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The Texas Longhorns offense has regressed in recent losses

After surging early in the season, the ‘Horns offense is to blame for losses to Kansas State and West Virginia.

NCAA Football: West Virginia at Texas Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

If only the Texas Longhorns could find simultaneous success on both sides of the ball, 2016’s win column quite likely wouldn’t mirror its five losses. The first half of the season saw the ‘Horns defense made a mockery of and consequently, Texas suffered three losses in five games, despite averaging 41 points per contest. The Texas defense featured these days – under the guidance of head coach Charlie Strong – is almost unrecognizable from its early stages. But while the defense has continually progressed, it’s now Sterlin Gilbert’s offense that’s falling short of its early-season displays.

In a conference that often requires points in bunches to come out on top, Texas hasn’t scored nearly as successfully during its last five outings as its first five.

Beginning with the 27-point showing in a win over Iowa State, Texas has found the end zone just 18 times; nine fewer than its 27 touchdowns during the first five games. If you factor in its six field goals, Texas has put points on the scoreboard just as often as Michael Dickson has trotted out to punt – 24 times. The ‘Horns offense punted 25 times in the first five games, but also scored 34 times between its 27 touchdowns and seven field goals.

Between the nine fewer touchdowns and one fewer field goals, hypothetically assuming all extra points and the field goal would be made, the Longhorns offense has essentially left 66 points on the field during the second half of the season. Those missed opportunities prove to be critical when you consider Texas lost by three points to Kansas State after scoring only 21 points, while Saturday’s showing against West Virginia saw Texas’ offense put up 20 points and lose by only four.

There was a point when one could argue that Texas would possibly have another win or two under its belt if only the defense could stop someone and force a turnover or two. That narrative is no longer valid, but rather, it’s the offense’s inability to capitalize on multiple additional opportunities courtesy of Strong’s revamped defense.

The past five games have seen the Texas defense force 12 turnovers, but if we’re bearing in mind the opportunities for Shane Buechele and the offense to score, that number drops to 10 – Texas forced a fumble in the red zone against Iowa State in the final seconds and Kris Boyd hauled in an interception to secure a win against Texas Tech with nine seconds to play. Of those 10 opportunities, Texas has scored only three times for 21 points.

In the ‘Horns loss to West Virginia, Texas scored only seven points off of four takeaways, while failing to add any points following three turnovers against Kansas State. In two losses by a combined seven points, Texas left as many as 42 points on the field, and that’s just considering possessions following turnovers.

That’s the difference between 7-3 and 5-5.

Converting only 3-of-9 fourth down opportunities doesn’t help much either, especially when three failures to move the chains came within field goal range. On such occurrence came on Kansas State’s 26-yard-line, which proved to be the difference in a three-point loss. Sidelining the ‘Horns best player or splitting him out at receiver, despite D’Onta Foreman being arguably the best back in the nation, doesn’t make Texas’ shortcomings on critical downs in defining moments any more excusable.

Quite unlike the first half of the season, slow starts have plagued the ‘Horns since the Red River Shootout. Excluding a Baylor defense that was much better on paper than it is on the field and a Texas Tech defense that ranked 124th in yards allowed, the ‘Horns offense has struggled mightily. Between Iowa State, Kansas State and West Virginia, Texas has scored only three points in the first quarter and 23 first half points. Closing has been an issue in the losses, as well, with Texas scoring only seven fourth quarter points against K-State and West Virginia.

Collectively, considering the first five games and last five games, the ‘Horns offense has scored 42 fewer first half points and three fewer second half points, which excluded the 13 overtime points in the win over Notre Dame.

There’s plenty of blame to go around for what can essentially be labeled an offensive regression. The potential to explode for 80 yards in a small handful of plays hasn’t left the ‘Horns, but penalties have continually killed drives, as have dropped passes and nine turnovers; not to include the six fourth down failures. The play-calling has been questionable at times, to say the least.

The collective difference is an offense churning out only 29.6 points per game; an 11.4-point regression from the first half of the season.

The potential of the team if it could manage a complete game is scary for opposition, but that hasn’t happened just yet, unless you include a notably impressive two-way showing in the win over Texas Tech. The defense has taken significant strides since Strong took over and if the offense can return to form by simply doing what it’s more than capable of on a consistent basis, the difference would be Strong’s best finish in Austin during a season that will make or break his future on the 40 Acres.