ARLINGTON, Texas — Oklahoma State got its tail kicked at UCF several weeks ago when the law of averages caught up. The Cowboys had everything go their way the previous five games, resulting in five wins, and then everything went wrong on a dreary day in Orlando.
OSU got its tail kicked by Texas in Saturday’s Big 12 Championship Game when the law of averages didn’t so much catch up with the Cowboys as swamp them.
This was a bad matchup in terms of numbers. For every Big 12 head-to-head statistic that favored OSU, six or seven favored Texas.
This was a bad matchup in terms of preparation.
“We knew going into it,” OSU defensive coordinator Bryan Nardo said. “When you turn on the film, you see how talented they are.”
“Shoot, we were watching film from K-State,” offensive coordinator Kasey Dunn said of T’Vondre Sweat, Texas’ Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, in particular. “He’s doing good things against K-State, and K-State has a phenomenal offensive line.”
This was a bad matchup in terms of reality, reflected in a 49-21 score that felt much more lopsided.
“They’re a really good football team,” Mike Gundy said of the Big 12 champs. “Live, they’re actually better than what they look like on tape. Very fast, very explosive.”
Very strong, very precise, very aware.
OSU’s offensive and defensive lines play hard, but they don’t match up with Texas’. They can’t move mountains like Sweat and Byron Murphy, the defensive tackle next to him. That unplugged Ollie Gordon and forced OSU into a different direction – outside.
“We got the ball out there in the flat and on the perimeter,” Gundy said, “which is what we thought gave us the best chance trying to protect against those big guys.”
The Cowboys went wide, and Texas linebackers like Jaylan Ford ran them down. Like during the two-play sequence on OSU’s second drive when Ford tackled Gordon on a swing pass wide right, then stopped Sesi Vailahi on a flat pass wide left, total yards gained: 4.
OSU’s quarterback is solid, but he is not as precise as Texas’.
Alan Bowman was 7-of-15 for 89 yards and a touchdown in Saturday’s first quarter. Quinn Ewers was 11-of-11 for 167 yards and three touchdowns.
That explains how Texas ran 17 plays for 197 yards in the first quarter en route to a 21-7 lead.
OSU is aware, generally, and well-coached.
Texas’ secret ingredient is its awareness, its knack for answers to opposing coaches’ answers.
“I think what I was impressed with, going through it, was we knew what we wanted to take away,” Nardo said. “We did not want to give up the big shot over the middle and wanted to make them throw check-downs. And they took ‘em. They ran more screens because when we closed the middle.
“We tried to counteract that. But they did a really good job of taking what we were giving them and running with it.”
Before you contend that the Cowboys had it in them Saturday, since they had it in them when they beat Oklahoma on Nov. 4 in another unfavorable matchup, let’s clarify some things…
OU has a strong defensive front, but does not play with Sweat or Murphy, two tackles who, Gundy predicted in postgame Saturday, are “going to be playing on Sundays.”
OU has very good receivers, but does not play with a group as deep as Texas’. Put it this way — OSU didn’t have to worry about OU’s tight ends in Bedlam. Saturday, tight end Ja’Tavion Sanders led Texas with eight catches for 105 yards.
OU has very good coaches. It brought a capable play-caller into Bedlam in Jeff Lebby.
Texas has the best play-caller in college football in head coach Steve Sarkisian. He overwhelmed Nardo as the Longhorns raced to 422 yards, 19 first downs and a 35-14 halftime lead.
It wasn’t anything exotic.
“What we saw on film is what we got,” OSU linebacker Nick Martin said.
It was devastating nonetheless.
“We wanted to come out and throw the best punches we had,” Sarkisian said. “This was not a game that we wanted to throw jabs and feel it out. We wanted to go for it.”
So did the Cowboys, actually. Dunn said he dialed up a deep shot on OSU’s first snap. Bowman got time initially but couldn’t find anyone. Then rush end Barryn Sorrell bore down and Bowman threw the ball away.
OSU’s opening three-and-out became Texas’ four-play touchdown drive to open the scoring, and the mismatch was on.
Sometimes a team shows up in Orlando, it rains waterfalls, the home crowd goes bonkers and the game becomes bonkers.
Sometimes a team shows up in Jerry World and there is only so much it can do because the other team is so much better.
“There’s no secret that matching up with them across the board can be difficult,” Gundy said.
That’s what a staff senses in preparation against this Texas team.
Then the two teams get together for a conference championship and reality crashes down – matching up with them across the board IS difficult.
Way too difficult in OSU’s case against the Big 12 champion Longhorns.