Mandatory Credit: Photo by Eric Gay/AP/Shutterstock (13467635f) Texas wide receiver Xavier Worthy (8) celebrates his touchdown catch against Iowa State during the first half of an NCAA college football game, in Austin, Texas Iowa St Texas Football, Austin, United States – 15 Oct 2022
This week the No. 18 Texas Longhorns will host No. 4 TCU in what might be the biggest game in the Steve Sarkisian era. A win against the undefeated Horned Frogs will put the Horns in the driver’s seat for a berth in the Big 12 Championship game and will give testament to the improvement in the program that Sarkisian and his staff have engineered in Austin. In order to pull off the win, Texas must conquer the second-half offensive slump that has plagued them for most of this season.
Texas has lost three games this year. One loss to then No. 1 Alabama by a point can be forgiven. The other two came in conference games where Texas held a double-digit lead that evaporated in the final moments. In the third quarter, Texas led Texas Tech 31-17, only to fall 37-34 in OT. Against Oklahoma State, the Horns took a 31-17 lead with 3:43 remaining in the second quarter, only to see the lead disappear as the Cowboys pulled off the comeback to win 41-34.
While the Texas defense has been blamed for not holding leads, the Longhorn offense is the real culprit. Texas has had little trouble getting off to fast starts; they have scored at least 24 first-half points in six of nine games.
The problem arises after intermission.
In the last three games, Texas has only scored 16 second-half points. The Horns have been held to 10 points or less in the second half six times this season. In each of the last two games, the offense was held to three second-half points, and Texas only scored 10 the week before against Iowa State. For Texas to be 2-1 in that stretch is a testament to the play of a much improved defensive unit.
Solving the second-half scoring problem is more complicated than it would seem. There have been different culprits throughout the struggles. Last week against Kansas State, untimely fumbles prevented scores that would have iced a victory. Against Oklahoma State, Quinn Ewers had his most inaccurate game as a passer, and the offense could not convert drives.
Texas appears to be a team learning to win before our eyes. Part of that progression is finding ways to fight through adversity, even when it is self-inflicted. The good news for Longhorn fans is that the talent and scheme are in place to solve the second-half issues. Texas has arguably the best running back in the nation in Bijan Robinson, a star wide receiver in Xavier Worthy, and new weapons are emerging every week. Sarkisian and his staff have also proven they have the ability to create schemes and matchups that can be effective regardless of opponent. Now they must prove it for four quarters.
The win this week on the road against a tough, talented, and tested Kansas State team could be the turning point; knowing they found a way to win should give confidence that it can be done again. When the offense operates on all cylinders for four quarters, more wins are sure to follow.