Longhorns find hope as Big 12 play, Oklahoma State arrive

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Senior wide receiver Daje Johnson believes the offense’s new groove will help the defense find theirs. Texas’ defense is one of the worst defenses in the country, allowing 512.3 yards per game.
Photo Credit: Graeme Hamilton | Daily Texan Staff

For a team that has lost two games — one in blowout fashion and the other in late-game heartbreak — Texas enters the matchup against No. 24 Oklahoma State with surprising confidence.

The Longhorns entered the season with the goal to win the Big 12 championship, and, despite their 1-2 record, they believe they can do it.

“We really do [believe we can win every game],” sophomore defensive tackle Poona Ford said. “[Redshirt Freshman quarterback Jerrod] Heard is a big factor, and the things he can do with the offense — it’s just another confidence boost for us. Just get things fixed defensively, and we shouldn’t have a problem.”

But the Cowboys pose a stiff challenge in the Longhorns’ first Big 12 game of the season. Oklahoma State heads to Austin on a three-game win streak to face Texas at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.

Cowboys sophomore quarterback Mason Rudolph is the No. 12 most efficient quarterback in the nation, completing 62-of-90 passes with 947 passing yards and five touchdowns in three games. Defensively, Oklahoma State has a potential top 10 NFL Draft pick in redshirt junior defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah, who has 13 total tackles, six quarterback hurries, 4.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks.

But the Cowboys are unproven. They’ve played three lackluster games against Central Michigan, Central Arkansas and UTSA. Texas defensive coordinator Vance Bedford said despite Oklahoma State’s schedule, he sees a difficult opponent.

“I don’t have any questions about what they’ve done,” Bedford said. “I see a different ball team. I see a team that’s exciting that can score a lot of points with a quarterback who can make plays. … I see something different. They play down to the level of competition.”

The Longhorns’ defense will need to see its level of competition increase as it’s struggled through three games. Texas has allowed 512. 3 yards per game, which ranks No. 118 of 127 FBS schools in total defense.

While the Longhorn defense has had issues, senior wide receiver Daje Johnson said he believes the offense will help the defense with its newfound confidence.

“[We’re] way more capable [of playing in shootouts],” Johnson said. “Just off the athletes we have on the team, offense in particular, we have a tremendous chance to compete with the other teams … we just have to execute our plays.”

Despite a rocky start and a reeling defense, the Longhorns believe they can compete with any team in the Big 12. Ford said he doesn’t see any reason why Texas can’t win the Big 12 — he thinks it’s just as capable as its conference opponents. Heard said the goal is to secure the win at the end of the game.

“I feel like we are [capable of winning the Big 12],” Heard said. “I feel like we can turn it around and get it going. We’re going to start with Oklahoma State this week and try to perfect the game and end with a ‘W.’”