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Bohls: Steve Sarkisian's Texas offense sputters and falters in second consecutive loss

  • Texas' offense completely disappears in the second half and hamstrung the defense in a 32-24 loss.
  • Casey Thompson threw a pair of interceptions, including a pick six, to change the momentum.
  • Steve Sarkisian doesn't have near the personnel he enjoyed in his days at Alabama.

Seven games into the season, the Texas team finally showed what it is on a gorgeous sunny afternoon that was just made for college football Saturday. Unfortunately.

And quite frankly, it’s not very good.

Now for the really bad news. The offense is broken, too. 

And that’s tremendously troubling, given the fact that Chris Del Conte hired God’s gift to play-callers and plucked Steve Sarkisian from the right hand of … well, Nick Saban to fix the problem.

Texas' offense suffered through an ineffective second half in Saturday's 32-24 loss to No. 12 Oklahoma State, suffering seven three-and-out series in all, five in the final two quarters. “It’s OK to have a three-and-out now and then, maybe even two, but to have four in a row, that’s tough," said head coach Steve Sarkisian, who calls the plays. "Ultimately, that’s on me. I’ve got to get it fixed.”

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In its first game after the halfway point of the season, the Texas offense just looked plain miserable. Oh, Bijan Robinson was Bijan Robinson, which is to say he’s still the best running back in America. But his Heisman hopes are pretty well dashed by the fact he’s the lone star on what has disintegrated into a very average 4-3 team.

What’s worse, these Longhorns took a major step backward in their 32-24 loss to No. 12 Oklahoma State, which dominated the locals in the second half. Texas has now dropped two consecutive games. Winnable games, at that, which makes it all the more frustrating for a home crowd of 99,916 at Royal-Memorial Stadium.

Remember, if you led No. 5 Oklahoma by 18 points deep in the third quarter, you should have won. If you hold a 24-13 advantage after scoring on your first possession of the second half against Oklahoma State — at home, mind you — you have a high probability to taking a victory.

Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian congratulates running back Bijan Robinson after Robinson scored one of his three touchdowns in Saturday's loss to Oklahoma State. Robinson finished with 135 rushing yards.

Neither happened.

In what probably was a litmus test for the remainder of a very troubling season, Texas flunked. And you can blame the offense this time.

Pure and simple, it disappeared with a disturbing seven three-and-outs, five of them coming in a flat second half when first downs were at a premium. It was just too much ineptitude for the Texas defense to withstand.

Consider that on the Longhorns' final two possessions, the home team gave up the ball on downs and threw an interception, raising to nine series in which Texas failed to even make one first down.

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Asked for the biggest culprit of this offensive malfeasance, Sarkisian said, “Quite frankly, we’re all taking turns. We have a couple of different players have false starts. They rear their ugly head. We don’t block the same way against the same fronts as we did earlier in the game, and we don’t execute with the same level of confidence.

“It’s OK to have a three-and-out now and then, maybe even two, but to have four in a row, that’s tough. Ultimately, that’s on me. I’ve got to get it fixed.”

Well, good luck with that.

Texas quarterback Casey Thompson is sacked by Oklahoma State defensive lineman Kody Walterscheid and linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez during the first half of the Cowboys' win Saturday.  Thompson, playing behind a reconfigured offensive line, was sacked three times.

We saw none of the creativity and ingenuity that we got from Sarkisian in his Alabama days as Saban’s offensive coordinator. And, yes, we know he had different personnel to work with in Tuscaloosa, including five offensive players who were taken in the first round in the 2021 NFL draft and a sixth in the second round.

Robinson, who stepped off 135 yards of brilliance once more, would be the lone high draft pick off this roster and go in the first round if he were eligible next spring, which he is not. Otherwise, Sarkisian is dealing with a flawed team that includes a suspect, patchwork offensive line that used three true or redshirt freshmen linemen Saturday and only one alpha receiver.

He’s lost a veteran offensive lineman already and was without starting center Jake Majors for part of Saturday’s game, and the offense is missing stud slot receiver Jordan Whittington (broken clavicle) for probably the rest of the year.

But that didn’t explain why Sarkisian and offensive coordinator Kyle Flood couldn’t come up with some creative solutions. 

Why was OSU’s Mike Gundy the only one calling a throwback pass from a wide receiver to his quarterback (it was incomplete) and steering quarterback Spencer Sanders away from a hypothetical pass rush with rollouts and bootlegs and calling a terrifically timed screen pass to avoid some heat?

“I don’t disagree,” Sarkisian said. “Trick plays are great when they work. We had something in mind, but we didn’t get the look we wanted and had to get out of it. Things were not going our way.”

Still, Texas dusted off Keilan Robinson, the fastest player on the team who wasn’t used against OU, but just for one play. And Sarkisian has long stressed how critical tight ends are to his game plan. Yet no tight end caught a pass after Jared Wiley had a touchdown catch against the Sooners. With such little protection for Casey Thompson, why not more rollouts or bootlegs or screen passes?

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Sarkisian now has a week off to pick up the pieces before venturing to Waco to play a vastly improved Baylor.

“I do think that we did have a lot of self-inflicted mistakes that we continue to have every week that we need to clean up,” said Thompson, who threw for only 179 yards and one score with one pick six that robbed Texas of all the momentum if not the lead. “And we can't take turns making mistakes, whether it's the offensive line or me as a quarterback or the running back or the receiver. We just can't, we can't take turns making mistakes.”

The offense was expected to be the strength of this team and take the pressure off a defense with very few playmakers besides linebacker DeMarvion Overshown, who suffered a concussion in the first half and did not return to play.

Sure, the defense took its lumps as well, allowing Cowboys tailback Jaylen Warren to do his Kennedy Brooks impersonation by shredding a fatigued Texas defense for 198 yards, most of the damage coming in the second half. This on the heels of a career-high 217 yards by the Oklahoma runner a week ago.

The defense was far from perfect or even very good, but it did force Oklahoma State to settle for field goals in the red zone. That unit was hit or miss, which was a huge improvement over the previous week when Texas was pretty much miss or miss.

The Longhorns showed up much better, especially in the red zone or the vicinity when they stiffened and held the Cowboys to three field goals. On two of those occasions, Oklahoma State reached the Texas 4 but had to settle.

But the offense was a no-show in the second half.

In a must-have game for the season, Texas must have had one blown opportunity after another in a contest besmirched with critical personal foul penalties, poor blocking and Thompson’s first pick six, a play that completely turned the outcome of the game. And perhaps the season.