What do you get when you cross an Aggie and a K-State grad? A couple who don't know their own WiFi password and force their party guests to do post game write ups on their phones! But with visions of the Advocare Pyramid Scheme Bowl dancing in our heads, we shall power through.
It was the best of halves, it was the worst of halves - once again, it looked like a Dickensian dichotomy was going to overtake the O until Swoopes started clicking with his wideouts on a fourth-quarter drive that culminated in a rainbow toss to
Eric Armanti Foreman that provided the game's final margin.
So let's concentrate on that first half!
The first half was...pretty damn good, as Texas played some of its most complete ball to date. Wickline's charges came out fired up to defend their mentor's lawsuit-besmirched honor, sticking their blocks and continually giving the Longhorn runners space to operate. Edges got sealed, holes got opened, and even when a Texas blocker got pushed back he kept his man locked up and kept him from getting hands on Brown or Gray. Sed Flowers threw the block of his Texas career on one of Gray's red zone runs, and the Texas backs reinforced the "every runner looks better with space and momentum" theorem as both Brown and Gray broke tackles and showed some open-field shake on the way to a combined hundred yards in the first half. Throw in a few Sasquatch sightings as Daje hit the edge on jet sweeps, and Texas' ground game was cooking with gas.
An arch-conservative aerial approach wouldn't have been shocking given our defense's presumed advantage over a Daxx Garman O, but Watson trusted Swoopes to operate right out of the gate and the sophomore rewarded him with a crisp first-half show. Swoopes found Shipley for a first down on Texas' first offensive play, and shook off a first-down sack to drop a pretty throw right in the basket to John Harris for the Longhorns' opening TD. Harris was the predictable headliner in the pass game, but Swoopes also cashed in on some well-timed RB screens and showed a good connection with Shipley until OSU's absurd field dimensions nearly killed him when he hit the wall after a back-flag corner route. Swoopes only rated a B for accuracy, but his decision-making was impeccable and he showed the coaches that he's worthy of trust on routes over the middle.
Of course the third quarter came, and we went into our normal "last 40 minutes of Das Boot" approach of hunkering down, getting rocked by depth charges, springing leaks and grimly hanging on in the hopes of last-act survival. If we've got some spare time during the bye week, a stem-to-stern review of our offensive approach coming out of the half is in order.
The O put a little extra shine on things in the 4th with a crisp drive that featured a Marcus Johnson sighting, yet another big grab from Harris and the aforementioned
Eric Armanti Foreman bomb.
Wow. Even accounting for the substantial Daxx Discount, this was an impressive defensive road show that really showed off Strong and Bedford's vision for how this D should perform.
Robust work by the DL that dropped runners in the backfield, junked the run with honest box numbers and got upfield to pressure the passer? Check.
LBs who flowed unimpeded to the ball carrier and effortlessly transitioned to active and aware pass defense in the curl and hook zones? Check.
A secondary that handled both man and zone looks with ease, fluently passed off receivers and created multiple coverage sacks while never coming close to letting a receiver get loose deep? Check.
As fun as it was to watch Texas own the line of scrimmage, the way that the entire back seven worked together in pass defense was even more impressive. The transition from lost LBs and Akina's man coverage fiefdom to a truly integrated organism is a testament to how well Strong and Bedford know their business, and that kind of fluency is Texas' biggest bulwark against the impact of individual talent losses on the D for 2015.
The Nick Rose Roller Coaster was in full effect - an eye-opening 51-yarder was immediately followed by a schtoinked 21 harder in an impressive object lesson on mean reversion, but Rose came back to knock through two more for a we'll-take-it-every-time .750 FG percentage. Our kick coverage on non-touchbacks was predictably limp, but Michael Davidson solidified his hold on the punting job and Longhorn fans' hearts with a holy roller that got downed at the OSU 2.
Any game without a crippling loss in this phase basically counts as winning.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Oklahoma State...is not good. We basically knew this coming in, but they came in well below even our modest expectations. But even so - anyone want to raise their hand and say they weren't nervous on Thursday, looking at a night game on the road with our best O-lineman dinged up and our QB coming off an absolutely brutal half of football? I know I was. But Strong's bunch came in and calmly, efficiently Chigurh'd the Pokes to secure a bowl bid that looked like a chimera when we walked off the field in Manhattan.
Let's get ready to play with house money against TCU on Turkey Day and celebrate a postseason berth that represents some valuable practice time and an even more valuable step in the right direction - the Toilet Bowl has seldom offered such relief.