As the Texas Longhorns continue to get ravaged by mobile quarterbacks, it is clear their only chance of beating Oklahoma is to keep Blake Bell in the pocket. Even then, victory is a dubious proposition at best.
What was supposed to be a tuneup turned into a nail-biter for the Longhorns on Thursday night. The Longhorns escaped an Iowa State upset with a 31-30 victory that will have many fans giving away their tickets to the Red River Rivalry.
The entire team displayed obvious flaws in the fluky victory, but the theme has remained the same. The Longhorns have no answer for mobility under center.
Thanks to a career-high 83 rushing yards, the Cyclones Sam B. Richardson became the latest average quarterback to look like a Heisman candidate. The 'Horns have now allowed 523 rushing yards to opposing signal-callers through five games.
In total, Texas is giving up 248.4 yards on the ground per game, seventh-worst in the nation.
Now the Longhorns have to deal with Oklahoma's Blake Bell, who has 47 pounds and 120 career rushing yards on Richardson. Not to mention an all-around more talented group of teammates.
That means Texas will have to find a way to keep Bell in the pocket and force him to win the game throwing the ball. Easier said than done, as Texas has been exposed for plays of 52 and 97 yards in the past two games.
But as bad as the Texas defense has been, it has been adequate against the pass. The 'Horns have allowed opponents to complete only 59% of their passes and have allowed less than seven yards per attempt. So, big plays aside, the defense is doing its job against the pass.
As Bleacher Report's Scott Carasik has observed, Texas now has the blueprint for containing an explosive Oklahoma aerial attack. In its 20-17 loss to the Sooners, TCU held Bell to a season-low 4.9 yards per attempt by keeping the Sooner receivers in front of them and tackling in space.
This bend-but-don't-break strategy is supposed to be a forte of defensive coordinator Greg Robinson. The issue is that his entire defense struggles to finish tackles in space, so bends have become breaks in a hurry.
Robinson also needs to address the struggles of outside corner Duke Thomas, who has given up the biggest passing plays of the season. Replacing him with underachieving nickel corner Quandre Diggs, who leads the team with eight career picks, is a possibility that Robinson should explore.
For this strategy to work, the Longhorn defensive line has an important job to do as well. The defensive ends must be careful not to overpursue, allowing Bell to run for the edge. The tackles also need to be sure to stay in their lanes, or the big quarterback will be able to attack open space by simply stepping up in the pocket.
Doing this and preventing the Oklahoma receivers from getting behind the coverage gives Texas the best chance to win on Sunday. That is, as long as the defensive backs can finish tackles.