After 7 straight weeks of football, Texas will get a chance to catch their breath this weekend during their bye week. The Longhorns sit at 4-3 in Steve Sarkisian's first season and have experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows during the last two weeks. There are two ways to look at where Texas currently is and where they could be by the end of the season:
Glass half empty approach
- Texas has been gashed on the ground far too often through 7 games. The Longhorns rank 112th in the country in rush defense and are averaging over 200 rushing yards allowed per game. Arkansas and Oklahoma both ran for over 300 yards with little resistance. There have been games where tackling and taking proper angles have been a major issue. Remember that Texas still has to face Breece Hall and Deuce Vaughn.
- Despite starting 4 (sometimes 5) seniors in the secondary, Texas is currently ranked 72nd in pass defense. Pete Kwiatkowski's defense relies on limiting big plays, which is something Texas has not done very well.
- The defensive line, which was thought to be a strength heading into the season, has been a weakness thus far. The Longhorns are averaging under 2 sacks per game and have been unable to generate consistent pressure. As mentioned above, defending the run hasn't gone much better. Kwiatkowski and Steve Sarkisian tried to patch up some holes by taking a handful of linebackers and edge players from the portal, but it is obvious something is lacking up front. There has been individual flashes from various players, but the lack of consistency is disappointing considering the experience the Longhorns have.
- The offensive line has not improved from a season ago. Despite losing Sam Cosmi to the NFL, it was thought the OL unit would take a step forward with the 4 starters that returned. Instead, the unit has continued to struggle with communication and allowing free rushers into the backfield. Senior guard Denzel Okafor going down with a season ending injury as complicated matters more as Kyle Flood has been forced to shuffle his lineup the last two weeks.
- The offense has a whole has completely disappeared in the second half of the last two weeks. The Longhorns recorded 1 total yard in the 4th quarter against the Cowboys and recorded their last first down of the game early in the 3rd quarter. Casey Thompson, who is currently battling an injured thumb, did not play well last week or against TCU and has now thrown an interception in 4 of his 5 starts.
- The biggest reason for pessimism has been the inability for Texas to close out games. Bijan Robinson willed Texas to a win Fort Worth, but if it wasn't for his heroic efforts there is a real chance the Longhorns would currently be sitting at 3-4 with back-to-back-to-back double digit leads blown.
Glass half full approach
- Texas should be 6-1 right now. The Longhorns outplayed a top-5 Oklahoma squad for 3 quarters and had a top-15 Oklahoma State team on the ropes late in the first half.
- The Longhorns have done a much better job starting fast under Sarkisian than in previous years. The offense has scored on their opening possession in every Big 12 game so far. The opening script to games has been fantastic and Texas has done a good job of exploiting matchups in the first half all season long.
- Xavier Worthy might be the best WR in the Big 12. The freshman is on pace to finish the season just shy of 1,000 yards receiving and stepped into the #1 WR role despite only arriving on campus in June. Sarkisian has done a good job of utilizing Worthy in a number of different ways and getting the ball in his hands.
- Bijan Robinson is still Bijan Robinson. If it wasn't for the last two losses, the sophomore is likely one of the frontrunners for the Heisman trophy. Despite inconsistent offensive line play and loaded boxes, Robinson currently sits at 930 rushing yards and is averaging over 6 yards a carry.
- Texas has a very manageable back end of the schedule. Yes, the Longhorns are traveling to Baylor and Iowa State the next two games, but they also get to finish the year against Kansas, West Virginia and Kansas State (combined 0-9 in Big 12 play so far). If Texas can secure a win against the Bears or Cyclones, they have a real chance of winning 4 of their last 5 games to end the year.
Steve Sarkisian must find a way to get his team to respond after the last two weeks. Texas still has an opportunity to finish strong and build momentum, but the margin for error is slim. Sarkisian talked earlier this week about needing his players to get away from the mindset of waiting for something bad to happen. This program has been in way too many one possession games over the last 5 years and that can be contagious. Texas has been known to play up and down to competition and that is something Sarkisian is going to have to really work on reversing. The Longhorns have shown the potential to beat good teams handily, but until they put together 4 quarters of complete football, the frustration will continue to mount.