Applewhite needs to adjust playcalling approach for Texas to have shot at beating OU

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Major Applewhite is no stranger to the Red River Rivalry.

He beat the Sooners twice as a quarterback and has helped Texas triumph over Oklahoma twice as an assistant coach. So when the Longhorns co-offensive coordinator tells his players what to expect at the Cotton Bowl this weekend, he’s speaking from experience.

“It’s going to be loud. It’s going to be physical. There’s going to be ups and downs,” Applewhite said. “If you’re up 14-0, that doesn’t mean anything. I remember in ’99, we were down 17-0 and ended up winning that games. Those types of leads are imposters.”

So Applewhite should know better than most that if he continues calling plays as conservative as he has recently, Texas has no chance to beat Oklahoma this week.

Last week against Iowa State, Johnathan Gray ran for a 45-yard touchdown on the Longhorns’ fourth play from scrimmage. So, naturally, Gray got nine carries over the next 59 plays while a struggling Case McCoy threw it 40 times during that span.

“I’m comfortable with Case throwing the football but looking back on the other night, we wanted to do more in the run game in the second half,” Applewhite said. “We got away from it a little too soon. In terms of winning the game, that was obviously our goal.”

That goal becomes drastically more difficult to meet as Texas faces the Big 12’s best defense this week. The
Longhorns won’t beat the Sooners with the gameplan they used to beat Iowa State last week. Gray has been the one constant in a Texas offense that has been rife with injuries and inconsistencies.

“We probably got away from the running game too early,” head coach Mack Brown admitted. “After Johnathan Gray’s great run, they put a lot more people in the box… we only had 29 runs and should have stayed with it a little bit longer.”

The way Texas played on offense against the Cyclones makes it shocking to think it put up 31 points. After Gray’s long scoring scamper, a Cedric Reed fumble recovery in the red zone set up a Longhorns field goal. Texas didn’t score again until John Harris’ miraculous catch on the Hail Mary pass as the first half ended.

The Longhorns’ next scoring drive was aided by 40 yards’ worth of penalties from Iowa State and 30 yards rushing from Joe Bergeron. The next Texas touchdown was a game-winning one-yard sneak by McCoy, capping off a drive reminiscent of the Longhorns’ win over Oklahoma State last year because of its controversy, of their victory over Texas A&M in 2011 because of its drama and of their triumph over Kansas last season because of the fact that the outcome shouldn’t have been in question going into the final minute of the game.

“Coach [Applewhite] felt like we needed to throw the ball,” Gray, who nearly fumbled away the game last Thursday, said. “We have to go out and execute. We have to do a better job of that and just get better and get ready for OU.”