Red River Shutout: 5 Observations from Texas vs. Oklahoma

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Jeffrey McWhorter/AP/Shutterstock (13448896e) Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers (3) throws a pass during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Oklahoma at the Cotton Bowl, in Dallas Texas Oklahoma Football, Dallas, United States – 08 Oct 2022

Red River Shutout: 5 Observations from Texas vs. Oklahoma

The Texas Longhorns dominated the Red River Showdown in every facet as they demolished Oklahoma 49-0. The offense was bolstered by the return of quarterback Quinn Ewers, and Bijan Robinson turned in another strong performance. The Longhorn defense smothered an outgunned Sooner attack, never letting Oklahoma get a foothold in the game and shutting out the Sooners for the first time since 1965.

The Texas defense is improving:  Granted, Oklahoma is limited on offense at the moment, but the Longhorn defenders were fast, physical, and locked in. At times the Sooners were able to gain some yards with a wildcat package, but Texas was never really threatened. Over the last few weeks, tackling has improved, and the understanding and cohesion of the unit are growing as well. 

The Longhorns’ offense is tough to defend: Sarkisian uses all of the tools at a play caller’s disposal to create problems for defenders. Texas employs tempo, formations, motions, shifts, and misdirection. All of which makes it difficult for a defense to identify threats. Once a defense gets past all of this, you still have to deal with players as talented as Bijon Robinson, Xavier Worthy, and a growing cast of complimentary threats such as Jordan Whittington and Ja’Tavion Sanders. Against Oklahoma, orbit motions seemed to be the new wrinkle of choice. Bringing a receiver in motion behind the ball forces the defense to adjust its coverage, but it is also easy to reverse the motion, sending the receiver back where he came from. This motion can also be used as a decoy, but it creates another layer for the defense to wade through to diagnose plays. Texas created space and big plays several times against the Sooners using this technique. Texas also used tempo to go faster than Oklahoma could get their calls in. Tempo forces defenses to simplify what they are trying to do and simply can not defend all of what Sarkisian can bring to bear.

Ja’Tavion Saunders has become an integral part of the UT offense: The success of the running game strengthens the threat of the play-action pass, and innovative play design by Steve Sarkisian allows Sanders to get open in space consistently. On Texas’ first touchdown drive, the Longhorns employed orbit motion to manipulate the Oklahoma force and then snuck Sanders into the flat for a completion that sparked the drive and overcame terrible field position. Sanders also hauled in a 24-yard touchdown pass just before halftime and another score in the third quarter. Sanders’ size and speed make him a mismatch in coverage, a lethal compliment to the other aspects of the Longhorns’ offense.

Quinn Ewers’ accuracy adds another dimension to the Texas offense:  He has the arm talent to make throws that very few quarterbacks in the country can make. Ewers started the game completing 14 of 17 passes, and he used different arm angles to deliver accurate passes that kept drives alive and led to long touchdown drives that allowed Texas to take a stranglehold on the game. Ewers threw for three touchdowns and 211 yards in the first half building a 28-0 halftime lead.

Longhorn fans should be ecstatic with the performance by Texas today: In a rivalry game, the Horns dominated from start to finish. Quinn Ewers gives Texas something special offensively that will be difficult to handle, and the defense is rounding into form. The upcoming schedule features the class of the conference, but Texas has all the ingredients to contend for a Big 12 title.

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