Texas had played three consecutive excellent tackling games vs. Colorado, Oklahoma and Missouri. This one, though, was a clunker. Missed tackles from the front, linebackers and the secondary kept the Cowboys in the game. Lots of grabbing, a lack of running through the tackles, and NFL-type dives at the legs of the runner allowed OSU a real chance to upset Texas in Austin.
With a two-deep safety defense versus a tight end, wide receiver set, the bounce out runs can become dangerous and Kendall Hunter at running back, Brandon Pettigrew at right end and Dez Bryant at wide receiver made up a difficult combination for Texas to defend. Pettigrew would cover up defensive end Brian Orakpo, Hunter would start inside then break outside freezing the Texas linebackers long enough for interior blockers to get on them all the while Bryant is sprinting downfield taking the Texas corner – all that's left is air and a Texas safety playing 9-10 yards deep. Lots of running room.
Texas paid a price for any extra coverage on Bryant and staying two-deep at safety.
It was in the fourth quarter with the game in doubt when the Longhorn defense finally rose to the occasion. Fourth-and-six with less than three minutes to play, 28-24, and everybody – all 98,518 – on their feet, Oklahoma State runs an inside screen bringing Dez Bryant underneath the Longhorn linebackers. I saw Lamarr Houston get a perfect read off OSU linemen releasing their blocks early and slide down the line to his right. Roy Miller was boring in on OSU quarterback Zac Robinson. The short pass got to Bryant but Houston caught Bryant's foot and flipped the fleet receiver and for all practical purposes sealed the Longhorn victory.
At times, the Texas kickoff coverage team and the Texas defense were playing losing football, dragging the Longhorn offense down with them, but McCoy and his teammates kept Texas alive to fight another day.
Kickoff coverage hasn't changed since I played football at Texas in the early 1960's; you run fast and avoid the early blockers to get to the ball carrier. Just running into blockers does nothing but create huge running lanes. Two 52-yard returns is ridiculous against a team with as much on the line as Texas has. Oklahoma State cashed in quickly on such foolishness.
Being forced to drive 93 yards and 91 yards for touchdowns, as Texas did, while OSU had to go only 65 and 29 made an enormous difference in the game, which I am sure coach Mack Brown will address with enthusiasm this week.
I didn't like the Texas fourth down play from OSU's one-yard line. The attempted play action pass instead of another Cody Johnson smash could have resulted in an interception but McCoy three it low knowing he was in trouble.
Give Greg Davis his due, though, because he is the architect of the Longhorn spread offensive attack, which without a doubt and without much help won this football game. Credit coaches Mac McWhorter and Bruce Chambers with the solid wall of protection given McCoy. OSU was shifting down linemen, bringing up its secondary and running linebackers trying to penetrate the burnt orange wall but to their everlasting merit the Longhorn OL gave Colt McCoy the time necessary to throw the ball 45 times. Surgical strikes just in the right places would be my assessment of Colt McCoy to Shipley (15 catches), Cosby (8 catches) and Chris Ogbonnaya (7 catches).
Texas did try to run but as mentioned OSU was determined that game would not go.
So now it's showdown number four in a row. ESPN's GameDay crew will be in Lubbock in the morning and a 7 p.m. a nationally televised audience will see the equivalent of perhaps college football's greatest offensive show. This game could go to overtime. Texas can't pound the ball on Tech like the Horns did last year in Austin. Both teams will live or die with the pass. I think Texas wins with a field goal, 38-35.
Pat Culpepper played for The University from 1960-62 and graduated from UT with a B.A. degree with honors in history. He coached college football for 12 years as an assistant at Texas, Colorado, Tulane, Baylor and Memphis State and was head coach at Northern Illinois from 1976-79. He also spent 16 years as a high school coach in Texas at Midland, Lufkin, Galveston Ball, Westfield and his hometown of Cleburne. He was selected to the Longhorn Hall of Honor in 1991. His commentary appears regularly in the Inside Texas magazine and at InsideTexas.com.