Quarterback: After last week’s poor performance against Baylor, there was no telling how Swoopes would play in the Cotton Bowl. Many fans were calling for the backup to take over, while others were preaching patience. Tyrone Swoopes came out Saturday and played better than he’s played in his short career. While the Longhorn quarterback wasn’t perfect, as he did throw an early pick 6, he threw the ball well and, more importantly, finally started to use his legs.
Swoopes finished with 334 yards passing and 2 TDs and 50 yards rushing with a score. If not for the interception, this would be an A+.
Running back: While the passing game was at its highest level of the season, the running game wasn’t as effective. Malcolm Brown ran with power and purpose, finishing with 78 yards on 19 carries. J. Gray, however, had a more difficult time gaining yards, averaging 2.2 ypc.
Whether it was OU keying on the run or difficulty gaining footing on a slick field by the RBs, the Longhorns have to do better finding a way to move the ball on the ground.
Production wise, this was the best game of the year for the group. But too many mistakes led to missed opportunities that took points off the board in a game decided by 5 points.
Offensive Line: The front five continues to improve each game. Swoopes was given ample time to pass and running lanes were more available than in previous games. That said, as Chris Flanagan mentions in his Morning After the discipline is still lacking. False starts, holding penalties, and another mishap on the goal line are all holding the Horns back from being where they could be.
The insertion of Doyle as center seemed to be a shot in the arm for this group. The line continues to improve, but it just needs to show more discipline.
Defensive Line: Oklahoma entered Saturday’s game averaging 208 rushing ypg and their OLine only allowing 0.8 sacks per game. For the Horns to have a chance, the front four had to plug running lanes and pressure Knight. OU finished yesterday’s game with only 103 yards rushing and 129 yards passing, as Knight was pressured through most of the game.
While the Longhorns only managed to record one sack for -2 yards, they pressured Knight and held super freshman RB Perine in check.
Linebackers: As previously mentioned, the Texas defense shut down the 35th ranked rushing offense in the country. The LBs had their second straight strong performance as the LBs combined for 19 tackles, including 2 for a loss. They also helped hold Perine to only 64 yards on 18 carries (3.4 ypc).
The defense allowed a rushing TD, but they held OU to a paltry 1/11 on third down and continually plugged the holes and pressured the pocket.
Defensive Backs: The Longhorns did a tremendous job covering Sooner receivers and forcing Knight into a 60% completion rate with only 129 yards passing. Moreover, true freshman safety Jason Hall continues to play like a seasoned veteran in run support and seems to always be where the ball is. This group provided solid support to a defense that held the Sooners to only 247 total yards and 17 offensive points.
The secondary was great aside from one mistake that led to a long TD by OU’s top WR. This is a great group, but can still improve.
Special Teams: Give Will Russ credit for his big 61 yard punt; Shipley for his 31 yard return; and Nick Rose for going 2/2 on FG’s. But when you look at the rest of the ST’s performance it’s easy to see that this is one of the few reasons that Texas lost in spite of great offensive and defensive performances. Dumb penalties, a kick return for a TD, and a dropped snap to a punter that effected the distance of a punt are a few of many issues from yesterday that effected the scoreboard.
An average day for the Longhorns on Special Teams would have resulted in a win for Texas. The staff must address this area.