Through the first seven weeks of the season, the Texas Longhorns have been on a quest to right the wrongs of the last several years.
Whether it was ending the losing streak against the TCU Horned Frogs, the road losing streak against the Kansas State Jayhawks, or bringing balance to the recent history against the Oklahoma Sooners, the Longhorns have been forced to face the demons of recent history.
As the Longhorns head to Stillwater to take on the Oklahoma State Cowboys, they again must rewrite recent history to keep their shot at a Big 12 title alive.
Texas may lead the all-time series against the Cowboys 24-8 all-time, but recent history has not been too kind to the Longhorns. Four of Cowboys eight wins have come in the last five years, including three straight wins over Texas. That streak could have easily ended a year ago, but the Longhorns were unable to capitalize on their chances and lost 13-10 in overtime at home.
This year’s Cowboys are not the offensive juggernaut they were a season ago, but still move the ball at an impressive clip. When they faced Texas in 2017 they were the top-ranked offense in the country; this year they rank No. 13 in the country, averaging 493 yards per contest. Oklahoma State is helmed by senior quarterback Taylor Cornelius, who is replacing three-year starter Mason Rudolph.
Cornelius has been able to move the ball, racking up 2,014 yards and 16 touchdowns through seven games for the Cowboys, but has also struggled with accuracy on deep balls and throwing into situations he shouldn’t, ultimately leading to eight interceptions.
His favorite target this year has been breakout sophomore receiver Tylan Wallace, who stepped into the featured receiver role with the graduation of James Washington. A year ago, Wallace managed just seven receptions for 118 yards, a number he eclipsed in the third quarter of the Cowboys’ second game. Through seven games, he’s amassed 718 yards on 40 receptions, which is good enough for No. 11 in the country.
The passing game isn’t the only facet of the Oklahoma State offense, with junior running back Justice Hill, who seems like he’s constantly on the verge of breaking a huge play. He’s struggled to find space in the running game, averaging just 97 yards per game, after averaging 112 per game a year ago. Against Kansas State in the blowout loss, Hill rather inexplicably received only 11 carries.
Part of the struggle for both Cornelius and Hill can be attributed to the issues the Cowboys have dealt with along the offensive line. The Cowboys line has been unable to keep opponents out of their backfield, allowing 20 sacks — No. 90 in the country — and 55 tackles for loss, putting them at the bottom of the conference.
The Cowboys also do their fair share of working in the opponents’ backfield, ranking No. 1 nationally in sacks with 30 total, an average of 4.29 sacks per game. The effort is led by junior defensive end Jordan Brailford, who leads the team with eight sacks, good enough to tie him for No. 7 in the country.
The Texas offensive line will have its work cut out for it against this Oklahoma State pass rush in trying to keep quarterback Sam Ehlinger upright and healthy after head coach Tom Herman said Thursday he expects the sophomore to start. Ehlinger will be without his favorite target for at least a series on Saturday, as Herman announced that Lil’Jordan Humphrey, Kris Boyd, and Davante Davis would all miss at least one series on Saturday due to arriving late to a team function.
So the question for Saturday is once again, can the Texas defense slow down a dangerous offense, and can the offense do enough to stay in front?