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After two devastating losses in which they blew double-digit leads, Texas is coming off of a much needed bye week.
However, this bye week has a different feel to it in comparison to a normal one, not because Texas has a new coaching staff, but the fact that they have yet to prove their ability to learn from their mistakes.
After putting up a dud of a second half against Oklahoma, the Longhorns did the same exact thing against Oklahoma State the following week. After leading by double-digits in the first half, they had maybe one or two productive drives in the third quarter, but after that their offense was nonexistent and were held to just one yard of offense in the fourth quarter.
Steve Sarkisian and his staff have had ample time to figure out how to make reasonable adjustments that will help the team win the remaining games on the schedule. At this point into the season, there are unfortunately a few things will not drastically improve, but others that can.
For starters, the offensive line is the worst unit on the team, and has seemingly gotten worse. The defense is usually solid for the first half, but is unable to sustain their play going into the second half, and don’t seem to be able to counter the adjustments made by opposing teams.
The bye week gives the team a chance to solely focus on what works and what doesn’t, and if the coaching staff can actually make the adjustments to put the players in a position to not be exposed as much, they could very well defeat Baylor in Week 9.
Here are four aspects the team needs to improve upon in order to beat Baylor.
Get Keilan Robinson and Roschon Johnson involved somehow
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Until Sarkisian actually does this, he is choosing to hinder the offense. The passing game is not where it needs to be, and Baylor has a top-30 passing defense which will likely not make life easy for Casey Thompson, who has not completed 60% of his passes in three weeks.
Obviously having Bijan Robinson is the ultimate weapon, but the two behind him gives Texas the opportunity to unleash a three-headed monster, similar to what Baylor does with their running backs. Keilan is averaging 7.3 yards per carry, while Johnson averages 6.9, and given Johnson’s past as a quarterback, the Longhorns should use that to their advantage.
It is not every day the backup running back has a stronger arm than the starting quarterback. Sarkisian was tabbed as one of the best offensive minds in the game, so for him to continuously not utilize his weapons is very puzzling. Baylor has a stout defense, and the Longhorns need to do anything they can to move the ball in order to win.
Make proper defensive adjustments
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For some reason, it seems as if Pete Kwiatkowski struggles or chooses not to make the right adjustments at halftime. In their last two losses, the Longhorns defense has actually began the game strong as they got to Spencer Rattler so much they forced an an interception, and caused him to be benched. Against Oklahoma State, they held Jaylen Warren to just 55 yards rushing in the first half.
However, when the second half comes around, Texas’ defense has been getting completely exposed. They gave up 35 second half points to Oklahoma, and 19 second half points to Oklahoma State. Both teams were able to establish the run game and break down the defense. It is no secret Baylor is a run first offense, as they average 239 rushing yards per game and want to impose their will on opponents.
This is a nightmare scenario for Texas, as they allow 200 yards rushing per game, which means if the proper adjustments are not made, Baylor could easily run for 300-400 yards. Texas needs to force Gerry Bohanan to beat them with his arm in order to have the best chance, but making adjustments these past two weeks to stop the run are a necessity.
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The Texas passing game has been very inconsistent for a multitude of reasons, whether it be the fact that the offensive line allows pressure every play, receivers dropping passes, or Casey Thompson missing throws. Sarkisian and Co. have had an extra week to figure out how to address these problems, because they won’t simply go away.
It is also important that Thompson is fully healthy, otherwise it can be questioned whether he should be starting or not. He clearly was not 100% against Oklahoma State, and was dropping snaps and missing throws all game. If the Longhorns can figure out ways to play to Thompson’s strengths as a passer, along with getting receivers involved early, it will not only build confidence, but also help the run game out.
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While the players are the ones who ultimately have to execute what is called, as of late it has seemed the play calling on both sides of the ball have not put them in the best position. Sarkisian’s commitment to the passing game when Thompson clearly was not feeling it against Oklahoma State stands out, it also seems as if he the offense builds a lead and gets conservative. Many people would refer to that as “turtling” and assumed that would stop happening after a changing of the guard.
The defense has also been put into compromising situations, as Fox Sport’s Joel Klatt was constantly questioning why Texas was lining up in more pass oriented defenses when it was clearly a run situation. It has been eight weeks into the season, and the staff has to know the team’s limitations in order to prevent them being in compromising positioning allowing for other teams to feast on them. It is easier said than done, but the staff really needs to consider what has worked to this point and what hasn’t, and simplify the play calls.