- finishing games well to earn victories or put opponents away.

In those three games, the overall numbers are quite decisive. The Longhorns are now +28 in the 4th quarter of those games, outscoring Kansas, Texas Tech, and Iowa State 31-3.

The total yardage numbers tell a similar tale. Texas has run 51 plays in those three games in the final frame, gaining 391 yards, good for 7.7 yards per play. Meanwhile, opponents have only managed 171 yards on 41 plays -- 4.1 yards per play.

In no game was the trend more evident than against Iowa State. It wasn't the most decisive quarter of the three in terms of scoring, which would be the +11 mark against Kansas in the comeback orchestrated by the perimeter running game and back up quarterback Case McCoy, but was extraordinarily decisive in yards.

Texas gained 125 yards to close out the game against the Cyclones, controlling the ball for nearly 12 minutes of the quarter, while allowing only 35 yards on 10 plays, capping the game with the interception by safety Josh Turner on an overthrown pass by Steele Jantz.

The most decisive drive, however, came against Texas Tech.

Coaches like to refer to game-killing drives as the four-minute drill, meant to take that amount of time off the clock. In this case though, the Longhorns had to kill more than five minutes. Not a problem.

The play-by-play chart from that final possession is a thing of beauty as the Longhorns sat on an eight-point lead:

Texas at 5:15 TEX TTU
1st and 10 at TEX 20 Johnathan Gray rush for 7 yards to the Texas 27. 31 22
2nd and 3 at TEX 27 Johnathan Gray rush for 6 yards to the Texas 33 for a 1ST down.
1st and 10 at TEX 33 Johnathan Gray rush for 7 yards to the Texas 40.
2nd and 3 at TEX 40 Daje Johnson rush for 11 yards to the TexTc 49 for a 1ST down.
1st and 10 at TTU 49 Johnathan Gray rush for 7 yards to the TexTc 42.
2nd and 3 at TTU 42 Johnathan Gray rush for no gain to the TexTc 42.
3rd and 3 at TTU 42 Johnathan Gray rush for 9 yards to the TexTc 33 for a 1ST down.
1st and 10 at TTU 33 Team rush for a loss of 2 yards to the TexTc 35.
2nd and 12 at TTU 35 Team rush for a loss of 2 yards to the TexTc 37.
End of 4th Quarter

It was surely not as much fun for Texas Tech alum James Gray as it was for Texas fans, as the proud but conflicted father watched his son destroy any final hopes of the Red Raider faithful with six tough carries for 36 yards to seal it.

The drive was also a chance for a Texas offensive line that has had success this year, but has not always moved the line of scrimmage consistently or physically dominated opponents to do exactly that.

Mission accomplished there.

Defensively, the last three games in the 4th quarter have been about foregoing the twisting and stunting along the defensive line that led to so many big gains earlier in the year, while also tackling well enough to avoid any back-breaking long plays.

Basically, just by playing competent defense, as the Longhorns only benefited from the single takeaway by Turner last weekend during that stretch.

The field goal kicking is still a major concern for the Longhorns heading into the last two games of the season, but winning the 4th quarter is not at this time. Do that well enough and it won't come down to a final kick.

The 31-3 scoring advantage and the 220-yard advantage in total yards do the talking there.