It was a familiar story in the history of the Big 12: Oklahoma State and Texas squaring off. One with national championship aspirations, the other a dangerous underdog.
Of course, the difference this time was that it was the Pokes with the lofty national ranking and Texas trying to make a statement.
The Longhorns managed to slip into character perfectly, too. They sabotaged their chances at success in a fashion all too familiar to OSU fans – poor kickoff coverage, untimely turnovers, mental errors. If OSU’s domination of the ‘Horns last season was a Twilight Zone episode, Saturday’s 38-26 OSU win was like Freaky Friday. (The Lindsay Lohan-Jamie Lee Curtis version, natch.)
For Texas coach Mack Brown and his staff, the loss offered yet another reminder that the situation under center in Austin is, for now, a mess.
The fact that David Ash went the entire way likely signifies that Mack and offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin have decided to plant a flag behind the true freshman, jettisoning the platoon with Case McCoy. It makes sense, because there’s no doubt Ash has the higher ceiling of the two. On the other hand, based on Ash’s performance against OSU, what does that say about Texas’ future at QB?
It feels as though hitching the wagon to Ash now is essentially the best option out of some bad ones. He has definitely shown some promise, but nothing yet that merits the label of the Next Vince Young or Colt McCoy 2.0.
You can chalk up plenty of his mistakes to youth. The greater concern should be the lack of positive plays he has made. Simply put: If Texas wants to get back to competing for championships on the conference and national level, going all in with Ash seems like a risky bet.
The better news for the Longhorns is the continued development of the running game. Employing a three-headed monster of Malcolm Brown, Fozzy Whittaker and D.J. Monroe in the backfield, Texas churned out 231 yards on the ground. The freshman Brown looked every bit the five-star prospect he was billed to be, pounding out 7.1 yards per carry en route to 135 on the day.
On the other side of the field, when all was said and done Saturday, OSU remained on a collision course with Oklahoma for a de facto national semifinal in December.
Heisman candidate QB Brandon Weeden didn’t set the world on fire, but he played well enough against a Texas defense that was made to look worse than it really is by the Sooners in the Red River Shootout.
The Pokes also showed their typical offensive balance, rushing for 202 yards in addition to Weeden’s 218 yards passing.
Defensively, however, the Cowboys have a long way to go. The Longhorns’ generally underwhelming offensive attack put together a healthy number of sustained drives on the Pokes.
As has been the case all season, OSU generated turnovers at key times to steal possessions from UT.
Through six games, the Cowboys are plus-12 in turnover margin. The two-turnover difference per game ranks second nationally, according to cfbstats.com. Conversely, OSU is allowing 5.4 yards per play, 57th overall.
To put that in terms T. Boone Pickens would appreciate, that dog won’t hunt.
With explosive offenses like Baylor, Missouri and Oklahoma still to come, the Cowboys will have figure out a way to get stops consistently if they want to have a shot at a national championship.
Even so, they could be in worse position.
Texas, which is 1-7 in its last eight Big 12 games, would surely attest.