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Offensive play-calling may determine Texas’ fate vs. Kansas State

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Some surprising play calls kept points off the board against the Cyclones. The ‘Horns can’t afford more of the same against the ‘Cats.

Texas v Oklahoma State Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images

The 2002 season marks the last time the Texas Longhorns marched into Manhattan and stole a victory.

Chris Simms manned former head coach Mack Brown’s offense during those days, so yeah, it’s been a while since Texas found success in Purple Merlin’s castle.

Current head coach Charlie Strong’s only venture to Kansas State saw his Texas team head home on the wrong end of a 23-0 blowout. If the third-year head coach hopes to return to Austin above .500, the ‘Horns can’t beat themselves.

Considering half of the six games this season have been decided by only one possession, only a few plays could decide the outcome. Of course, execution is essential, but the outcome may ultimately be determined by play calling — offensive play calling, in particular.

While they didn’t prove decisive last week in Texas’ 27-6 win over Iowa State, I’d like to refer back to two instances where the offensive play-calling potentially prevented the ‘Horns from scoring at a higher clip.

3rd and 3 from Iowa State’s 4-yard-line

After Texas’ first five drives of the evening resulted in four punts and a turnover, largely due to self-inflicted errors, the ‘Horns finally found some offensive momentum and put a successful drive together. Texas had marched 44 yards in eight plays and was only four yards away from capping the first successful drive of the night with a momentum-swinging touchdown.

On 3rd and 3 with 23 seconds to play before halftime and one timeout, the expected go-to offensive attack would have been fueling up Tyrone Swoopes and the 18-Wheeler as Texas tries and bully its way into the end zone from four yards out. Considering the circumstances, the ‘Horns were arguably in a four-down situation, which likely would have resulted in a touchdown.

Instead of relying on their strength, Sterlin Gilbert and the ‘Horns introduced a wrinkle from the playbook and threw a fade to Armanti Foreman, which fell incomplete. Consequently, Texas settled for a field goal and entered intermission trailing a 1-4 Iowa State team 6-3.

While getting on the scoreboard and avoiding a possible halftime goose egg was essential, Texas was left with four fewer points than what it could have added at the half.

4th and 1 from Iowa State’s 35-yard-line

By this point, Texas held a comfortable 24-6 fourth quarter lead, but looked in position to continue its second-half offensive display. After marching from their own nine-yard-line to Iowa State’s 35, the ‘Horns’ drive stalled and faced a 4th and 1 just outside of Trent Domingue’s range.

Whether it be a simple handoff or utilizing the 18-Wheeler package, the clear option in this situation would be to continue pounding the ball down Iowa State’s throats, which clearly wanted nothing more to do with D’Onta Foreman. Instead, Gilbert again elected to throw the ball and Iowa State’s Kane Seeley came down with the interception on what looked to be a Shane Buechele-to-Foreman slant.

If Texas had ran the ball and converted the fourth down, it would have been near or within Domingue’s field goal range with a fresh set of downs against an exhausted Cyclones defense. That wasn’t the case, though, and Texas again missed out on the opportunity to add to the scoreboard — whether it be a touchdown or a field goal.

In an ideal situation, had Texas ran the ball on the respective 3rd and 3 and 4th and 1 and converted each, the ‘Horns could have potentially finished with as many as 11 more points on the evening. Again, Texas obviously didn’t need those additional 11 points to outlast Iowa State, but facing Kansas State in Manhattan will be a different ball game against one of the nation’s premier defenses.

Potentially adding or missing out on 11 points in the Little Apple could be the difference in a 4-3 and 3-4 record when Texas heads home to host No. 9 Baylor.

Tyrone Swoopes is still a quarterback

Even from the driver’s seat of his big rig, Tyrone Swoopes is still a quarterback — one that’s passed for over 3,000 yards as a Longhorn. Sure, his role dating back to last season has been the 18-Wheeler package, which has seen its share of success, but defenses have taken notice when Swoopes enters the game and know exactly what’s coming at them.

Since Swoopes’ 13-carry, 53-yard, three-touchdown performance against Notre Dame, the senior has rushed 22 times for only 71 yards and two scores — both of which came against Oklahoma State.

In an offense that’s remained fairly simplistic with a true freshman quarterback running the show, Texas can’t become predictable. What better way to capitalize than to pass out of a rushing package on Saturday when K-State’s dominant run defense will have its ears pinned?

It worked well against Oklahoma last season, so why not try it again in hopes of securing Texas’ first win in Manhattan since 2002?