When Joseph Ossai capped his monster performance with a game-winning sack of Spencer Sanders on fourth down, the Texas Longhorns didn’t just win the game — they salvaged their season, and at least for the time being, quite likely head coach Tom Herman’s job.
It was clear what was at stake entering Texas’ Halloween meeting with Oklahoma State.
Despite how badly things at turned throughout the first half of the season, even if largely from a simple public perception standpoint, the reality remained that a wide open Big 12 meant opportunity for Texas. With a win, a 4-2 Texas would control its destiny within the conference. With a loss... well, the negative tone surrounding a 2-2 and even 3-2 program was overwhelming throughout message boards, social media, and evident more tangibly with Texas’ 2022 class — one once featuring Quinn Ewers — falling apart. So, it should be relatively clear what 3-3 may have looked like on the Forty Acres, symbolizing a complete collapse in recent weeks and almost certainly signaling the end of the Tom Herman era.
No pressure, Texas, just win.
Nearing the mid-point of the third quarter, winning seemed unlikely, with Oklahoma State owning a 31-20 lead and an 84.1 percent chance to win, per ESPN. Seconds later, D’Shawn Jamison scampered 100 yards on the kick return to pull Texas back within a single score and sparked what became a 21-3 Texas run to capture, re-capture, and defend a lead and escape Stillwater on the high note of the season thus far.
The staff and players understood the gravity of the win, collectively storming the field with arms raised in celebration the moment Sanders fell to the turf.
For all intents and purposes, Texas salvaged its season at a critical time when a different outcome in Stillwater may have effectively ended the Tom Herman era. But Texas did salvage its season, and suddenly, a 4-2 Longhorns team is staring at a plenty-manageable final stretch of the season.
Per ESPN’s FPI, Texas will be heavily favored in each of its next two matchups against West Virginia and Kansas before returning home as a favorite (currently) over No. 23 Iowa State and closing the season as the favorite (currently) against No. 16 Kansas State, which fell to the Mountaineers on Saturday, 37-10.
To be sure, there’s still plenty of reasons to be unconvinced about Texas’ ability to completely rectify it’s early conference struggles and fulfill its preseason aspirations of contending for a conference title — penalties, offensive inconsistency, and poor offensive line play are among the most glaring issues. But if the glass remains half full, Texas is undeniably in a better position than it was on Saturday morning, in complete control of its Big 12 destiny, likely headed for another AP Poll ranking, and boasting back-to-back wins, with the latter over No. 6 OSU being the most notable and certainly most confidence-inspiring of the season.
If there were ever a perfect time for Texas to win and a perfect opponent for Texas to beat, it was the unbeaten, No. 6 Pokes on Saturday.
Even at 4-2 and back in control of its Big 12 title aspirations, Texas still has plenty of work to do to be able to consider its 2020 season a success. But as opposed to previous perception, which would have become near-certainty with a loss in Stillwater, the Longhorns season is far from an abject failure.
Far from it.
Make no mistake about it — this is a season that could still go south, but that seems much less likely than it did two weeks ago, and even leading up to Texas’ trip to Oklahoma State.
For the first time since the first couple weeks of the season, the odds — and more importantly, momentum — appear to be in Texas’ favor.