Longhorns can wave goodbye to that No. 6 national ranking, but they still control their own destiny in Big 12 race
Posted October 28th, 2018
STILLWATER, Okla. — From the looks of it, the Longhorns must’ve spent the week drinking Austin tap water.
The only thing boiling Saturday night at Boone Pickens Stadium was Tom Herman’s blood pressure.
Awful pass defense. Lackluster tackling. Big plays wiped out by penalties. Botched officiating. Poor decisions in the kicking game. A game-ending fiasco where the opposing head coaches were yelling at each other at midfield.
This night had it all as Oklahoma State’s homecoming crowd celebrated a 38-35 victory that ended Texas’ six-game winning streak and probably its thin CFP hopes. The Longhorns can wave goodbye to that No. 6 ranking, too.
“We are not at a point in our program where we cannot play our best, especially on the road, especially against a really good football team, and expect to win,” Herman said. “It’s not going to happen.”
The Horns (6-2, 4-1 Big 12) are still in good shape as far as the Big 12 championship race goes. With four regular-season games left, Texas still controls its own destiny as far as getting to Arlington.
“People just gotta do their jobs, me included,” receiver Collin Johnson said. “We left some plays out there that I wish I could get back. We just didn’t play our best tonight, and we can’t do that against anybody in the Big 12.”
Lost in the wreckage was an undeniable fact that Herman’s bunch is getting tougher. Numerous Texas teams in recent years would’ve folded after falling behind by 17 with 10 minutes left in the second quarter. This one shows resiliency, as evidenced by crawling back to within three twice in the fourth quarter.
“Everybody was uplifting each other the whole game, honestly,” defensive tackle Chris Nelson said, “and that’s a big change in that locker room now.”
Anyone who thought Oklahoma State (5-3, 2-3) wouldn’t come out with full pistols firing doesn’t know coach Mike Gundy. The Pokes went right at UT’s young corners Kobe Boyce and Anthony Cook, who replaced suspended veteran starters Kris Boyd and Davante Davis for the first quarter.
UT’s penchant for slow defensive starts left the Horns in the lurch. Tylan Wallace caught a 40-yard touchdown pass to start what would become a career night. He finished with 10 catches for 222 yards — the eighth-highest total in OSU history — and two touchdowns.
Tyler Lacy hauled in a 16-yard score. A 20-yard pass to Landon Wolf jump started another Cowboys drive that ended with a field goal, and OSU had a sudden 17-7 lead.
Any worries about Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger’s injured shoulder were put to rest on UT’s first drive. His legs looked sensational as Ehlinger juked Malcolm Rodriguez at the goal line and raced in from five yards out.
“I wasn’t thinking about it at all,” Ehlinger said. He threw for 283 yards, had no interceptions and accounted for four touchdowns — two by air (22 and 10 yards) and two on the ground (five and two yards). “It felt great throughout the game.”
The first quarter was a statistical abomination. OSU tallied up 260 total yards on 27 plays. Taylor Cornelius completed 9 of 12 passes for 134 yards and two scores. He should’ve had a third but Wallace dropped a tough ball in the end zone.
Boyd and Davis were finally inserted with 13:28 left in the second quarter. In many ways, it didn’t matter. Wallace caught a 27-yarder in the middle of field and jump started another OSU scoring drive. This one ended with Cornelius diving in from the one-inch line, giving the Pokes a 24-7 lead.
Ehlinger responded with a 34-yard pass to Lil’Jordan Humphrey and a 36-yard strike to Andrew Beck. The quarterback ran it in himself from two yards out to make it a 10-point game.
The closing sequence of the first half was a head-scratcher. On fourth-and-1 from midfield, OSU’s guards shifted their body weight and feet on a fake punt rearrangement that drew Ta’Quon Graham offside. It looked like a clear false start. Officials awarded OSU a first down.
Herman went ballistic. It was easily the most animated he’s been on the sideline during his 21-game tenure at UT. Alas, the OSU drive continued.
On fourth-and-1 from the OSU 36, Cornelius threw a jump ball downfield to Wallace. Boyd jumped at the wrong time, safety Brandon Jones didn’t get over fast enough and somehow Wallace came down with it for a 36-yard touchdown. The Pokes had a 31-14 lead and looked dominating in the process.
Ehlinger’s scintillating 22-yard touchdown strike to Keaontay Ingram on a wheel route was one of his best throws of the year. His 10-yard pop pass to Beck was pitch-perfect deception. Texas trailed 31-28 and had real momentum.
The defense forced a three-and-out, but on the punt, Jones turned his hips and fielded it at the Texas 9. He ran backward seven yards, almost got pinned in for a safety and was tackled at the 2, flipping field position in OSU’s favor.
“Honestly, I didn’t realize we were in punt safe,” Jones said. “We were down. I just wanted to try to make a play for my team. It was obviously a bad read. I didn’t expect the ball to go that far over my head.”
Both teams scored again, and Herman called for an onside kick with 1:46 remaining. That didn’t work as OSU gobbled it up. The Pokes were in victory formation, but UT’s Breckyn Hager went full speed against OSU’s Tyron Johnson, a clear violation of football’s unspoken protocol.
Herman came running onto the field when he thought OSU’s Gundy was going after Hager. Both coaches said afterward it was a true misunderstanding.
“On the field, that’s not how you present yourself when a team’s taking a knee,” defensive end Charles Omenihu said. “I understand that emotions run high, but you’ve got to be mature enough to handle the outcome that you caused.”
The Horns understand how far they’ve come, but now they have a better sense of how much further they have to go.
“We had guys in tears,” Herman said. “That means we’re headed in the right direction as far as the attitude of this football team and the belief in the way we do things.”
Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email email@example.com.