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Initial thoughts from No. 20 Texas’ 41-34 loss to No. 11 Oklahoma State

Another game, another collapse from the Longhorns.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 22 Texas at Oklahoma State Photo by William Purnell/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Burn the game tape.

In one of the more frustrating performances from the Texas Longhorns in recent memory, Steve Sarkisian’s squad fell on the road to the Oklahoma State Cowboys, 41-34.

Here are a few initial thoughts from the game.

Texas completely collapsed. Again. There was a point when the Horns held a somewhat commanding 31-17 lead, but from that point on, it was all Oklahoma State. The Cowboys finished on a 24-3 run, including a 17-3 stretch in the second half and 14-0 in the fourth quarter as the offense got put on a milk carton and the defense slowly started breaking again after a strong start to the second half. And sure, you could argue that Steve Sarkisian and his staff aren’t the ones on the field failing to execute, but when Texas collapses and blows double-digit leads time and time and time again for nearly two seasons, that ultimately falls on Sark and his staff. Now, Texas is 5-3 on the year, and they’ve led in the fourth quarter in each loss and held double-digit leads in two of those — Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. Texas has shown definite signs of an improving program in Year 2 of the Sark era, but the troubling theme of collapsing may be what prevents Texas from reaching its potential — this season and beyond if the theme continues.

Texas plagued itself with penalties. Across the board, various calls just prevented Texas from being anything close to a good version of itself. Numerous defensive pass interferences, critical holding calls including the one on Christian Jones that negated a chunk run from Quinn Ewers on the final drive, etc. Top to bottom, it was just incredibly undisciplined showing from the Longhorns to the point that you don’t deserve to win when you play like that. But maybe far more notably is how, miraculously, Oklahoma State didn’t have a single penalty to Texas’ 14 for 119 yards. Scratch that, they didn’t one called, because it’s literally impossibly to play a game without a single penalty, but it was that kind of day for Texas.

Special teams was the only unit that played well enough to win. And the MVP of that group was undoubtedly punter Danny Trejo, who pinned Oklahoma State deep in its own territory time and time again to keep the field position battle in Texas’ favor. Elsewhere, Keilan Robinson helped change the game with a muffed punt recovery and later sparked a field goal drive with a 38-yard kick return. Xavier Worthy produced much of the same, setting up a couple scoring drives after some chunk punt returns. Morice Blackwell also got in on the fun with a blocked punt that Texas followed with a touchdown just two plays later, and of course, Bert Auburn’s two field goals played a factor. In a game in which the offense and defense each had abysmal halves, the special teams was the one constant, but unfortunately, the other aspects of the game didn’t match that energy.

We might have just seen the worst game Quinn Ewers will ever have as a Longhorn. The freshman hasn’t played much football since his junior year of high school, and Saturday in Stillwater marked just his fifth career start as a Longhorn and first true road start. But it was far-and-away his worst outing to date, and might ultimately prove to be the worst of Texas career. To be sure, the 20-plus MPH winds certainly played a factor, but even in those conditions, Spencer Sanders was able to find his fair share of success, completing 34-of-57 passes for 391 yards and two touchdowns to one pick. As for Ewers, the young gunslinger was just off today today. He never really seemed poised or comfortable in the pocket, and thus, he rushed a majority of his passes. And a majority of those weren’t anywhere near their targets — he was completely airmailing many of them. Then, as the game went on, He was just locking onto one target and finding very little success. The result? a 19-of-49 showing for 319 yards with two touchdowns and three picks, including two costly ones down the stretch.

Winning on the road is hard — Tom Herman, is that you? It’s especially hard to go on the road and upset a top 15 team, but Texas had more than enough chances to do exactly that, and maybe even with relative ease, but couldn’t get out of their own way. But with this latest loss, Texas is just 1-6 in true road games under Sark, and has dropped each of the last five. The lone win in that bunch was TCU last season. That’s another concerning theme under Sark, and when you consider that Texas has two more road games this season against No. 17 Kansas State and an improved Kansas team, it causes some concern about how this season might end.