The cold weather in Stillwater put a freeze on the Longhorns’ run game, but not on the team’s journey to bowl eligibility. The run game did not produce a third consecutive 100 yard rusher in the Horns’ 28-7 win on Saturday, but Tyrone Swoopes came alive for his third career 300 yard passing game and a career-best 72.7 completion percentage. Before the night was over, Swoopes found his favorite target, John Harris, for 117 yards and a touchdown. The Longhorns heated up the field and scored six times, three touchdowns and three field goals, en route to a sixth trip to the win column this season. The defense should also be credited for not allowing a score until the fourth quarter.
The Longhorns are now bowl eligible. The question remains: are they hot enough to keep the momentum going or will TCU ice them in the season finale?
After beating Texas Tech, the Longhorns were expected to lose their final three games. With their worst start since 1956, they still needed two wins in the final three games to be bowl eligible. It wouldn’t be easy, with arguably their toughest stretch of the season when #23 West Virginia came to town for the November 8th matchup.
Everyone assumed that Texas would not play well because Clint Trickett, Dreamius Smith, and Kevin White were making appearances, and the past nine ranked visitors had left DKR with a win. But, that win in Lubbock jump-started the Longhorns to bigger and better things and sparked a fire within the program.
Geno Smith and Tavon Austin led the Mountaineers to their first Big 12 conference road win when they took down Texas 48-45 in 2012. But, it would be different this time around. Johnathan Gray rushed for three touchdowns, the same as his season total, and the Longhorns’ defense allowed only three first half points en route to the 33-16 win. It was the first time since 2008 that the Longhorns had beaten a ranked opponent at home and that propelled the team to a win the following week in Stillwater.
The Cowboys had fallen out of the Top 25 after three straight losses and were on the downward spiral. No one expected Oklahoma State to fall on its face, but it turned out to be the high point of the Charlie Strong tenure to date. It was the do-or-die game for both teams because bowl eligibility was at stake. Both UT and OSU had five wins, and it was not likely that the losing side would get win number six by the end of the season. The Longhorns had a test with #5 TCU on Thanksgiving night while Oklahoma State planned road trips to #7 Baylor and #21 Oklahoma in the final two weeks of the season.
Saturday night’s win achieved more than simply bowl eligibility. Head coach Charlie Strong will appear in his sixth postseason after turning around the uncompetitive 2-4 team. He led Louisville to three bowl victories in the past four seasons and fell to Miami 27-10 in the 2004 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl as Florida’s interim coach.
I don’t know if Coach Strong’s swagger heated up the program or if it was the seniors’ desire to finish their careers on a high note, but this is a different team than the one put on the field in 2010. Winning at Boone Pickens Stadium is no easy task, even when the Cowboys are having a down season. The 2010 squad couldn’t even pick up win number six in the season finale against A&M at DKR. If the Longhorns remain hot, fans can rightfully dream about a win against College Football Playoff candidate TCU … because it’s not entirely out of the question anymore.