Less than two months ago, the Longhorns suffered one of the most embarrassing defeats in program history at the hands of BYU following a one-hour 47-minute lightning delay. Fast-forward to Saturday’s game in Fort Worth, where Texas overcame a similar lightning delay, longer this time at three hours and six minutes, to maintain its undefeated Big 12 record.
The biggest distinction between then and now is defense, especially against the run. The Longhorns were throttled in their loss to BYU — the Cougars racked up nearly 700 yards of offense, including a school-record 550 rushing yards. The Longhorns’ tackling was awful, allowing BYU to average 7.6 yards per carry. Things were much different against the Horned Frogs, though. Texas’ defenders tackled well and rallied to the ball, limiting TCU to a season-low 45 yards on the ground.
The Cougars were able to control the clock and run 99 offensive plays, but the Horned Frogs held the ball eight minutes fewer than the Longhorns and ran only 63 plays from scrimmage. This is a direct result of an increased emphasis on the running game, as they ran the ball 13 more times against TCU than they did against BYU.
Because it was able to stop the run and force TCU to throw the ball, Texas was able to generate consistent pressure, recording three sacks, a stat the team failed to record against the Cougars.
This trend is reflected in Texas’ offensive numbers too. In their loss to the Cougars, the Longhorns were held to 21 points and struggled to generate explosive plays after a 57-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Mike Davis in the first quarter. This was hardly the case against TCU. Senior quarterback Case McCoy completed four passes of 33 yards or more, including a 65-yard touchdown to sophomore wide receiver Marcus Johnson. Although McCoy completed went 9-for-19, he still finished with 228 yards and an average of 12 yards per attempt.
In both of these weather-delayed games, Texas’ players were forced to endure long delays in hostile environments on the road, which can put a team’s focus and resolve to the test. The situations were similar, but the results make it clear: Texas is a much different football team.