Texas Football: Winners & Losers from the Week 5 Game vs. the Cowboys
It was not always pretty, but the Texas Longhorns (4-0, 1-0) survived one of their toughest road matchups of the season when they went into Stillwater to beat the Oklahoma State Cowboys (2-2, 0-1) 41-36 Saturday night.
In a roller-coaster affair that saw plenty of explosive plays and a genuine lack of consistently good defense, the Horns and Pokes traded shots all night thanks to some sparkling performances.
The offense took some huge steps forward, but the defense had more than its share of trouble against a very capable OSU offense.
So in this week's edition of winners and losers, the win definitely provides more of the former.
Winner: David Ash
Texas' sophomore quarterback had himself quite a performance. After a career night against Ole Miss, David Ash reinforced it with another impressive outing against Oklahoma State.
Ash threw for 304 yards, three touchdowns and an interception on 30-of-37 passing and solidified himself as a sustained passer in the Big 12.
With a running game that was mostly kept under control by Oklahoma State, Ash did well not to force the issue and limit turnovers.
Above all else, Ash was able to engineer two drives in the fourth quarter to recapture the lead. More importantly, he made the pinpoint throws that sustained the series and ultimately enabled the Longhorns to score touchdowns.
Week to week, Ash is looking more and more polished.
Winner: Johnathan Gray
Welcome to the party, Johnathan Gray.
Texas' true freshman star running back had his shining moment late in the fourth quarter.
With 45 yards on five carries on a critical drive that had Texas regain the lead, Gray looked every bit as explosive as the top running back that the Longhorns recruited.
With Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron facing some injuries, Gray is definitely in the loop to have his role expanded.
In short, Gray is on the cusp of breaking loose as yet another standout back for the Longhorns.
Winner: Mike Davis
On a night where several players had standout moments in a big win, Mike Davis may have had the biggest one.
Davis' leaping catch on Texas' final drive of the game capped a clutch performance by the Longhorns' offense, ended by a two-yard touchdown run by Joe Bergeron.
But Davis deserves high praise for flashing his athleticism on a 32-yard reception that was critical in winning the game.
With Jaxon Shipley reestablishing himself with three touchdowns, having Davis take the next step will only recreate what Texas is able to do on offense.
Davis did himself a solid to finish with 49 important yards on four receptions.
Winner: D.J. Grant
Just before Mike Davis' leaping grab, the Longhorns received an unlikely pick-me-up on a 4th-and-6 deep in their own territory.
David Ash connected with D.J. Grant who made a smooth catch in transition to pick up 29 yards on his only reception of the night.
Nevermind the limited production, Grant's lone impact was just as critical as any single play for the Longhorns. Without the clutch grab, Texas turns the ball over on downs and likely loses the game.
Instead, the Horns are 1-0 in conference play, and Grant played a hero's role in making it all happen.
Winner: Jaxon Shipley
Jaxon Shipley made the most of his receptions, finishing with five catches for 82 yards and three touchdowns, putting in an impressive night for a Texas passing game that was very successful.
There was a time when Shipley was the lone playmaker at receiver, but if Mike Davis can make his work consistent, it should only help Shipley's ability to open things up down field.
Chemistry between Ash and Shipley is paramount as the Longhorns undertake their toughest stretch on the schedule.
Winner: Mack Brown
This was a great win for Mack Brown's team in the scheme of Big 12 play.
Oklahoma State is a tough road trip, and the Longhorns did well to secure a victory and establish some sustained momentum heading into a home contest with West Virginia.
It was not pretty the whole time, but the Longhorns demonstrated great toughness and resiliency, and credit is due to Brown and his coaching staff.
The Cowboys still boast one of the best offenses in the country, but there is little to excite about a Texas defense that looked lost at times in its attempt to handle Joseph Randle and company.
A one time strength for Texas last season, its defense has become somewhat of a liability when defending leads and controlling opponents. Of course the injuries to Jordan Hicks and Brandom Moore are setbacks, and the youth entering the fold in their place is no improvement either.
Manny Diaz definitely has his work cut out for him as the Longhorns prepare for another explosive offense in West Virginia.
Another repeat performance like this could have the Mountaineers hang 50 on the Horns.
Loser: Donald Hawkins
Texas' left tackle Donald Hawkins has been lauded for his performance through three games, but the junior had a tough outing against the Cowboys.
Hawkins is easily capable of a rebound game against the Mountaineers, but it is hard to ignore a false start and a cut block penalty, in addition to giving up a sack.
But not all is bad news.
Hawkins was part of an offensive line that did struggle to establish the run, but in pass protection, the group excelled in one of its more impressive outings of the season.
Loser: Special Teams
Special teams had been a huge strength for Texas so far this season, minus the kicking game.
But the unit had several breakdowns, especially in coverage, against the Cowboys.
Two kickoff returns of 43 and 36 yards set up scoring drives on short fields and hardly served towards controlling the Oklahoma State offense.
Additionally, the word on the kicking game has not changed. Confidence is low on Nick Jordan, who did convert 5-of-5 point afters, but until Anthony Fera recovers from his injury, Texas seems reluctant to trot out any kicker.
Loser: Adrian Phillips
Tackling has been a huge issue for the Texas defense, and safety Adrian Phillips has been a constant victim of that problem for the Longhorns.
Too many times did Phillips simply bounce off a ball-carrier after failing to wrap up on his tackles. It is something that is definitely correctable in practice, but the on-field execution during the game is missing.
Once touted as a second coming of Earl Thomas, lofty expectations for sure, Phillips has hardly responded with positive results.
With a number of talented underclassmen behind him, Phillips could be in a position to lose his starting title if his efforts do not improve.