Texas has a hard time getting the job done, solution lies within receiving core and play calling

Kaitlyn Harmon, Sports Reporter

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared as part of the November 5 Double Coverage flipbook.

Entering Week 10, the Longhorns are on a three-game losing streak for the first time since 2016 when Texas faced three consecutive losses to California, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. If the Longhorns wish to change their fate and prevent a four-game losing streak, Texas needs to tighten up skills on both sides of the ball.

What lies in Texas’ way of finishing games is the receiving core, among other things. Against now-ranked No. 14 Baylor last Saturday, Texas and head coach Steve Sarkisian blew an opportunity to either tie the game 24-24 or take the lead 28-24 in the fourth quarter. Starting quarterback Casey Thompson attempted to convert on 3rd-and-11, but failed with an incomplete pass. After going three and out, kicker Cameron Dicker then attempted a fake punt, running the ball for two yards to Baylor’s 47-yard line. After a turnover on downs, the Bears found their way into the end zone to advance to 31-21 with less than eight minutes left in the fourth quarter. A poor play call ultimately resulted in Texas’ even 4–4 record on the season.

Against Oklahoma State in Week 8, Texas had the opportunity to take the lead over the Cowboys late in the fourth quarter. With over a little over four minutes remaining, the Texas offensive line had no gas left in the tank as Thompson scrambled for dear life, resulting in back-to-back quarterback keepers. On 3rd-and-1 and 4th-and-3, Thompson ran the ball for a loss of 2 yards and no gain. On Texas’ next possession, the Longhorns had yet another opportunity to create a comeback. Tied 32-32, Thompson threw an interception with less than two minutes remaining on the clock.

For the first time at Red River against Oklahoma, Texas held the lead until the fourth quarter. With just under 12 minutes to go until the play clock hit triple zeros, the Longhorns led 41-33. On a drive that could have been the final knockout punch to a No. 6 ranked Oklahoma team, Texas surrendered after going three and out. With an incomplete pass to Jordan Whittington, Dicker was forced to punt the ball to Oklahoma’s 40-yard line. The Sooners would tie the game 41-41 on their next possession. Xavier Worthy attempted to receive the kick return and fumbled, turning the ball back over to the Sooners. As history has it, the Sooners maximized upon their possession by finding their way into the end zone to advance the game to 48-41. Upon Texas’ next drive, Thompson failed to complete passes to Marcus Washington and Bijan Robinson.

Texas’ matchups against Baylor, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma tallied 41 incomplete passes for an average completed passing rating of 58.29%. A poor completed passing rating could be attributed to one of two things — a weak and gassed offensive line or a receiving core with hands like butter. But the answer to why Texas has a hard time getting the job done is the latter of the two.

Worthy, Texas’ star receiver, is the 47th ranked wide receiver for receptions on the season with 33. The freshman has 657 yards and seven touchdowns on the season. Whittington, Worthy’s fellow receiver, has recorded 24 receptions for 359 yards and three touchdowns on the season. To cap out the Texas receiving core, Moore has tallied 22 receptions for 233 yards and three touchdowns through Week 9.

While the three-man receiving duo’s stats are not entirely impressive, they’re also not at the bottom of the pack. There is no doubt that the Longhorns’ receiving core is talented, but that talent is not being maximized upon to not lose games. However, Texas’ biggest problem and the reason why the Longhorns have failed to finish with a win three games in a row is perhaps overly ambitious play calling. While it is applaudable to convert on a fourth down or to fake a punt like Dicker in Week 9, sometimes riskiness does not win games.

If Texas wants to save itself from a four-game losing streak for the first time since 2010, the Longhorns need to maximize upon points whenever possible and the receiving core needs to step up to ensure a Texas victory.