September 27, 2016
Having an extra week off in September probably couldn't have come at a better time for the No. 22 Texas Longhorns, who open Big 12 Conference action on Saturday afternoon (noon on ABC) in Stillwater, Okla., against the Oklahoma State Cowboys (2-2, 0-1) in Boone Pickens Stadium.
The Longhorns (2-1, 0-0), who opened the season with impressive back-to-back wins over Notre Dame and UTEP, needed a little extra time to try and find some answers for a defense that surrendered 50 points and 507 yards in a 50-43 loss at Cal on Sept. 17.
Texas coach Charlie Strong said it's just a matter of some minor adjustments. He said there are three elements to fix.
"We've got to get better fundamentally," Strong said. "We got to learn the concepts. ... And then we've got to devise a game plan where we can be successful."
Perhaps Strong was being deliberately general. But needing to improve the players' physical and mental approach and the coaches' game planning seems like major improvements are needed throughout the defense.
The Texas coach also said he will take a more active role on the defensive side. Asked whether he considered demoting defensive coordinator Vance Bedford, Strong essentially replied that there wasn't time to make that move.
And he gave his DC a vote of confidence.
"We know we've had our issues on defense," Strong said. "I have a lot of confidence in Vance Bedford and I know Vance is going to do a good job. We had a lot of time just to sit down and look at the games that we've played this season and just how much better we could have been.
"(Bedford) is a professional and I look at his track record. It's not like he all the sudden forgot how to coach defense."
Now the Longhorns begin a stretch of nine consecutive weeks of Big 12 action with a trip to Stillwater, where they have won eight straight times.
Oklahoma State comes in off a closer-than-the-final-score-indicates 35-24 loss at No. 13 Baylor. While the Longhorns have plenty of holes to fix on defense, the Cowboys will focus on cleaning things up on offense this week.
Facing a fourth-and-2 from the Baylor 4-yard line, Cowboys running back Rennie Childs was stuffed early in the fourth quarter with Oklahoma State trailing 28-24. Another chance was blown when another running back, Justice Hill, lost a fumble deep in Baylor territory.
"I hate it because if you take six or eight crucial mistakes out, we probably played well enough to win the game," Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. "If you can't take care of the ball, it doesn't do any good to have (a running back) in there. I know (Hill is) a freshman and I understand that, but he has to take care of the football."
The missed opportunity early in the fourth quarter at the Baylor 4-yard line did not incorporate the arm or legs of quarterback Mason Rudolph, whose sound performance led to an 11-for-15 ratio on third down conversions. In addition, a field goal could have trimmed the deficit to one point and at least provided the Cowboys some points.
"I didn't feel like a field goal would win the game," Gundy said. "I thought we had to score touchdowns."
He may have been right, though the last score Baylor managed came after the fumble by Hill, when Oklahoma State had 99 yards to work with on defense but could not keep the Bears out of the end zone.
Texas will be without senior offensive lineman Kent Perkins, an NFL prospect, for this one. Perkins was arrested for driving while intoxicated on Friday morning and is suspended for the Oklahoma State game.
Strong came down almost as hard on Perkins's teammates as the offensive lineman.
"There was enough of our players wherever you were, enough of you were around, let's look out for one another,'" Strong said he told his squad. "There's a guy that's 300 pounds, how could we lose him?"
Texas leads the all-time series with Oklahoma State 24-6, but the Cowboys won four of the last six meetings.