Texas Football: 3 red flags for the Longhorns moving forward

Steve Sarkisian, Texas football. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Steve Sarkisian, Texas football. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /
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Jaylan Ford, Texas football
Jaylan Ford, Texas football /

No. 9 Texas football heads into the bye week with a sour taste in their mouth following the tough last-minute 34-30 loss to the No. 12 Oklahoma Sooners in the Red River Rivalry game in Dallas on Oct. 7. Texas had many opportunities to set the tone in Red River last weekend against Oklahoma, but multiple red zone miscues and a couple of costly turnovers doomed head coach Steve Sarkisisan’s squad in Dallas.

The Longhorns head into the bye week with a record of 5-1 (2-1 Big 12) following the heartbreaking four-point loss to the Sooners in Red River last weekend. While the loss to Oklahoma is a setback, the Longhorns are still well within striking distance of a spot in the Big 12 Championship Game.

Red flags for Texas football heading into the bye week

If Texas can win out in the second half of the regular season, that would also keep it in the College Football Playoff conversation.

The bye week allows Sark and the Longhorns to correct many of the mistakes in the first half of the regular season. Here’s a look at three red flags to watch for the Longhorns after the bye week.

Covering the shallow/underneath routes on the outside

Texas was exploited in coverage against Oklahoma in the short and intermediate passing game in ways it hadn’t been up to that point this season. Oklahoma threw for 199 yards in the short and intermediate passing game last weekend, the most the Longhorns have allowed in a game this season (per SIS Data Hub).

Much of Oklahoma’s damage through the air against Texas last weekend was done via the intermediate passing game. Oklahoma threw for a season-high 111 yards in the intermediate passing game last weekend.

Quarterback Dillon Gabriel and the Sooners took advantage of a Texas defense that was playing softer in coverage to avoid getting beat over the top by Oklahoma for the deep pass. Texas played two high safeties in quarters coverage for most of the game against the Sooners on defense.

The Sooners took what the Longhorns gave them and targeted cornerbacks Gavin Holmes, Terrance Brooks, and Malik Muhammad on intermediate routes outside the hashes. Holmes and Muhammad were particularly vulnerable to giving up short and intermediate completions in one-on-one coverage on the outside.

Holmes and Muhammad gave up nearly 100 receiving yards on five catches combined in one-on-one coverage last weekend.

It also didn’t help that the Longhorns didn’t have redshirt junior boundary corner Ryan Watts available against Oklahoma. Had Watts played most of the snaps at boundary corner, Oklahoma likely wouldn’t have experienced the same success they did targeting underneath routes on the outside as they did in his absence last weekend.

However, this wasn’t the first time the Longhorns struggled to defend shallow routes on the outside. Texas has been exploited more than most Big 12 secondaries in the short and intermediate passing game on the outside this season.

Against Power Five competition this season, the Longhorns have allowed over nine yards per coverage snap and a 73 completion percentage on short and intermediate underneath routes outside the hashes. That’s good for the bottom four in the Big 12 in yards per coverage snap and completion percentage in those scenarios this season.

Getting Watts back will help resolve this issue covering the shallow/underneath stuff in the passing game for the rest of Big 12 play. But if Texas does face Oklahoma in a rematch in the Big 12 Championship Game later this season, it must prepare to adjust for the short and intermediate stuff on the outside in coverage.