Oklahoma State Postmortem

Three thoughts on the Longhorns' loss to the Cowboys last Saturday.

1) The Case bomb blew up

To be fair, the top factor should simply be this: make a list of the things that Texas couldn't afford to do to win against a good football team, and the Longhorns pretty much checked off all of those boxes.

Chief among those was failing to play assignment-sound defense against the quarterback run game early, not making key defensive plays — like Adrian Phillips's fluke missed interception — getting dominated on special teams and turning the ball over.

All of those were devastating, with the Phillips play and McCoy's inability to avoid turnovers serving as the knockout blows. The two back-to-back shots before the half dropped the Longhorns from a 14-10 game where Texas would have had the halftime momentum (thanks to Phillips's interception) to a 28-10 contest with Oklahoma State holding all the cards.

The worst part was that McCoy's pick six was simply a terrible decision. There was no quarterback who could have made that throw … Justin Gilbert was sitting right on that route.

When McCoy took over the job after David Ash's injury, the staff was quick to point out that the most important thing that he could do was take care of the football. It wasn't a message without a teachable point — McCoy threw game-changing picks in each of his last two starts against Baylor and Kansas State, two performances where he played well overall, only to ruin them with momentum-killing turnovers. The point was crystal clear: rein things in. It was less important for this team, with these weapons, to be a superstar than it was to assert a steady game-managing presence.

And despite the odd turnover here and there, McCoy performed those duties fairly well. He stepped up when he needed to, and generally avoided the deadly interceptions. He was 6-0 as a starter, though the general feeling among many was that McCoy's balloon was getting ready to pop. He's always had some gunslinger to him … and like a Greek tragedy, it was what made him both most effective and most deadly for his team's chances all at once.

Saturday, the deadly part showed up. And when combined with the Longhorns' other mistakes, Texas just wasn't equipped to deal with it.

2) Injuries are mounting up

To his credit, Brown isn't using the team's injuries as an excuse. And that's really the only way to look at it from a coach's perspective — you can whine about it all you want, but you have to play with the players that are available to you. Nobody puts an asterisk on a game result on the end schedule that somebody can look back at in 2025 and say, well, those Longhorns lost three games, but by golly, they were INJURED.

But just because it's not an excuse — and again, Brown isn't using it as one — doesn't mean that it doesn't bear talking about it. Because I don't know that there's any team in college football that could miss a top-20 quarterback, which David Ash was/is, a 1,000-yard rusher, which Johnathan Gray would have been, and the other assorted losses (including a linebacker picked as a preseason All-Big 12 player in Jordan Hicks and a defensive tackle potentially headed to the All-Big 12 team in Chris Whaley), without skipping a beat.

Is Alabama undefeated without A.J. McCarron, T.J. Yeldon and C.J. Mosley? Where is Florida State without Jameis Winston? Looking more locally, make Bryce Petty and Eddie Lackey vanish early on, then take Lache Seastrunk and Beau Blackshear later on. How do the Bears cope?

That's not to say that those teams wouldn't still be pretty good, and Texas has been pretty good. But it also eliminates all margin for error. And, on a less publicized note, those injuries have absolutely destroyed the Longhorns' special teams, something that Oklahoma State took serious advantage of.

Brown made reference to that when he talked about having to move Joe Bergeron, who was excelling on special teams, off some of those units to make up for the fact that he'd be receiving more carries. Here's the problem: whenever somebody who plays a lot gets injured, somebody else steps up. And that hurts on every level of the football team. The starting lineup isn't as good because Player B isn't as good as the starter. The second team isn't as good because Player C isn't as good as Player B. And when Player B gets moved up to starter, he's moved off special teams, leading to worse play there. And that's not counting injured players who would have/were excelling on special teams as their primary jobs.

Has Texas been bad on special teams? Yes. Would Texas be better there with Joe Bergeron (promoted), Dalton Santos (promoted), Sheroid Evans (injured) and Demarco Cobbs (injured)? Absolutely. Does Texas need to find a way to overcome those injuries? Absolutely yes.

Again, you can only play the available players. And Oklahoma State's receiving corps was itself dogged with injuries, including one to Josh Stewart, one of the Big 12's best playmakers. My point is this: Texas doesn't have the talent, and the depth, to get away with playing bad football against a good team right now. And that's precisely what the Longhorns did last Saturday.

3) As Mack says: the goals are still ahead for this team …

But they need some help, and they need to help themselves. The first part might not be too much to ask — Texas needs Oklahoma State to drop one of its final two games, which includes contests against Baylor and Oklahoma.

The second part is the more difficult: the Longhorns need to pull off a couple wins of their own, the first over a Texas Tech team with plenty of offensive pop, and the second against a Baylor team that is not just undefeated, but one that has annihilated almost every team it's gone up against.

We all laughed, or rolled our eyes, when Mack said that the Longhorns still had their goals in front of them after falling to Ole Miss. Texas was 1-2 at the time, with two consecutive blowout losses, and there really wasn't much, if anything, to indicate that the 'Horns were a Big 12-title caliber team.

Yet Texas rolled off six straight league wins to thrust the Longhorns into the thick of the conference race before falling to Oklahoma State. Once more, it's easy to doubt. One reporter asked one of the players after the game which team Texas was: the squad that rolled off six straight wins, or the one that has yet to beat a top-tier Big 12 team. The question was somewhat unfair: Oklahoma currently sits just one loss behind Oklahoma State and Texas, and the 'Horns handled the Sooners in Dallas. But the point is simply that doubt, at least on the outside, has started to creep in.

Do the Longhorns have another couple wins in them? It should make for an exciting end of the season.

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