No. 8 Texas football battled the Houston Cougars and head coach Dana Holgorsen in the first game after the bye week on the road at TDECU Stadium on Oct. 21. Texas looked focused and ready for this matchup against Houston out of the gates, taking an early 14-0 lead in the first quarter behind two solid drives led by redshirt sophomore quarterback Quinn Ewers.
In the first quarter alone, Ewers was nearly spotless, going 9-of-10 passing for over 130 passing yards, two passing touchdowns, and no turnovers. The Texas offense stayed hot early in the second quarter, extending the lead to 21-0 on Savion Red’s first career touchdown.
Texas football survives Houston on the road
Houston battled back at the end of the second quarter, getting two straight touchdown drives as quarterback Donovan Smith started to pick apart Texas’ zone defense. Thus, the first-half woes continued for the Longhorns in this game.
Smith and the Cougars continued their spirited comeback in the second half, tying the game up after a big deep ball connection to wide receiver Joseph Manjack IV. Houston and Texas went back and forth on a couple of scores before a lot of drama in the fourth quarter.
Ewers went down with an injury in the fourth quarter that impacted this game. And the Longhorns got a pretty fortunate spot on a third-down run that was spotted short of the first-down marker.
Here are three takeaways from the Longhorns’ upset scare against Houston on Oct. 21.
Safety woes continue in pass coverage
Houston exploited the Texas defensive backs in this game to the tune of over 320 passing yards and three passing touchdowns. Smith and the Cougars got red-hot through the air after the first 20 minutes of this game, including three straight touchdown drives that tied things up in the third quarter.
There were multiple occasions in this game where the Longhorns’ safeties were beaten deep for big gains for the Cougars. Junior safety Michael Taaffe, senior Jerrin Thompson, and senior Kitan Crawford were all either beat for at least one deep ball, a touchdown pass, or both.
Thompson and Crawford, in particular, have struggled in pass coverage in Big 12 play. Crawford has allowed over 200 receiving yards and multiple touchdown passes in pass coverage this season, the third-most of any Big 12 safety. Thompson has also had his fair share of struggles in pass coverage this season.
It clearly hurt the Longhorns that the secondary was missing redshirt junior boundary corner Ryan Watts and senior safety Jalen Catalon. Watts and Catalon were both listed as “game-time decisions” against Houston this weekend. But neither played this game from what we could tell on the broadcast.
Texas needs Catalon and Watts to get back soon before a critical stretch of games in November against the likes of the Kansas State Wildcats, Iowa State Cyclones, and TCU Horned Frogs.