Texas beats OSU dramatically, 41-36...but beware of Mr. Smith

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By Mike Blackwell, Inside Texas Magazine Editor
Posted Sep 29, 2012
Copyright © 2014 InsideTexas.com


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David Ash (Will Gallagher/Inside Texas)

Mike Davis, meet Limas Sweed.

Davis' snare of a David Ash bomb put Texas in position to beat Oklahoma State Saturday night in Stillwater, 41-36, with Joe Bergeron scoring the game winner on a two-yard touchdown run with just 29 seconds remaining.

 

And from a UT perspective, after two years of mediocrity, this will be seen as - possibly - a historic win, a victory on the road against a good opponent in a hostile environment that shows the Longhorns are back. How far back, Mack Brown's team will know for sure in seven days, when Geno Smith comes to town fresh off an eight-touchdown, 70-point masterpiece against Baylor.

Yes, Saturday was a monumental win, thanks to Davis' Sweed impression vs. Ohio State near the Cowboys' goal line. But Brown has undoubtedly told his Longhorns to not bask too long, or the memory of this game could get buried in a Mountaineers' barrage next Saturday. And despite the win, Texas also showed some worrisome tendencies against the Cowboys.

Perhaps first and foremost, the Texas tackling was awful, which once again caused the Longhorns to give up multiple big plays. If the Longhorns tackle next week as they did Saturday night, can you envision a scenario by which West Virginia cannot score a minimum of 40 points? Neither can I. Give Texas a little bit of slack here, however, considering their best linebacker, Jordan Hicks, missed the game with an injury. But with or without Hicks, if you're a defensive player don't you learn to "wrap up" the opposing ball carrier when you are about 10 years old?

Secondly, here are some suggestions for the Texas running game: play Johnathan Gray more, and Joe Bergeron less until he is healthy. Bergeron had a few plays where he was effective, and otherwise he looked as though his injured shoulder was still injured. He looked slow and tentative, didn't he? It was a heroic performance while injured, perhaps, but with Texas' depth at running back, there was no reason to continue feeding him the ball when it wasn't working. Bergeron carried the ball about 15 times, but should've carried it about a third of that. The Longhorns should've let him rest Saturday, and I think the offense would've benefited from that; Bergeron has to be healthy to help this football team.

Thirdly, enough about the kickoff coverage team already. Fix this, please.

But also, enough with the negative: there was a ton of positive to emerge from Saturday night's game.

Ash drove the Longhorns 75 yards in eight plays on a drive that Texas had to have to win. He made all of the throws he needed to make Saturday night - save for one interception - and completed 30 of 37 passes for 304 yards and three touchdowns, all to Jaxon Shipley. Ash was everything he needed to be and more. Game manager? No - game winner. Without him, Texas loses.

As for the running game, Gray ran the Wildcat like he was 25 years old, and rushed 12 times for 68 yards; he was the best back on the field for Texas. And though Davis dropped a touchdown pass in the first half, he certainly redeemed himself with his last-minute grab. I thought it was 2005 in Columbus.

And now, West Virginia...

Remember that friend you had in high school, the guy you loved being around but you knew was bad news? He liked to wing it, he liked to "just go with the flow." When he'd come over to your house and ask you to jump in the car and go for a ride, you'd ask him where you were going and that friend would say, "I don't know, let's just drive."

West Virginia - and a slew of other Big 12 offenses, including Oklahoma State - is just like your friend. The question, if you're Texas, is this: do you really want to get in the car?

Saturday night, Texas  answered yes, and fortunately the Longhorns survived the spin in Stillwater. But can they continue telling their daddy Mack goodbye and ride away with these fun but dangerous league gunslingers? Maybe. And maybe not. Brown said before the season that he wanted to run the football and stop the run and be more SEC-like in his mentality for the Longhorns. Forty-one to 36 is not the SEC, and you have to wonder if this is the style that Texas really wants to employ long-term. I suppose if the result is a win, that's just fine, but West Virginia is much better than 2-2 Oklahoma State.

Before the season, the Longhorns were tabbed as an all-defense, keep-it-simple offense. Then the games started, and the Longhorns became known for giving up big plays on defense. Then they were a power-running juggernaut.

And then Saturday night, the Longhorns became just another in a long line of shotgun formation, spread'em out Big 12 offenses, travelling to Stillwater and beating the Cowboys by a sliver. Maybe the key to winning football games this season is not "establishing an identity" after all. Maybe the key is to approach every game as its own separate entity, and figure out how to win that game accordingly. So far, that seems to be the Texas MO in 2012, and at 4-0, it's hard to argue with the results.

So who are these Longhorns? Four games in, no one is sure; but one thing is for sure - the Longhorns 4-0, and probably need to score a four and oh again next week - at the very least - to have a chance at upsetting West Virginia.

 

 

 

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