Texas obviously did many things did wrong against Oklahoma. But maybe the Longhorns’ first mistake was made before the game even started when the team did a walkthrough at the Cotton Bowl the Friday before the game.
“We thought so many young players had never been the Cotton Bowl that we should walk through and let them see it,” said head coach Mack Brown. “It’s probably something we’ll never
Texas lost five of their last seven games after falling to Oklahoma last season. One of those two wins was a 20-13 triumph in Lincoln, Neb., over No. 5 Nebraska the contest immediately following the Red River Rivalry, but it didn’t keep the Longhorns from going down a slippery slope. This year’s Texas team seemed on the right track toward redeeming itself from last season’s 5-7 debacle but took a step backward at the Cotton Bowl last Saturday. Now, the Longhorns need to bounce back.
“The loss Saturday doesn’t discourage me at all,” said senior linebacker Keenan Robinson. “I feel like we’re still the same team we’ve been all season. We played four great games before this.”
Oklahoma State, who has played five great games so far this year, travels to Austin this weekend. The Cowboys, led by 28-year-old quarterback Brandon Weeden, have one of the most explosive offenses in the nation. After giving up more than 300 yards and three touchdowns to Oklahoma’s Landry Jones in the first half last weekend, Texas is faced with the tough task of slowing down the nation’s second-most productive offense, led by a gunslinger seven weeks older than Super Bowl winner Aaron Rodgers.
“We made OU one-dimensional but we didn’t make them pay because we didn’t stop the pass and get off the field on third down,” Robinson said.
Robinson is a senior but is playing on a young team with freshmen contributing at virtually every position. Many of the Longhorns’ underclassmen either weren’t in a Texas uniform or didn’t play much when Texas collapsed last season. So while Robinson’s solution of limiting Weeden’s short throws is viable, fellow senior, running back Fozzy Whittaker, offered another one Monday, saying “senior leadership” is the most important thing the Longhorns must have moving forward. Robinson agreed.
“I have to make sure that, as a senior leader and someone that’s supposed to lead by example, I do the little things right,” Robinson said. “I have to make sure I play at the highest level because everyone is going to follow after me. If they see me take a play off, they’re going to think it’s ok to take a play off.”
Many of Texas’ youngsters are playing on two of the most important spots on the field — behind center and in the secondary. Those crucial positions also require a short memory, which will come in handy after a game like the one David Ash, Case McCoy and the Longhorns secondary had against Oklahoma.
“It’s not all on the quarterbacks, it’s not all on any one position,” said co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin. “The first thing you go back and look at is the turnovers. That’s the number one thing we focus on.”
One adjustment Texas will be looking to make against Oklahoma State is getting their two fastest players the ball more often. Junior wide receiver Marquise Goodwin did not catch any passes against the Sooners while D.J. Monroe had 53 all-purpose yards on just five touches.
“We’ve got to get it in [Marquise’s] hands more,” Brown said. “And we’re really impressed with what D.J. [Monroe’s] done. For the first time, in my estimation, he is playing really,
really well. ”
After last year’s Red River Rivalry, Texas’ season began to snowball, despite the big win over Nebraska. But there are many things about this year’s squad that will keep recent history from itself. This season’s Longhorns are younger and more talented but still have upperclassmen with a fresh memory of the program’s first losing season since 1997 and a heightened sense of urgency to prevent a similar letdown.
“Everyone responds to difficult days differently,” Brown said. “Last year, I got depressed. I’m not going to do that this year. They’re going to take my lead and be positive.”