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Longhorns Are Big 12 Champs

Big 12 champs

The Texas Longhorns stomped their way into history as Big 12 champs with a 49-21 thumping of Oklahoma State.  That was the goal from day one heading into the 2023 season.  Along the course of the season, the Longhorns finessed their way into contention for the College Football Playoff.  The Big 12 title was the ultimate destination and they played like it.

Texas (12-1) avenged back-to-back losses to Oklahoma State (9-4), the last team standing in the way of destiny.  The Cowboys came into the title game having defeated Texas in 2022 and 2021.  The Longhorns overwhelmed the Cowboys and pinned a flag on their body of work this season.  Coming off an 8-5 campaign in 2022, Texas Head Coach Steve Sarkisian hoisted the championship trophy in his third year at the helm.  His “All gas, no brakes” mantra was on display from the start.  The Big 12 champs made their argument for CFP consideration with a dominant performance on both sides of the ball.

Texas came into 2023 looking to claim its first Big 12 Championship since 2009.  Sarkisian brought the hardware back to Austin just as the Longhorns are departing the conference.  That must be the sweetest part of the deal for Sark, although he might never admit to it.  He kept the Longhorns focused on their goals and through the loss to rival Oklahoma, ending the season with a seven-game winning streak.

Ewers All Day

Quinn Ewers wasted no time getting warmed up.  It’s easy to forget he’s a sophomore.  When he’s on, Texas is unbeatable.  He has played plenty of football for the Longhorns and it was clear he was ready to go from the start.  Hitting 6-of-6 for 121 yards and two touchdowns staked Texas to a 14-0 lead before the Cowboys knew what hit them.

Ewers bombed away for 452 yards and four touchdowns on 35-of-46 passing.  He gave a master class on running an offense loaded with weapons.  Adonai Mitchell and Ja’Tavion Sanders were his favorite targets when it mattered most.  Mitchell solidified his name as one of the best receivers in the nation after making six catches for 109 yards and a score.  He caught the first touchdown of the game and from there, the pilot was lit for Ewers, who came back from injury earlier this season.

Cowboys Clap Back

Oklahoma State was not about to let the game get ridiculous without responding.  Alan Bowman’s 5-yard toss to Brennan Presley capped an 8-play, 75-yard drive.  Bowan connected with Rashod Owens and Pressley against a Texas defense ranked among the best in the nation. He trimmed the score to 14-7 and Cowboys fans had their hopes renewed of keeping up with Texas.

Nickolas Martin brought those hopes alive again with an interception that led to another Cowboys score.  Bowman found Owens for a seven-yard score that kept it within 28-14.  At that point, Oklahoma State was barely hanging in there.  It turned out to be just about all the Cowboys had left.  The Longhorns scored touchdowns on their first four possessions.  On defense, Texas limited Ollie Gordon to 34 yards on 13 carries.  Bowman did his best to pick up the slack, throwing for 250 yards and three touchdowns on 22-of-38 passing.  Texas forced the game into Bowman’s hands and Oklahoma State became one-dimensional, which Cowboys Head Coach Mike Gundy had on his mind coming into the game.

Longhorns Find Their Mojo

Texas had come too far to come only this far.  The Longhorns had seen this type of scenario throughout the season and ended up in a slew of close games.  To become Big 12 champs, they managed to suffocate Oklahoma State for a 35-14 halftime lead.  Ewers threw his fourth touchdown of the first half with an 8-yarder to Jaydon Blue with 2:11 remaining.  Texas was clearly putting the final touches on its end-of-year resume for the committee to consider.  Any hopes of an Oklahoma State comeback would rely on Gordon returning to form.

Texas took the air out of the game at the start of the second half.  Gordon’s biggest play of the second half was a 22-yard catch.  The Longhorns took him out of the equation.  Defensive Coordinators Pete Kwiatkowski and Jeff Choate had that side of the ball locked down.  True freshman Anthony Hill Jr. had a team-high six tackles and a sack.  The young linebacker was part of a defensive unit that limited Oklahoma State to 31 yards rushing.

Everybody Eats

Keilan Robinson came into this season having played 24 games for Texas since transferring from Alabama two years ago.  He became the latest Longhorn to fill in for injured running back Jonathon Brooks.  Robinson ran for two scores in the second half to put the game away.  He joined the Texas platoon of revolving-door running backs that filled in for Brooks the past few games.  His 57-yard touchdown run sent Texas ahead 42-14 and iced the game, bringing the Big 12 trophy back to Austin.

Sanders was part of the Texas offensive outburst.  He caught eight passes for 105 yards and a touchdown, joining Mitchell as the Longhorns’ 1-2 punch through the air.  Ewers had a range of targets, finding Xavier Worthy six times for 86 yards.  Jordan Whittington hauled in four catches for 48 yards.  It became an embarrassment of riches as the Longhorns became Big 12 champs and rumbled their way to a huge margin of victory.

What’s Next?

This question comes up every week.  In this case, Texas left it all out on the field.  It finished its time in the Big 12 in the biggest way possible.  What comes after that will be for the CFP Committee to decide.

If bounced out of the CFP playoffs, Texas would likely be headed to the Cotton Bowl.  The Longhorns have not played in that game since the 2002 season.  Newly crowned 2023 Big 12 champs, they overcame a list of injuries right up to the title game.  The Cotton Bowl would be a fitting final sendoff for the 12-1 Longhorns.  Texas is living its best-case scenario having checked off its preseason goals.  They put the hammer down to finish as Big 12 champs and can now start looking forward.

 

Big 12 champs
Photo courtesy: SARAH PHIPPS/THE OKLAHOMAN / USA TODAY NETWORK

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