New week, same story for Charlie Strong’s Texas Longhorns against the Oklahoma Sooners in the Cotton Bowl.
In a potentially season-altering opportunity for Texas as Strong’s seat continues to catch fire, 2016’s edition of the Red River Showdown proved to be much of the same for the ‘Horns — good offense but a much worse defense.
Now having lost three straight, Texas sits a 2-3 on the season after the 2-0 start the ‘Horns look to be amid a downward spiral after an 0-2 start to conference play.
Here’s three things we learned from the latest disappointing effort.
The Texas defense was historically bad with Charlie Strong calling the plays
After two losses behind a Vance Bedford-led defense that sacrificed a combined 99 points and 1,062 yards against California and Oklahoma State, head coach Charlie Strong demoted his defensive coordinator on Monday and took over defensive play-calling duties himself.
That decision made virtually no difference in Strong’s first game calling the defensive plays at Texas during the Red River Showdown, as his Longhorns managed to take another step backwards in what became a historic performance of the Sooners.
By the time it was all said and done, Texas had once again given up 45 points, but more concerning was the Oklahoma having its way with the ‘Horns defense to the tune of 672 yards — the fifth-most yards conceded in school history.
#Texas loses 45-40. Horns now have allowed 198 points thru 5 games. That's more than 4 FBS teams allowed in all of last season.— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) October 8, 2016
The Sooners offense put up big numbers across the board — quarterback Baker Mayfield passed for a series-record 390 yards, Samaje Perine scampered for 214 yards and two scores, while nobody in the secondary had an answer for Dede Westbrook, who finished his day with 232 yards and three touchdowns on 10 receptions.
If you’re Texas, those numbers are embarrassing considering the situation in Austin at the moment with the defense at the forefront of the Longhorns having now lost three straight games for the second time in Strong’s tenure.
The clock is now ticking a bit faster on Strong, whose options are running this after his latest decision to take over as the acting defensive coordinator provided the worst defensive performance in recent memory.
How many secondary coaches does Texas need?
Much of the reason Bedford was demoted from his role as defensive coordinator was due to serious concerns with a struggling secondary. While he already had a hand in the secondary before the move, his demotion made Bedford a full-time secondary coach, joining defensive backs coach Clay Jennings in an effort to find some way to fix things at the third level.
This means Texas now has two secondary coaches in addition to Strong’s work with the group, but the defensive backs still look as deficient as ever.
In the 45-40 loss to Oklahoma, the Texas pass defense allowed 390 yards through the air, the aforementioned 232-yard performance from Westbrook and three total touchdown passes of 40 yards or more. Not to mention, the secondary was to blame for many of the missed opportunities to get off the field on third down, which ultimately cost Texas a shot at winning the game as Oklahoma converted on 7-of-11 attempts.
Sure, safety Dylan Haines came up big with two interceptions, one of which shouldn’t have counted courtesy of a missed pass interference and the defense secured three turnovers overall, but across the board, this was a below-standard performance, once again.
This secondary group, though still young, had so much promise and potential entering the season, but has been among the worst in the entire nation, and this latest effort was behind the teaching of two secondary coaches.
How many does Texas need?
Inability to capitalize on turnovers latest Texas plague
The defense was about as bad as it possibly could have been, yet, the one positive for Texas was the four forced turnovers after forcing only one in the first four games. But the offense, which has been the one shining aspect of Texas this season, failed to capitalize on the defensive stops and managed only three points from the four turnovers.
Arguably the most damning lost opportunity for Texas came after Kris Boyd recovered a Joe Mixon muffed punt, which gave Texas the ball inside the red zone. But that momentum was halted during a one-possession game when Shane Buechele threw a controversial interception on the sideline, which was ruled an interception on the field, though Armanti Foreman came out with the ball.
Given that it was a 3rd-and-2 situation, it’s easy to second guess offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert for his costly decision to throw the football. Buechele also deserves blame for throwing the ball a split-second late, while Foreman didn’t quite work back towards the ball far enough.
When you have a defense that’s seen more than its share of struggles finally finding ways to give the offense the ball back, Texas has to find ways to take advantage and in what could have been a possible 28 points off turnovers, the ‘Horns added only a field goal.
That’s how you lose close games.