Matchup with Oklahoma State will likely be won in the trenches


Elisabeth Dillon

With Johnathan Gray out for the season, Texas running back Joe Bergeron will be relied on to fill the void in the backfield.

Drew Lieberman

The 2004 season opened with promise for Oklahoma State — it won six of its first seven games. But then, the team dropped four of its final five. This started with a 38-35 loss in their Bedlam rivalry game against Oklahoma, giving the Cowboys ample motivation to bounce back the next week in Austin. 

Early on they did just that, taking a 35-7 lead over the Longhorns with just under a minute and half to play in the second quarter. The Longhorns answered with a score at the half and dominated the Cowboys 42-0 in the second half to win 56-35 in the largest comeback victory in program history. The Cowboys rebounded against Baylor but dropped their final two contests, setting the stage for the struggles of 2005 under head coach Mike Gundy.

As Texas prepares for its matchup with the No. 12-ranked Oklahoma State this Saturday, it hopes to exact a similar type of resilience.

Since 2005, Gundy has worked wonders to make the program nationally relevant, including a No. 3 final ranking and a Big 12 title in 2011. One of the biggest consistencies in Gundy-coached squads is elite offensive-line play in the sacks-allowed category. In four seasons since 2007 the Cowboys have allowed the fewest sacks in the Big 12.

This season’s squad is no different, allowing only eight sacks through nine games so far, good for first in the Big 12. It ranks just ahead of Texas’ under-appreciated offensive line, which gave up five sacks in its first three games but only six since.

Since 1998, the Longhorns out-sacked the Cowboys by an average of 2.5 to 1.9 per game, leading to an average final score of 37.3-24.2. In Oklahoma State’s victories in 2010 and 2011, the Cowboys brought down Texas’ quarterback 3.5 times per game to Texas’ one. It’s fitting that this matchup features the top two statistical offensive lines in the conference, since this game is often won by the team that allows the fewest sacks.

This plays to Texas’ advantage, as its defensive line is one of the best in the country. The Longhorns have tallied 24 sacks in conference play so far, the second-most for a BCS conference squad. The Cowboys, on the other hand, are only at 11 so far, which is sixth in the Big 12.

Texas’ loss of senior defensive tackle Chris Whaley will hurt the line’s production but junior Desmond Jackson, who started 11 games in 2012, should be capable of filling in without much drop-off.

Texas’ offensive line should hold up against the Oklahoma State defensive line, which makes Texas’ defensive-line play key to this contest. If defensive ends senior Jackson Jeffcoat and junior Cedric Reed continue to harass the quarterback as they have the past six contests, the Longhorns should be able to take another step closer to the Big 12 title.