1) The Longhorns went away from the running game too quickly.
The Monday Analysis will focus more in-depth on this issue. But the primary point is that Texas, facing a second-and-goal from the Oklahoma State two, and down just 14 points, got cute. First, the Longhorns motioned quarterback David Ash out of the backfield and had running back Malcolm Brown, sitting alone in the backfield, take the direct snap forward. The play gained one yard. And then the Longhorns seemingly forgot about the run altogether, throwing passes on third and fourth down and not giving Brown — who had 135 yards on 19 carries by the 12:12 mark in the fourth quarter — any more carries the rest of the game. But he wasn't alone. No Longhorn running back carried the ball after that point, with the only designed run coming on an end-around to receiver Jaxon Shipley. Texas was in the game because the Longhorns were able to bully an undersized Oklahoma State defense and blow open holes in the running game. And offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin seemingly forgot all that in the game's final minutes, claiming that the Cowboys put extra people in the box.
2) David Ash and Josh Cochran each showed positives in their first starts. True, Ash turned the ball over three times, wasn't especially accurate and was sacked five times. But he also showed poise and escapability, two traits often used to describe the play of former co-starter Case McCoy. If Ash, who is more mobile and has a more powerful arm than McCoy, is able to develop those intangibles, it will be impossible to find any reason to start McCoy. Ash can make all of the throws, and he also rushed for 62 yards, not counting the sack yardage. Cochran started and played most of the snaps at left tackle, acquitting himself well and showing up most visibly by throwing a key block in Brown's 24-yard touchdown run off the Statue of Liberty play. Neither player was perfect in their starting debuts, but both showed enough to think that they have bright futures ahead.
3) Teams might want to stop trying to pick on Carrington Byndom. Byndom picked up a tough assignment this past weekend, often going head-to-head with Oklahoma State star wideout Justin Blackmon. And while he wasn't on him on every down, Byndom was a big part of the reason that Blackmon finished with 74 receiving yards, more than 30 below his season average. Blackmon was targeted a whopping 14 times in the game, including 10 times in the game's first 22 minutes, but caught just seven passes for 74 yards. And after snagging a 15-yard touchdown with 8:34 left in the second quarter, Blackmon was only targeted four times the rest of the game, catching one pass for three yards. Byndom, who was credited with four pass breakups on the day, was the key behind the shut down, and seems to be developing into an excellent cover cornerback.
4) The Longhorn defense is a pass rusher or two away. The Longhorn secondary had arguably its best game of the year in limiting Brandon Weeden to 20 percent below his seasonal rate for completion percentage and nearly 160 yards under his season average for passing yards per game. But they did much of that on their own, with the Longhorn pass rush struggling to reach home. Weeden was sacked just once, the safety by Alex Okafor, meaning that the Longhorns have generated just two sacks on 93 passing attempts in their last two games. It's not an issue you can lay at just one player's feet. The defensive linemen haven't gotten to the passer, and the Longhorns' blitzes haven't really gotten home either. That's what makes recruiting pass rushers, like Woodlawn (La.) product Torshiro Davis, who took in Saturday's game, such a high priority. If Texas can start getting to the quarterback to complement the team's secondary play, it won't be long before the Longhorns are fielding elite defenses again.
5) What a difference a healthy Fozzy Whittaker makes. Whittaker has been the most visibly improved player from a year ago, and the amazing thing is how many phases of the game he's been able to affect. Whittaker has gone from a part-time running back to someone who can handle 12-15 touches per game on offense, and he has emerged as one of the Big 12's deadliest kickoff returners. Many people think the title of best kick returner goes to Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert, who returned the opening second half kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown. It marked Gilbert's second touchdown return of the year. But Whittaker responded immediately by taking the ensuing kickoff back 100 yards, making it his second touchdown return of the past two weeks, and he's averaging 46.5 yards per kickoff return this season. It isn't likely that Whittaker can maintain that kind of torrid pace, but that's not important. What is important is that a healthy Fozzy is making sure that the Longhorns squeeze every last yard out of both the running and return games.