Longhorns show progress, but game management still an issue

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Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff
  • D’Onta Foreman stood on the sideline.
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  • The junior running back had gashed Texas Tech for 341 yards and three touchdowns Saturday in Lubbock — the second most yards in a game in Texas history. But with a chance to effectively end the game, Texas decided to keep Foreman out of the picture as senior quarterback Tyrone Swoopes ran into a wall on third and fourth down late in the game’s final moments.
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  • The sequence gave the Red Raiders the ball back with two minutes remaining and a chance to tie the game. 
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  • “You know what, the play was set up for us to go get the first down,” head coach Charlie Strong said. 
  • “[Foreman] is on the sideline. We’ve been successful [in Swoopes’ short yardage package] … he can go get a yard.”
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  • Texas held on for a 45–37 win against Texas Tech. Still, the decision to keep their top playmaker on the sideline put the Longhorn defense in a precarious position to stop the nation’s top offense with the game on the line. 
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  • Strong said he didn’t regret the third and fourth down calls. And he sticks by his staff’s judgement.  
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  • “I have a lot of confidence in [offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert],” Strong said. “They do a great job on offense. They know exactly what they want to do.”
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  • The Longhorns have made strides on the field this season, especially on defense. The team started the season 2–3 while giving up 40 points more in four of those games. Since then, Texas won three of its last four while piling up sacks and turnovers against some of the nation’s top offenses.
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  • “We beat ourselves up those other games,” sophomore linebacker Malik Jefferson said. “We’re always going to be a team and we’re never going to give up on [one] another.”
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  • But Texas still can’t put itself in tough spots with its decision making. The coaching staff has puzzled Longhorn fans throughout the season with its game management. 
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  • Notable instances include inexplicable timeouts late in the first half against both Baylor and Oklahoma State, giving each opponent ample time to score before the clock expired. A punt in the final minutes of Texas’ loss to the Golden Bears perhaps stings burnt orange faithful worst of all — Texas didn’t get the ball back while down by a touchdown. 
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  • Some decisions have hurt the team more than others this season fortunately for the Longhorns, the team escaped with wins in the last two games. Still, Texas can’t afford to gift opponents extra chances to win.
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  • “We’ve had ups and we’ve had downs,” Gilbert said. “And we’ve been able to overcome them.” 
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  • Overcoming self-inflicted wounds may prove more difficult in Texas’ final three games. The Longhorns face the Big 12’s top team on Saturday in No. 16 West Virginia, who sits at 7–1. Texas follows the matchup with a road game against Kansas before a special Friday showdown against a surging TCU team to end the season. 
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  • Strong’s job security likely depends on an inspiring end to the season. With two more wins, Texas can finish above .500 for the first time since Mack Brown left the program in 2013. 
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  • And with an improved product on the field, the coaching staff must uphold its end of the bargain. 
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  • “I know this, our football team is going to come out and play well,” Strong said in October. “I’m not concerned about that at all. It’s about us as a coaching staff making sure we have a good plan in place.”