Horns still have work to do

No. 12 Texas stays undefeated, but has its work cut out for it next week

Updated: September 30, 2012, 11:24 AM ET
By Carter Strickland | HornsNation

STILLWATER, Okla. -- Sure, there were issues.

Many, many issues.

[+] EnlargeJ.W. Walsh
Mark D. Smith/US PresswireOklahoma State quarterback J.W. Walsh frustrated the Longhorns defense throughout.
But the main one, one that could not be overlooked or understated by Mack Brown or any wearing the burnt orange, was that Texas won.

Whether the No. 12 Longhorns can continue winning, well, did anyone else see West Virginia? There haven't been that many points scored since the Iowa Barnstormers were in existence. But that's on the back burner now -- at least for a few more paragraphs.

For now, Texas is right where it wants to be -- 4-0 and 1-0 in the Big 12 after a 41-36 win over Oklahoma State (2-2, 0-1) in front of 56,709 at Boone Pickens Stadium Saturday night -- even though it might not be too thrilled at the manner in which it got there.

"It was sloppy but it was a win," Texas defensive end Alex Okafor said.

Consider Texas a mudder then -- efficient and effective if not glorious in making it first to the finish line. That's not to say there are not some moments when Texas hits its stride.

For the past two games most of those moments have been reserved for the offense. Against Oklahoma State the moment was reserved for David Ash in the last 2:34. The sophomore quarterback converted a fourth-and-6 with a 29-yard pass to D.J. Grant -- "That was poise," said co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin -- followed by a 32-yard pass to Mike Davis to set up a 2-yard game-winning touchdown run by Joe Bergeron.

"He will not be under any more pressure than this," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "He couldn't have done this anytime last year."

None of them could. And, for a moment, that is what might make one believe that Texas is indeed coming together. It's just there are so many other times when it looks as if it is coming apart.

Oklahoma State averaged 6.9 yards per rush. The Cowboys' second touch of the game went for a 69-yard touchdown run on which Texas safety Adrian Phillips full-body frisked Oklahoma State running back Joseph Randle before letting him go for six.

If that were an aberration then maybe there would not be cause for alarm. But after double-digit missed tackles against Ole Miss and undoubtedly at least that number against Oklahoma State, there is indeed reason for concern -- OK, a full-out panic considering West Virginia is on the way to Austin.

"But of all the mistakes we made," said defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, "we made enough plays down there in the red zone to keep the score down and give us a chance to win the football game. That was the whole deal."

The bigger deal is Texas had two weeks to work on its tackling. Players were brought in for one-on-one meetings with coaches and shown exactly what their mistakes had been against Ole Miss. Then they were drilled on how not to make those mistakes. Then, against Oklahoma State, they repeated those mistakes.

"I've been watching football all day and it seems like there are missed tackles everywhere," Brown said. "I thought this was a low-scoring game after what is happening across the country."

Go ahead, giggle now. Weep later.

And there might be time enough to do that later. But for now Texas is focused on what this game, and the fashion in which it was won, has done for the psyche of this team.

"This is going to unite us even more," said Ash, who was 30 of 37 for 304 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. "It is going to bring us together because wins like that are emotional, and whenever you share that kind of emotion with your brothers on the team that you have been working so hard with, sweating through all the things that a college football team goes through, and working so hard and coming up with an emotional win, it is going to bring you together. It was really awesome to be a part of it.''

Ash is becoming a bigger and bigger part of it. Labeled a game manager by everyone, including his coaches, he proved to be a game winner against the Cowboys. He made play after play. Even after throwing his first interception in 115 attempts dating back to the Holiday Bowl in December, Ash came right back to drive his team for a touchdown.

"We needed to get into a position where our leadership had to step up and help us when we had trouble," Brown said. "And it was good for us to have some problems and have to come back and win."

Now Texas has to address all the other problems -- poor tackling, kickoff coverage, slow-starting run game -- before it has a chance to come back and win against what is undoubtedly the top offensive team it'll face all year.

Carter Strickland | email

Reporter, HornsNation