After falling behind by 18 points early in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game against No. 11 Oklahoma, Texas engineered two late touchdown drives and almost fought all the way back in its 31-26 loss to the Sooners.
The Longhorns showed more fight than they did in any other loss in recent memory, and the offense turned in its best performance since losing quarterback David Ash following the season opener.
Let’s make one thing clear, though — the Longhorns shouldn’t consider Saturday’s loss a moral victory.
Moral victories are reserved for lower-level teams that scratch and claw to hold their own against far-superior opponents. In every statistical measure aside from the final score, Texas was the better team Saturday.
The Longhorns outgained Oklahoma by 250 yards, won the possession battle by more than 15 minutes and limited the Sooners to just one third-down conversion in 11 attempts. They passed the ball better, ran the ball better and had 13 more first downs.
Saturday wasn’t a moral victory. If anything, it was a squandered opportunity.
As they had a number of times throughout the first five weeks of the season, the Longhorns dug an early hole for themselves with a series of avoidable, costly errors on special teams and offense.
A 91-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by sophomore running back Alex Ross gave Oklahoma a 7-3 lead before the Sooners’ offense even took the field. One series later, a 15-yard kick catching interference penalty against sophomore safety Adrian Colbert allowed the Sooners to start in Texas territory and led to a field goal.
On Texas’ ensuing drive, sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes stared down his receiver, and Oklahoma sophomore cornerback Zack Sanchez consequently intercepted the pass and returned it for a 43-yard touchdown.
Kick return. Penalty. Pick-six. Just like that, Texas spotted the Sooners a 17-3 lead. Remarkably, Oklahoma scored two non-offensive touchdowns before even recording its second first down.
The Longhorns managed to fight their way back into the game after falling behind by double digits in both the second and fourth quarters, but it never should have come to that. Had they eliminated these avoidable first half blunders, the Longhorns would have beaten the Sooners by double digits.
This was the same story last week against No. 7 Baylor. Texas had a kick blocked by the Bears and returned for a touchdown, missed a 46-yard field goal and fumbled at the goal line. Despite a dominating effort by the defense, the Longhorns trailed 7-0 at halftime in a game they could’ve been winning by at least 10 points.
For the Longhorns to turn things around this season, they must eliminate these costly errors. They were able to get by with mistakes against Kansas and North Texas. Against Oklahoma and Baylor? Not the case.
The Longhorns turned in their best performance in five weeks Saturday, and that’s something to build on. But, in a game where they thoroughly outplayed the Sooners in every phase of the game, they shouldn’t consider the end result a moral victory.