Texan Tuesday Football Talk: Longhorns look beyond OU

Nathan Han, Matthew Boncosky, Sports Reporters

Welcome to the eighth edition of the Texan Tuesday Football Talk, where Daily Texan football beat reporters Matthew Boncosky and Nathan Han discuss, of course, Texas football.

Nathan Han: I thought I was ready to put the OU loss behind me the moment we left the Cotton Bowl, but after watching clips of the run defense and offensive line in the second half, I was clearly wrong. The updated depth chart released Monday changed the starting offensive line. What are your thoughts on how the offensive line played Saturday and how do you think the changes will affect the blocking?

Matthew Boncosky: So the big change with the offensive line this week is that redshirt freshman Andrej Karic was removed from the starting line up. Senior Tope Imade will take his place and play at the right guard spot, along with some restructuring of the rest of the line.

The offensive line clearly fell apart down the stretch of Saturday’s game. Backed up against the raucous, crimson-clad half of the Cotton Bowl, the group struggled mightily in pass protection, hindering all chances at halting the momentum Oklahoma had built up. I think swapping out a redshirt freshman for a senior is an attempt by offensive line coach Kyle Flood to add a more experienced player to the unit who will hopefully be better equipped to deal with similar high-intensity situations going forward.

After Saturday’s collapse, Flood had to change something about the offensive line, so we’ll see whether this new group will find the cohesion that previous iterations of the line have not. You mentioned watching the run defense on tape, what stood out to you, and why was Oklahoma able to gash Texas on the ground so often?

NH: The run defense hasn’t just been an Oklahoma problem. Arkansas and TCU were also able to run at will on the Longhorns, especially on first down. The first thing that jumps out to me is just the missed tackling, where players were in position to make plays (the 66-yard Caleb Williams touchdown run comes to mind) and just couldn’t bring the runner to the ground.

But, as defensive lineman Moro Ojomo pointed out on Monday, the rest of the defense can be better at rallying to the ball and being in the right position, so that one missed tackle doesn’t turn into a big play. Ojomo also said that the Sooners ran a lot of counter run plays, nullifying the defensive tackles and giving the Oklahoma offensive line time to generate a push.

In those slower-developing counter runs, it’s up to the defensive ends to penetrate into the backfield. But with the loss of senior Jacoby Jones to injury, ends Ovie Oghoufo and Jett Bush, who primarily played on pass rushing downs, were thrown into action to make plays against the run and just couldn’t. Bush particularly struggled against the Sooner offensive tackles, who pushed him aside to create holes for Kennedy Brooks all game long.

That whole position group will have to be better for Texas to contain No. 12 Oklahoma State as the Cowboys come into town on Saturday. What are you expecting from the Oklahoma State offense, and who are some names to watch?

MB: I had to check the notes, but Spencer Sanders is still the quarterback for Oklahoma State. He’s technically a redshirt junior, but it feels like he’s been there forever. Sanders is a guy who has given the Longhorns trouble in the past, but his numbers this year aren’t stellar. While that may be the case, he still presents a dual-threat challenge, though Texas has handled mobile quarterbacks better this year than in years past.

Tay Martin is a 6-foot-3-inch wide receiver who has hit the 100-yard mark in all three of his complete games so far and leads Oklahoma State in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. While he will be the biggest force on the outside to keep an eye on, I expect head coach Mike Gundy to call a run-first game behind running back Jaylen Warren.

Like you mentioned, Texas has struggled with its run defense, and that’s all on film for other teams to watch and game plan against the Longhorns with. Expect most teams going forward, not just Oklahoma State, to center their gameplans around attacking the Texas defense on the ground.

With that being said, this week’s game against the Cowboys will have massive implications for Texas’ Big 12 Championship hopes. Right now the Longhorns just have one conference loss to the best team in the league, and a win against Oklahoma State would give the Longhorns the edge in a potential tiebreaker with the Cowboys for second place. I think Sark and Co. will be ready to bounce back, so give me Texas 45-35.

NH: It’s time for me to pick against Texas for the third week in a row, and, as much as I hate to say it, the struggles on both lines have me worried for Saturday against a top 15 opponent. I’ll take Oklahoma State, 35-27.