Saturday night, those checks went the Longhorns' way, with Texas executing on almost all fronts to snap a pair of streaks, the Longhorns' four-game losing string and Florida Atlantic's three-game winning string. The result was a 51-17 victory and a still-open door toward bowl eligibility heading into the Longhorns' Thanksgiving Day showdown with rival Texas A&M.
Running the ball? Check. The Longhorns rushed for 259 yards and three touchdowns, averaging 4.5 yards per carry (4.9 on rushing plays). Stop the opponent's run? The Owls were held to 2.5 yards per carry and rushed for 88 yards.
The Longhorns were explosive offensively, with five separate runners breaking runs of 10 or more yards and quarterback Garrett Gilbert averaging a whopping 12.5 yards per attempt (17.5 per completion). For good measure, he hit wide receiver Malcolm Williams for a 47-yard Hail Mary touchdown as time expired in the first half.
Defensively, Texas forced three turnovers, one of which was returned for a touchdown, one which set up a Longhorn touchdown inside the 10 and another which resulted in a touchdown after Texas hit on a big play immediately following the possession change.
That those checkmarks occurred against a 4-5 (now 4-6) Owl squad wasn't important to Texas coach Mack Brown, who pointed out after the game that the Longhorns have struggled against other poor opponents.
"This was about us," Brown said. "And us did good."
Texas took a while to get rolling. After getting stuffed on four straight runs inside the FAU five, safety Blake Gideon picked off a Jeff Van Camp pass at the FAU nine. Three more runs put the ball at the one, and on fourth down, Cody Johnson took a toss, broke a couple tackles and slid into the end zone.
The Owls equalled that score when Van Camp found tight end Rob Housler, a Texas native, for a 56-yard score. Not three minutes later, the Longhorns dialed up a long pass of their own, a 63-yard strike from Gilbert to James Kirkendoll. A 22-yard field goal from Tucker followed, before the Longhorns closed out the half with the Hail Mary.
The Owls showed more signs of life in the second half, but never were able to pull within single digits. A second touchdown pass from Van Camp to Housler cut the lead to 24-14, but Tucker knocked his second field goal through. A 41-yard Ross Gornall field goal was quickly answered by another Tucker boot, this one from 49 yards.
Emmanuel Acho slammed the door shut early in the fourth quarter when he intercepted Van Camp and returned it 57 yards for at touchdown. The Longhorns added two more fourth quarter touchdowns, one on a Gilbert one-yard touchdown run and one on a 10-yard Ryan Roberson run.
Sam Acho was among the game's stars, making six stops (all solo), four tackles for loss, three sacks, forcing a fumble and recovering a fumble. Offensively, Gilbert played arguably his best game in a Longhorn jersey, completing 15-of-21 throws for 263 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 60 yards and another score. Cody Johnson ran for 124 yards and a score, while James Kirkendoll had 123 yards receiving and a touchdown.
"That was a great victory and a fun game to be a part of," Sam Acho said. "We had a Longhorn party in the locker room, and now we are just focused on getting rested tonight and getting ready for Texas A&M."
Texas — Cody Johnson 1 run (Justin Tucker kick), 8:50 1Q
Florida Atlantic — Rob Housler 56 pass from Jeff Van Camp (Ross Gornall kick), 1:20 1Q
UT — James Kirkendoll 63 pass from Garrett Gilbert (Tucker kick), 13:52 2Q
UT — Tucker 22 FG, 8:00 2Q
UT — Malcolm Williams 47 pass from Gilbert (Tucker kick), 0:00 2Q
FAU — Housler 8 pass from Van Camp (Gornall kick), 12:58 3Q
UT — Tucker 43 FG, 9:26 3Q
FAU — Gornall 41 FG, 4:32 3Q
UT — Tucker 49 FG, 0:40 3Q
UT — Emmanuel Acho 57 interception return (Tucker kick), 14:48 4Q
UT — Gilbert 1 run (Tucker kick), 10:04 4Q
UT — Ryan Roberson 10 run (Tucker kick), 2:26 4Q
* Florida Atlantic angered some Longhorn players by running into the Texas prayer line before the game and talking trash.
"I can't repeat what they were saying," said senior receiver John Chiles. "They did a lot of disrespectful stuff … they were doing stuff that was crossing the line."
Chiles went on to say that teams didn't typically feel they could talk trash like that to Texas when the Longhorns were winning games.
"I think a lot of guys on the team took it personally," Chiles said. "That kind of got them motivated."
* Cody Johnson's 124 rushing yards marked not only a Texas season high, but also represented the only time this season that Texas has had a 100-yard rusher. Garrett Gilbert had the previous season high, when he rushed for 93 yards against Kansas State. The last time Texas had a 100-yard rusher was Colt McCoy's performance a year ago against Texas A&M.
* The running game also helped Gilbert, who put up an excellent passer rating. Gilbert's rating of 208.1 marks his highest point of the season, and was caused by his hitting not only a high percentage of his throws (71.4 percent), but also averaging a high yards per attempt (12.5) while throwing two touchdowns to no interceptions.