Look past the mistakes, and Texas contained the nation's leading rusher and leading receiver to snap Cowboys' four-game winning streak in the series
Posted September 22nd, 2019
Texas coach Tom Herman is steadfast in his belief that as long as the Longhorns play their best, “Our best is good enough.” Saturday was a showcase in what happens when they don’t.
There was dreadful execution on fourth down followed by senseless penalties. Two punts got muffed by normally sure-handed return men, plays that were so bad even Herman called it “embarrassing.”
In the end, the 12th-ranked Longhorns did something they haven’t done in years, and that’s win ugly. Strip away all the mistakes, and ultimately the defense slowed the nation’s leading rusher and receiver.
Texas should feel good about its 36-30 win at Royal-Memorial Stadium, sloppy as it was. The Horns (3-1, 1-0 Big 12) won their league opener, snapped a four-game losing skid in the series and proved to themselves they should always keep fighting. In recent years, giving up sometimes seemed a viable option.
Ugly or not, the 96,936 fans in attendance will take it.
“I used to always imagine it’s somebody you love,” defensive end Malcolm Roach said. “You see your momma in a fight, you’ll take off running toward that fight. I see my guys, I’ll take off running for them because I just love the whole defense.”
This was Texas’ first win over OSU (3-1, 0-1) in Austin since 2008. Still, quarterback Sam Ehlinger, who threw four touchdown passes and his first interception of the year, didn’t sugarcoat it.
“I think it showed a lot about who we were as a team,” Ehlinger said. “We never gave up, never said, ‘Oh we made a mistake here. Game over. What are we doing?’ It showed the fight in us.”
Everyone inside Moncrief knew they had to contain Oklahoma State running back Chuba Hubbard and receiver Tylan Wallace, statistically the best running-receiving threat in America after three weeks.
The defense was all over Hubbard, swarming him at every turn. He came in averaging 7.9 yards per carry. Against Texas, he averaged 3.3. It took him 37 carries to get 121 yards.
The Texas defense was credited with a whopping 12 tackles for loss. Malcolm Roach literally shoved an OSU lineman into the backfield on fourth-and-goal, causing Hubbard to trip on his teammate’s leg and fall down for a 1-yard loss. Earlier, cornerback Jalen Green shoved his man back so far, Hubbard ran into traffic and got swamped.
“We figured out that he liked to get the linebackers flowing and stick his foot in the ground and go (the other way),” UT linebacker Joseph Ossai said. “So we worked hard during the week with playing with technique and fundamentals, staying square, moving our feet and not committing before he committed.”
Wallace had 222 receiving yards against Texas last season. This time, outside of an impressive 35-yard gain, he was basically a non-factor. Wallace was targeted eight times and finished with five catches for 83 yards.
Ossai and Juwan Mitchell both sacked OSU quarterback Spencer Sanders. Keondre Coburn got his hand up and whacked Sanders’ passing arm, causing the ball to flutter and land in UT’s Chris Browns arms for an interception. Montrell Estell also had a pick as the secondary tallied six pass breakups.
“Coach put in a great scheme to keep one man from beating us deep outside, and we executed that to the best of our ability,” Brown said. “We came out victorious.”
With OSU’s weapons contained, Texas flashed its own firepower. Receiver Collin Johnson (hamstring) was expected to play but got scratched hours before kickoff. Ehlinger just kept targeting his two favorite slot receivers, Devin Duvernay and Jake Smith.
Duvernay caught a 6-yard touchdown pass in the northeast corner. Then after the Estelle interception, Texas cashed in with Smith’s 17-yard touchdown catch. After that, things went haywire.
Texas tried to push the pace on its next drive. On fourth-and-3 from the OSU 28, Ehlinger yelled at his guys to get lined up quickly, but Roschon Johnson was slow coming back from the previous play. Instead of calling timeout, the Horns ran an ill-fated running play that went nowhere.
That botched play on its own wasn’t so bad. It’s what came next that turned things in OSU’s favor. UT’s Marqez Bimage threw Hubbard down in an unnecessary fashion, earning a personal foul penalty. Two plays later, Sanders unleashed a 55-yard throw to Braydon Johnson, who reached the Texas 3-yard line.
Three plays later, Spencer rolled to his right and avoided tackles by Caden Sterns and Ossai for the score. Suddenly, Texas’ lead was down to one.
The Horns spent all offseason looking for big plays. Look no further than Brennan Eagles. The sophomore from Alief Taylor went streaking down the east sideline, snagged the ball in stride and raced 73 yards to the northeast corner for the Texas score. It was the longest touchdown throw of Ehlinger’s career and gave Texas a 21-13 lead.
The Horns were poised to get it back again with less than a minute left in the first half. Jones, who handles the “punt safe” formation, was on the field to catch an OSU punt inside the 20-yard line. But after Texas called timeout, Smith, a freshman, was sent onto the field.
With multiple Cowboys bearing down on him, Smith muffed the ball. The Pokes jumped all over it at the Horns’ 15-yard line. Four plays later, Hubbard was racing up the middle for a score.
A first half that could have been all Texas ended with a 21-20 score, effectively making it anyone’s game.
In the second half, Texas unveiled a gadget play for Cade Brewer’s 25-yard touchdown catch. Keaontay Ingram just looked sensational on a 26-yard reception over the middle where he spun away from a tackler and powered ahead. That set up Roschon Johnson’s 2-yard touchdown run.
Ingram finished with a career-high 114 yards on 21 carries, easily his best night of the season. “I’m going to just say the brace is off. I’m going to leave it at that,” Ingram said.
The game would’ve likely been over if Jones caught — or better yet, avoided — a shanked punt with 3:44 left. He tried to slide for an awkward catch, but muffed it and OSU got the turnover. The Cowboys turned that into a 13-yard touchdown that made the final score and statistics closer than they should’ve been.
Still, a win is a win, ugly or otherwise. It’s been quite a while since Texas could play so sloppy and still emerge victorious.
“I’m not advocating that by any stretch of the imagination,” Herman said. “But if you do want to find a positive in it is that we beat a really good football team.”
Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.