Texas Football: Longhorns once again collapse in the second half

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If the game ended at the half, the Longhorns would be in the midst of an elite win streak against two highly ranked teams, but unfortunately there are two halves in football.

For the second straight game, Texas looked strong and built a double digit lead in the first half. However, just like in the Red River Showdown, the other team made major adjustments that stunned Texas and allowed for them to surge back to win.

Texas once again blew a double digit lead and lost, and prior to the Oklahoma State game, had not happened since 1996. It doesn’t help that the offense has been irrelevant in the fourth quarter either, where they racked up all of one yard.

Texas’ defense was bending but not breaking for the majority of the game, but when Casey Thompson and the offense go three-and-out on four straight series, it is not optimal. The Cowboy offense was getting unlimited chances to score from optimal distances, and the defense was again worn out by a good running back in Jaylen Warren who rushed 33 times for 193 yards.

Something that Texas likely should have done, but strayed away from (again) was giving Bijan Robinson the ball. After getting 13 carries and grabbing a couple catches in the first half, Robinson was only handed the ball eight times in the second half. Steve Sarkisian opted to throw the ball more, but Casey Thompson looked abysmal against Oklahoma State.

It seemed that after he threw his first interception, which was returned for a touchdown, his confidence plummeted and any sign of the good quarterback we had once seen vanished. Thompson injured his thumb against Oklahoma, and started the Oklahoma State game with it wrapped, but later took the tape off. Not sure if it was his thumb that was the cause of his performance, but Thompson dropped multiple snaps, his throws lacked more zip than normal, and he was horrendously inaccurate completing just 55% of his passes.

Thompson has not completed more than 60% of his passes nor has he put up a QBR over 65 since the Texas Tech game.

The Texas offensive line, which was again tinkered with prior to the game, looked terrible. Texas was rotating people in and out like it was a hockey line change, and not one combination seemed to stick. It is fair to say that the Longhorns’ line is one of the worst in the Big 12.

The loss really came down to three factors, with the first and most familiar being self-inflicted penalties hurting the team. The Longhorns are averaging eight penalties per game, after being one of the least penalized teams in the nation for the first few games. It was moments like Keondre Coburn’s horse-collar tackle on third and long, when he likely should have just pushed Spencer Sanders out of bounds, or Ray Thorton getting flagged for driving the quarterback into the ground. There were false starts in Texas’ own territory that ended drives before they began, it was just a very undisciplined performance, again.

The second factor was the questionable play calling on both sides of the ball. Starting on offense like I already mentioned, Sarkisian insisted on passing when Thompson was in the midst of his worst career game rather than just handing the ball off in a multitude of ways to Robinson. Sarkisian also got Keilan Robinson involved for just one play on a jet sweep that went for 25 yards, and never game him another touch. When your quarterback can’t throw, and your offensive line couldn’t block long enough for him to throw even if he could make a good pass, you would think the coach would get creative in terms of moving the ball. In the second half of the last two games, it seems as if there is a lot more brakes than gas on offense.

On defense, the team often looked all too surprised that Oklahoma State was going to run the ball. Fox Analyst Joel Klatt was often criticizing lining up in a prevent style defense when it was obvious that Sanders could not throw either, and that they want to run the ball. The defense did well in the first half holding warren to 55 yards, but poor performance by the offense combined with questionable play calling allowed him to rush for 138 yards in just the second half alone.

The third and final factor was that Casey Thompson was clearly hurting or off his game, and the staff did not do a good enough job putting him position to succeed since they decided to keep him in. Thompson looked scared in the pocket, which is understandable, but why would Sarkisian not have him use his legs? I also question if he should have even been playing in the first place, as his throws were just missing the mark all game outside of a few. I don’t know if this means they should go back to Hudson Card, but maybe consider adjusting the play call to allow for Thompson to not have to believe in his offensive line made of paper.

Texas now has to win out, and hope for other teams like the Oklahoma and Oklahoma State to lose multiple games in order to contend for the Big 12. The Longhorns are not back, but if they could emulate their first half performance’s in the second half for once, they might be able to turn this around.

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