Raise your hand if you had the Longhorns winning 5 straight after the season opening loss to Maryland. Well, it has happened. For the first time since 2015, the Longhorns won the Red River Showdown and now find themselves at No. 9 in the AP rankings. Despite the 48-45 outcome, Texas looked like the superior team for the majority of the game. There was a lot of good to take away from the victory in the Cotton Bowl, but anytime a team scores 45 points and almost completes a 21-point comeback, there is improvement to be made. Let’s take a look at some key takeaways from the biggest win so far in the Tom Herman era:
The Sophomore played the best game of his career on Saturday, throwing for 314 yards and a pair of scores while adding 72 yards and 3 touchdowns on the ground. Ehlinger had his 4th straight game without a turnover and 5th straight game without an interception. Even after the offense stalled during the 4th quarter, Ehlinger still orchestrated a drive to set up the game-winning field goal.
The most notable thing when comparing this year’s Oklahoma game to 2017 is the progress Ehlinger has made as a passer. Ehlinger spent much of the game in 2017 bailing out of the pocket and having to make throws on the run. On Saturday, he did a much better job of trusting his protection, stepping up in the pocket and making throws that he simply did not make a year ago.
With the game on the line, Texas sent a true freshman deep snapper, a true freshman holder and a true freshman kicker out onto the field. The result? A game-winning 40-yard field goal right down the middle. The mental side of kicking is just as important as the physical aspect, and Cameron Dicker did not let the moment be too big. Dicker is now 7 for 10 on field goals for the season, but he probably won’t have a bigger kick then the one he sent through the goalpost with 9 seconds left on Saturday afternoon.
Excluding the play the Longhorns ran to end the first half, Texas had 12 possessions against Oklahoma. 8 of those possessions ended in a touchdown or field goal. A lot of credit goes to the offensive staff, who devised a game plan that clearly exploited the weaknesses of the Oklahoma defense. Collin Johnson and Lil’Jordan Humphrey had a themselves day against the Sooners secondary, and Oklahoma had no answer for the QB sweep in short yardage situations. Ultimately, the performance of the Texas offense cost Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops his job. It was the best the Texas offense has looked under Tom Herman.
Containing Marquise Brown
Kyler Murray’s number one target had a big game against the Longhorns, catching 9 passes for 131 yards and 2 touchdowns. The majority of Brown’s damage came on a 77-yard touchdown pass where he ran right by the Texas secondary, which was still trying to get set. The junior was utilized all over the field and the Longhorns struggled to contain him.
Stopping the Run
Oklahoma averaged a whopping 7.2 yards per carry despite not having a rusher go over 100 yards. Texas seemed content with forcing OU to beat them on the ground, and Lincoln Riley did a good job of running the ball in passing situations. The Longhorns were gashed up the middle several times, and of course Murray had the 67-yard scamper in the 4th quarter for a TD. It was a game to forget for Gary Johnson and Anthony Wheeler, both of whom struggled diagnosing plays. The Sooners boast one of the best offensive lines in the Big 12, so it wasn’t surprising to see Oklahoma have success running the ball.
Giving up a 21-point Lead
During Kyler Murray’s senior season of high school, I went to watch Allen take on Dallas Skyline in a playoff game at SMU’s Gerald Ford Stadium. Skyline, featuring current Texas LB Anthony Wheeler, jumped out to a 3-score lead late in the 3rd quarter. Then, it happened. Kyle Murray worked his magic and Allen scored on 3 straight possessions, totaling about 10 plays. Murray is at his best when his back is against the wall, and hasn’t gone this long without a loss by accident. Up by 21 on Saturday, the Texas defense allowed Oklahoma to claw back in the game by giving up huge chunk plays to Murray and the Sooners offense.
The good news is that Texas won the game, but the Longhorns have a lot to clean up on the defensive side of the ball, particularly tackling in the open field, linebacker play and assignments in the secondary.
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