This was a tough one to watch unfold because it was one that Texas could have won, even though they played one of their worst games of the season. Just like with Maryland earlier this year, the Longhorns spotted the Cowboys a lead and tried to erase it late, but came up just short. This is the second year in a row that the Longhorns came up just short of knocking off the Cowboys, but this time around the Longhorns were ranked and they were playing a long way from the friendly confines of DKR.
While tonight’s game was certainly a frustrating one, I’m going to try to mix some good with the bad and the ugly in my thoughts from this evening’s loss in Stillwater.
Slow, Sluggish Start Doomed Texas Tonight
Say what you want about suspensions and Ehlinger coming off of an injury, but this team once again came out of the game sluggish and looking shell shocked. It has become somewhat of a tradition for the Texas defense to concede yardage and points on the opening drive before rallying and getting their feet under them, but that never happened tonight. The Cowboy offense put up over 250 yards of offense in the first quarter alone and the carnage didn’t stop there, as they were able to clear 500 yards of offense on the night.
Taylor Cornelius led an Oklahoma State offense that moved the ball by air and ground, finding leading wide receiver Tylan Wallace early and often, as Texas never really found a way to slow him down. This performance is particularly alarming when you take into account that Texas had two weeks to prep for the matchup, and were able to get healthy before making the trip north. Things weren’t clicking at all either offensively and defensively in the first half, and it was teetering on being a blowout. Not sure what transpired over the last week or so, but it’s really hard to win ball games when you come out as flat as Texas did tonight.
Speaking of Wallace, though…
Tylan Wallace Goes Scorched Earth on the Texas Secondary
Texas knew coming into the matchup that Wallace was Oklahoma State’s go-to playmaker. To say that they weren’t successful in stopping him would drastically understate the results from this evening. Wallace torched the Texas defense to the tune of 222 yards on 10 catches and ended the night with two touchdowns. One of those touchdowns came on a fourth and one under-thrown ball from Cornelius that was misplayed by Kris Boyd. That should have been an interception and instead it was a touchdown for Oklahoma State. Wallace got going from the very first series against the freshmen reserves that filled in during the suspensions of Boyd and Davante Davis, but majority of the damage was done with the seniors in coverage.
Don’t get me wrong — Wallace is a baller, who was one of the state’s top prospects a couple of years ago. But tonight the Texas secondary made him look like he was Antonio Brown. He was able to do whatever he wanted for most of the night, and while his production slowed down in the second half, the damage was already done.
The Little Things, Mental Errors, and Bad Breaks
Texas had a mixture of all of the above tonight in Stillwater, and when you are playing in a tough road environment you can’t give the other team extra opportunities to beat you. Procedure penalties, missed tackles, bad angles, and concentration drops by wide receivers are all little things and mental errors that gave Oklahoma State extra opportunities or extra yardage tonight that extended drives, resulted in points, or derailed Texas offensive drives. Another mental error that was a back breaker was when Brandon Jones fielded a punt running towards his own end zone and pinned the offense inside the 5. Texas went three-and-out after a hold negated a first down to Lil’Jordan Humphrey, and the Cowboys turned the short field into a touchdown. Then there is the offsides call on Texas on the punt where the Oklahoma State punt team simulated a snap count and wasn’t flagged for it. That was a bad break that was a result of poor officiating, in my opinion. That one play didn’t cost Texas the game, but it kept the drive going and turned into points for the Cowboys.
When you dig the kind of hole that Texas did to itself tonight, you almost have to play flawlessly to get yourself out of it as the game progresses. This team found out that they are not good enough to spot a team 31 points in a half and still win the game. They almost pulled it off with a furious comeback effort, but almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.
I Hate Moral Victories, but…
A loss is a loss and they hurt the same no matter how you slice them, but if you are looking for a silver lining I have a couple. You just read about a lot of bad things that transpired tonight in Stillwater, but here is something I admired about this team despite the loss: Texas allowed 31 points in one half and was on the brink of getting run out of the stadium, but instead of laying down and allowing that to happen, they got off the deck and started punching back.
Ehlinger and the offense finally started rolling in the second half and the Texas defense was pitching a shutout in the second half right up until Cornelius made a play with his feet in the red zone to put the Cowboys back up by 10 in the final minutes. This team almost completely erased a 17-point deficit and pulled their hind parts out of the fire, but in the end the Cowboys made one more play that prevented the Longhorns from getting a chance to tie or win the game.
Speaking of Ehlinger, while tonight wasn’t his most efficient performance as a passer, he tallied four total touchdowns and he once again played a turnover-free game. On top of that, Ehlinger looked plenty healthy after the shoulder scare that occurred against Baylor. As long as Ehlinger continues to stay healthy, the Texas offense continues show it can put up some crooked numbers and continues to show drastic improvement from last year.
One thing you can say about Ehlinger is that he never seems to shy away from the moment, and keeps on coming no matter what the scoreboard reads. He dropped some absolute dimes tonight (the touchdown pass to Ingram might be his best toss as a Longhorn) and if he got one more bite at the apple tonight, Texas probably wins the game.
Can Texas Conquer Adversity and Win the Big 12?
If I’m being completely transparent, I wasn’t buying the playoff talk for this team and felt their ranking was a tad bit inflated, which is something they can’t exactly control. I couldn’t shake the feeling that a clunker of a game was on the horizon, but I honestly thought it would come a little further down the line. In my prediction, I thought that with Ehlinger in the saddle they would be able to get by Oklahoma State and setup a big showdown with the Mountaineers in Austin next week, but the Cowboys clearly had other plans for me and my predictions.
I used my last bullet point talking about silver linings, but I will end this write up with one more. Even though Texas lost a tough one in Stillwater tonight, this team is still in a position to compete for the Big 12 title — now they just have less wiggle room than they had before tonight. This latest bit of adversity could be good for this team in the long run if they are able to grow and learn from what transpired. Do they get back to Austin, watch the tape, and get their minds right for West Virginia, or do they start to spiral and let this loss turn into two or three? We will find out the answer that question a week from today.
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