I don't write that because it happened to be a close contest, as many of the Longhorns' games against Oklahoma State have been lately. Texas has played poorly at times over the last few seasons, had a bad game here and there against a less-talented opponent and pulled out a close victory. But this was not a tough test in that sense. If the Horns manage to punch the ball in from the one-yard-line late in the game, this becomes an 11-point win instead of the one-score nail-biter we witnessed, but that still wouldn't change the fact that Texas played against the best team it's faced all year.
The best. Better than Missouri, better than Oklahoma. That seems crazy, really, given how little respect the Cowboys had heading into the year (Oklahoma State was picked fourth in the Big 12 South in the preseason media poll, ahead of only Texas A&M and Baylor).
About as crazy as Texas going 8-0 and being No. 1 in the country, right?
But that's where we are. After seeing that game, I fully expect OSU to continue on from here, beat both Tech and OU and perhaps even secure itself a BCS at-large spot. As for Texas, at this point, with one more team to go in its death march of games against top 15 opponents, the sky's the limit.
On to the observations...
-Again with the no kickoff coverage.
It hasn't been an overt issue this season, but every now and then Texas will get hurt by problems on coverage. That problem reared its head on Saturday, as Oklahoma State's average starting position after a kickoff was the 38-yard-line.
One of the problems was a few misplaced sky-kicks by Justin Tucker. The true freshman has done exceptionally well this season, but on Saturday he was off a bit. His usually well-placed sky kicks went a bit too deep, landing in the hands of an OSU returner, and when he did kick it deep intentionally, the ball didn't quite have the pop it had earlier in the season. It might be fatigue setting in for a freshman adjusting to college football, but whatever the primary reason, Texas needs to shore up its kickoff coverage. It could be big for the Texas Tech game, especially if the west Texas wind is whipping up in Lubbock.
I have no doubt it will be addressed in some shape, form or fashion this week, though. Given how much pride Mack Brown takes in his special teams, there were probably few things in the game that infuriated him more.
-Colt McCoy showed a couple things against Oklahoma State.
1) He's human.
2) He's a pretty dang impressive human.
He totaled 432 yards and three touchdowns while completing a once again ridiculous 84 percent of his passes. He also made the most mistakes he's made all season, which is not many, but they were still notable. He accounted for two turnovers and could have had another if not for a textbook roughing the passer penalty against Oklahoma State (thems the rules, can't slap a QB in the head).
What was most distinct, though, was when those turnovers came. Because of an Oklahoma State running game that gained momentum as the afternoon wore on, Texas had only four drives in the second half (for comparison, the Horns had six second half drives against Missouri, seven against Oklahoma and seven against Colorado). Two of those four ended in McCoy turnovers.
He's been one of the best QBs in the nation when it comes to closing the game, but against OSU McCoy had his share of struggles in the final two quarters. In the end, he did what he needed to do to get the win and finished with some great numbers.
He was human, but an impressive one none the less.
-If it's a huge play and you need a first down/touchdown, go to the first down/touchdown machine.
I'm looking at both of you, Texas and Oklahoma State.
Texas, what are you doin'? Don't get cute. You have Cody Johnson. Yes, he didn't get in on the first try, but he moved the pile down to the one and with Roy Miller running in front of him, you know he's going to get in.
I don't even have a problem with you not kicking the field goal. Brown was right when he said he'd rather make his opponent drive 99 yards than kicking off to them or, worse, getting it blocked and returned for a touchdown...but if a return for a TD is a concern, don't have McCoy roll out and throw to the edge. There would be nothing between the defender and paydirt if there was a pick.
Give it to the big man with the even bigger man in front of him. They haven't failed you yet.
Now you, Oklahoma State. What are you doing?
Texas hasn't stopped tight end Brandon Pettigrew all day. A third down when you need to keep the drive alive, Pettigrew got the first. A key fourth down, Pettigrew got the first. It's the biggest mismatch on your team and what do you do? You get cuter than Texas did two minutes later with a bubble screen that runs Dez Bryant straight into a defensive tackle.
Listen, that Texas defensive line is bad ju-ju. Put your people as far away from them as possible.
Seriously though, it was a well-coached game on both your parts throughout, you just got a little weird there at the end. You have strengths, you have things you can do that no one can stop. Use them.
-Apparently included amongst those things that no one can stop are Jordan Shipley and Quan Cosby. Shipley finished with a modest 168 receiving yards and a touchdown on 15 catches and each had impressive, falling-down-in-the-end-zone grabs in the first half on fade routes.
McCoy's 81.8 completion percentage this season is really impressive, but, although it would still be high, it wouldn't be in the astronomical range it's reached without a pair of receivers that DO NOT drop the ball.
I'm not sure about them being the 'most talented' or 'most dangerous' or just 'best' receiving combo in the nation, but when it comes to hands, to pure pass-catching ability, there isn't a duo in the country that compares to Shipley and Cosby.
-Texas needs to be able to run the football. Stopping the run they can put off for another day because there isn't a running team left on the schedule (assuming you don't count Texas A&M, which I don't, because even though they'd like to run the football, they're still 100th in the nation in rushing yards this season), but Texas must be able to get yards on the ground and control the clock.
Want to slow down a prolific passing team like Texas Tech? Do what Oklahoma State did to Texas and keep the ball out of the offense's hands with a real running game. The Horns had been steadily improving their rushing attack before taking a step backward on Saturday. If they can get their legs back under them before the trip to Lubbock, it could go a long way towards securing a very, very important road win.