Cowboy offense presents challenge for Texas

Tyler Horka

Two weeks ago California receivers slipped behind No. 22 Texas’ secondary with ease. Notre Dame ball catchers did the same four weeks ago in Austin.

The Longhorns allowed an average of 48.5 points per game in those two contests. Much of the buzz surrounding Texas’ 2–0 start faded into doubts about the defense following the Longhorns’ 50-43 loss to California.

The uncertainty surrounding the Longhorn defense all but smothered the optimism surrounding the offense. The media and fans focused on Texas’ blown coverages and missed assignments against Cal but forgot about the assertiveness of its attack.

Senior quarterback Tyrone Swoopes, however, did not. He knows the defense often puts the offense in precarious positions to score, but he welcomes that challenge with confidence.

“We always say it’s our job to score one more [point] than the other [team],” Swoopes said. “So as many points as we have to score, we have the talent for sure to do so.”

Texas checks in at No. 107 nationally in scoring defense, giving up 34.7 points per game. Its offense, meanwhile, ranks No. 13 in scoring with 44.7 points per matchup.  

The passing attack averages more than 100 more yards per game this season than it did last season, going from 145.9 yards per game last year to its current average of 262 yards per contest.

Freshman quarterback Shane Buechele and offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert have teamed up to foster the aerial resurgence. Buechele has thrown for an average of 240 yards per game and seven touchdowns in total in Gilbert’s up-tempo system.

But Texas’ No. 44-ranked passing offense still lags behind its No. 23-ranked rushing force, which averages 238.33 yards per game. Texas head coach Charlie Strong said he is comfortable with his offense because of the different dynamics it presents to Big 12 defenses.

“A lot of people think that this is a ‘pass-happy’ league, when really, it isn’t,” Strong said. “If you watch the good teams in this league, there’s a good mixture of run and pass. It’s very balanced.”

Statistically, Oklahoma State doesn’t quite fit Strong’s description of a balanced team. While the Cowboys’ No. 11-ranked passing offense threatens every defense it encounters, its running game doesn’t do the same. The Cowboys rank No. 109 nationally with 126.8 rushing yards per game. 

But that doesn’t mean the Texas defensive line will have it easy against Oklahoma State. The Cowboys emphasized their rushing attack last week against Baylor — they elected to run on 55 of their 110 offensive plays.

“You look at Oklahoma State and Baylor, Oklahoma State rushed for over 200 yards,” defensive coordinator Vance Bedford said. “So they went into that game and tried to physically pound Baylor.”

Texas will likely need its offense to carry the load again this weekend against Oklahoma State. Strong said he has the fastest, most physical team in college football — his team just needs to prove that.

The Longhorns’ next chance comes on Saturday at 11 a.m. in Stillwater. 

“If we can run the football, if we can protect our quarterbacks, and we can make plays on the perimeter, then [we’re] going to have a chance to score a lot of points,” Strong said.