3 biggest concerns for Texas football against a tough Oklahoma State team

Quinn Ewers, Texas football Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports
Quinn Ewers, Texas football Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports /
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Spencer Sanders, Texas football
Spencer Sanders, Texas football Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports /

A chance to win four in a row and really start getting on a path to making it to the Big 12 Championship Game starts this weekend for No. 20 ranked Texas football against the No. 11 Oklahoma State Cowboys. Texas and head coach Steve Sarkisian passed a real tough test last weekend against the Iowa State Cyclones at home and must do so again this weekend against a good Oklahoma State squad.

While Oklahoma State does look to be a beatable opponent for the Longhorns, this won’t come easy. Oklahoma State does have a few injuries worth noting, including the shoulder issue facing senior quarterback Spencer Sanders (he might also be facing other lower-body injuries from the last couple of weeks).

Yet, Texas has a few issues of its own to work through before facing Oklahoma State this weekend. First off, the Longhorns need to be able to separate from opponents when given the opportunity. Texas had a few opportunities last weekend to separate from Iowa State but wasn’t ever able to do so.

It would also be nice to see Texas be more successful on third down on both sides of the ball. According to Team Rankings, Texas was tied for the 11th worst opponent third down efficiency in Week 7, allowing conversions on 60 percent of Iowa State’s third downs. Texas also ranked in the middle of the pack in the FBS in terms of third-down efficiency. While that’s not bad, you would like to see an offense this talented convert at a higher clip.

Notable concerns for Quinn Ewers and Texas football vs. Oklahoma State in Week 8

Here’s a look at three of the biggest concerns for Texas heading into this weekend’s critical matchup in Stillwater against Oklahoma State.

The run threat from Spencer Sanders

One of the thorns in the side of the Texas defense throughout this season was dealing with the run threat from opposing quarterbacks. Dual-threat quarterbacks gave Texas some fits in the first half of the season (i.e. Texas Tech’s Donovan Smith and UTSA’s Frank Harris).

And this weekend will be the next test up on the docket for the Longhorns in terms of the dual-threat quarterbacks this defense will face during the regular season. Texas must find a way to effectively limit the run threat from Sanders in this game.

Since Sanders is dealing with a shoulder injury that looks to be limiting his ability to make some of the intermediate and deep throws in the last couple of weeks, it is even more important for Texas to take away the run threat from the Pokes quarterback.

If you take away the limited snaps that Sanders took for the Pokes in the win over FCS Arkansas Pine-Bluff last month, he’s averaging 62 rushing yards per game and 1.6 rushing touchdowns. That is good for third in the Big 12 behind Kansas’ Jalon Daniels and Kansas State’s Adrian Martinez in terms of rushing yards and touchdowns per game this season.

That also means Texas hasn’t faced a quarterback that is producing as much on the ground as Sanders in the Big 12.

The difference between how Oklahoma State runs the ball with Sanders compared to the rest of the dual-threat quarterbacks Texas has faced this season is the situations in which he actually uses his legs as a weapon. Sanders most often runs the ball on early downs with longer distances to the chains.

Meanwhile, Texas Tech often used Smith’s dual-threat ability to move the chains on designed run in short-yardage situations on third and fourth down.

There is a similarity, though, between how Texas Tech and Oklahoma State used these dual-threat quarterbacks, respectively, is the fact that these are the only two Big 12 QBs that have less than 50 percent of their rushing attempts come on designed run plays.

But the Texas game only saw Smith have less than 30 percent of his rushing attempts come on scrambles.

To solve this issue, Texas must be able to contain the quarterback when Sanders decides to scramble. This is a little bit different than limiting Smith, where Texas was unable to fill the proper gaps in third and fourth-and-short situations. Texas needs to do a better job holding the edges to prevent Sanders from getting outside of the tackles, where Sanders has racked up more than 70 percent of his rushing yards this season.