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Five Thoughts: Big 12 Championship

The Longhorns fell short, but the progress of the Texas program and the prospects of a high-profile bowl appearance leaves room for optimism

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Tim Heitman, USA TODAY Sports

Texas came up short today against the Sooners. The Longhorns had plenty of opportunities, but couldn’t capitalize. Texas fought hard, but ultimately Kyler Murray and the Oklahoma offense did just enough to get the win in Arlington. Texas will now have to wait and see where it will go bowling later in December. They are destined for either the Alamo Bowl against Utah/Washington State or the Sugar Bowl against Georgia, Florida, or LSU (depending on the results of the SEC Championship. Here are some thoughts about the game.

Lack of run production

It’s hardly ever great when your quarterback has the most rushing yards for your offense in the biggest game of the year. Sam Ehlinger had 42 yards rushing, averaging 2.8 YPC. Tre Watson had 39 yards rushing on 13 carries. The Oklahoma defense is statistically one of the worst run defenses in the country, and Texas could not take advantage. The Texas offensive line did not have a great performance today, and it showed by the lack of a rushing attack. This lack of rushing led to predictability in the Texas offense, which helped Oklahoma make several key stops throughout the game. It appears that bringing in David Beaty, who put up 40 points on Oklahoma and had a freshman running back put up crazy numbers, did not help the Texas offense much.

Offense’s failure to capitalize costed Texas

Texas had several opportunities throughout the game to build a double digit lead, but never capitalized. At the beginning of the game, Texas had a chance to go up 21-6, and couldn’t capitalize. Oklahoma quickly surged back and scored 21-unanswered points to lead 27-14 at one point. Later on, with Texas trailing by three, Gary Johnson forced a huge fumble by Cedee Lamb to give Texas another chance to garner the lead. Two plays later, Tre Brown came untouched on a corner blitz and sacked Sam Ehlinger for a safety. There were several other opportunities for Texas to capitalize, but they just continued to stall in key moments. That can’t happen when you’re playing the best offense in the country. Todd Orlando’s unit did the best they could, and holding Oklahoma to 39 points is usually enough against the Sooners’ defense. Not today.

Penalties

There was no doubt some atrocious penalties against Texas in this game. As I’ve stated before, this is going to be a huge factor that determines whether Texas stays in the Big 12. Instead of focusing on whether horns up or down should be a penalty, maybe Bob Bowlsby should focus on fixing this referee problem. Somehow it’s gotten worse since Big 12 Head of Officiating Walt Anderson went to the NFL. Can’t believe that’s the case. With that being said, Texas had some really boneheaded penalties. Kris Boyd, specifically, did not have a great day penalty-wise. The senior CB got burned on several deep balls and was flagged for DPI. He also had a facemask penalty that negated an interception and a horse collar that was offset by an Oklahoma penalty. Anytime a team has over 100 yards in penalties, that’s tough to overcome. The Texas defense had some penalties that extended Oklahoma drives and resulted in points. The Texas offense had some key penalties that killed drives, which just can’t happen against the No. 1 offense in the country. This has been an issue for Texas all season, and is certainly something that Tom Herman is disappointed about following the loss.

Kyler Murray can ball

Love him or hate him, Kyler Murray is absolutely electric. Texas did a pretty solid job of playing contain the entire game. Even then, Murray was able to create plays out of nothing frequently. I don’t know if I’ve seen a quarterback that’s more elusive or fast as Murray since Michael Vick played at Virginia Tech. Granted, Murray had pretty much all day to throw due to Todd Orlando attempting to drop 8 and rush 3; regardless of pass rush, he’s an elite playmaker. For a quarterback that’s only 5’9, he has an elite feel for the pocket and is dangerously accurate. The Texas defense did about all they could today to give the offense a chance. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t enough. The only thing the defense could have done better on was something they’ve struggled with all year — get off the field on third down. Oklahoma had a great conversion rate today, and it’s something that ultimately led to Texas’ demise. Todd Orlando will have to clean that up in the offseason, as it costed Texas some games earlier in the season.

Bowl game looms large

It will be interesting to see how this team responds to this loss. Will they come out flat in the bowl game, or will they get up and ring in a solid performance? Time will tell, and it will show how much Tom Herman’s culture has been engrained in the Texas program. Texas will either be placed in the Sugar Bowl (New Orleans, LA) or Alamo Bowl (San Antonio, TX). Obviously, many fans would prefer to see Texas in the Sugar Bowl. If the Longhorns travel to New Orleans, they will likely play Georgia (unless the Bulldogs beat Alabama in today’s SEC Championship). That would be a tough matchup for Texas, but also gives Tom Herman a chance to show how well his team can stay with the best of the best. If Oklahoma doesn’t get into the CFP and goes to the Sugar Bowl, Texas will face either Washington state or Utah in the Alamo Bowl. That’s a much more favorable matchup, but Washington State will be tough to beat. Either way, this Texas team has come a long way from where it was several years ago. Texas fans should be proud of this team’s accomplishments and should be excited for the future.

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Harrison is a proud alumnus of The University of Texas at Austin and a second-year law student at Texas Tech University School of Law, where he plans to get his J.D. and Masters in Sports Management. He hales from Baytown, TX, but will always consider Austin home. In his spare time Harrison enjoys hunting, sports and any activity pertaining to his dog.

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