The Texas secondary showed exponential growth against West Virginia last week. Part of that may be because senior Quandre Diggs finally lined up as a cornerback, rather than a run-stopping nickelback.
The biggest reason for the improvement may not come from the secondary at all, but rather from the increased pressure created by the defensive line, most notably from senior defensive end Cedric Reed. Reed was supposed to spend this season terrorizing quarterbacks before heading to the NFL, but the senior had just one-and-a-half sacks before erupting for three more plus a safety and a forced fumble last week.
Cowboy junior quarterback Daxx Garman is not a threat to run, which means Reed will be able to pin his ears back and rush the passer without having to worry about the quarterback scampering for a big gain. A disruptive pass rush will help the secondary turn in another strong performance and punch Texas’ ticket to the postseason.
KEEP ON RUNNING
Sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes played terribly last week. Swoopes completed just over a third of his passes and revived his early-season tendency of throwing dangerously inaccurate deep balls.
For the first time this season, the running backs showed that they can win a game on their own. Junior Johnathan Gray became the second Longhorn to eclipse the century mark in rushing yards this season, and senior Malcolm Brown followed up his hundred yard performance against Texas Tech with a 90-yard effort against the Mountaineers.
Swoopes cannot be relied upon to consistently move the ball down the field, and Oklahoma State’s star defensive end, sophomore Emmanuel Ogbah, and lockdown corner, junior Kevin Peterson, will only make things harder for the sophomore. Another dominant rushing performance by Texas’ backfield tandem would cover up Swoopes’ weaknesses and propel the Longhorns to another conference victory.
This Saturday’s game is a must win for the Longhorns. Charlie Strong’s team needs one more victory to gain bowl eligibility, and, if Texas cannot beat the Cowboys on the road, it will have to win on Thanksgiving against a TCU team with national title aspirations.
The Longhorns have had a bad habit of losing their focus in some of the most important games this season. It started with a 41-7 blowout against BYU, continued with the comical gaffe during the coin toss against UCLA and culminated in a penalty-riddled loss to the hated Oklahoma Sooners.
The Longhorns cannot afford to make any mental mistakes against an Oklahoma State team that almost knocked off Florida State to start the season. Swoopes, in particular, will have to make sure to stay calm, work through his progressions and deliver accurate balls. If he can stay focused and the rest of the team can avoid costly penalties, Texas has a chance to use this week’s game to sneak into a bowl game.