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10 Thoughts on Oklahoma State’s 49-21 Loss to Texas in the Big 12 Title Game

On the blowout and the future.



[Devin Wilber/PFB]

ARLINGTON, Texas — Cinderella’s foot was too dang big.

Oklahoma State’s storybook run to the Big 12 title game ended with an unbefitting 49-21 loss to Texas on Saturday in AT&T Stadium. Here are 10 thoughts from the game.

1. A Woeful Defensive Performance

Texas is no doubt a good (perhaps great) football team. The Longhorns didn’t come into Saturday averaging 35 points and 460 yards of offense a game by accident.

But boy, that was a bad outing for the OSU D.

Texas had:

49 points
662 yards of total offense (season-high)
464 yards passing (season-high)
33 first downs (tied a season-high)
40:06 time of possession (season-high)
7.41 yards per play

The Longhorns punted just once Saturday, with that coming in the third quarter. The Cowboys stopped the Longhorns three times (four if you count Arch Manning kneeling to end the game).

Bryan Nardo’s scheme is new, and the defensive backs are young (even younger when Korie Black left in the first half with injury). But the Texas offense saw little resistance Saturday. The OSU offense wasn’t outstanding, but it didn’t really have a chance to keep up.

2. Texas Is Good Enough to Be In the CFP

For better or worse, Texas football is officially back.

For the first time since 2009, the Longhorns are Big 12 champions, and they did so in dominant, dominant fashion.

Texas entered the day at No. 7 in the College Football Playoff rankings, but there is room for movement. No. 6 Ohio State didn’t play this week — move the Buckeyes back. No. 5 Oregon lost to Washington in the Big Ten title game — move the Ducks back. No. 4 Florida State plays No. 11 Louisville on Saturday night, and the Seminoles will do so without their starting quarterback.

Should the Seminoles lose, I think Texas has to have that fourth spot — perhaps no matter if No. 8 Alabama beats No. 1 Georgia (a game that is ongoing as of writing). Alabama has gotten better since Texas beat the Tide in Tuscaloosa, but if both have one loss in a battle for the final spot in the Playoff, you have to give it to the team that won the head-to-head matchup. There is an argument to be made that Texas should get in over an unbeaten but Jordan Travis-less FSU. I wouldn’t make that call, but some could definitely argue it.

The one blemish on the Longhorns’ record is a Red River loss to a Top-15 team. That game is usually a coin flip no matter the year, and while the loss should be counted against Texas, it shouldn’t count nearly as much as Alabama’s loss to Texas should count.

The Longhorns have size, they have speed and they have a quarterback who went off to the tune of 452 yards and four touchdowns in a conference title game.

3. Recruiting Difference Evident in Team Speed

For much of that game, it looked as if the Cowboy defenders were playing these game while wearing Cowboy boots in a muddy Western Oklahoma prairie while the Longhorns’ offense was playing on a freshly waxed basketball court in a new pair of Air Jordans.

That’s the difference in the level these two schools recruit at. I don’t even mean that as a knock on Oklahoma State’s recruiting efforts. Texas has resources that OSU simply doesn’t. Over the past five classes, Texas has averaged the 6.8 class in the country. OSU has averaged the 38.2 class in the country.

Whether it was straight-line speed or coming out of cuts, the Longhorns seemingly always had someone (or three someones) beat his man and make a play.

That speed then made tackling angles different. Even if the Longhorns weren’t flat out running by OSU’s defense, the speed made tackling more difficult because they were a step or two past where ball carriers usually are.

4. Give Nickolas Martin All of the NIL Money

Despite being in the middle of a defense that gave up 49 points and 662 yards of total offense, Nickolas Martin had a heck of a day.

He just keeps going. He keeps signing up to be a part of about 20 high-speed collisions every Saturday. He did his entire postgame interview Saturday with a bag of ice on the right side of his face.

“It’s war,” Martin said. “If I gotta do this and go through all the pain inflicted for my guys, I’ll do it a million times-plus.”

Martin made two plays Saturday that were somewhat awestriking given the circumstance.

The first was on Texas’ second drive when he tackled speedster Xavier Worthy 54 yards past the line of scrimmage — laying out to swipe the legs of the All-Big 12 pass catcher and return man. Middle linebackers aren’t supposed to catch return men that far down the field.

The other play was more obvious. Martin picked off an Ewers pass in the second quarter and returned it 27 yards to the Texas 3-yard line, setting up the Cowboys second touchdown.

He finished the day with 13 tackles, bringing his season total to 133. That puts him one tackle outside OSU’s top 10 list for tackles in a season, a list that hasn’t changed since the 1980s.

After the bowl game, OSU ought to put him in a cryochamber and take him out next August. The man deserves a good nap.

5. Ollie Didn’t Have Much of a Chance

The most hyped matchup entering this game was Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year Ollie Gordon vs. Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year T’Vondre Sweat.

If the score wasn’t enough to show how that matchup went, Sweat finished with one touchdown to Gordon’s zero.

There just wasn’t a ton of room for Gordon to run, and on top of that, his team was down big basically instantly — meaning the Pokes’ desire to run the ball went out the Jerry World windows. He finished with 13 carries for 34 yards. His services were best used in the passing game, where he caught four balls for another 54 yards. For the math deficient like myself, that’s 88 total yards on 17 touches.

This shouldn’t do anything to hurt Gordon’s path to the Doak Walker, as the other two finalists aren’t playing this week. This might, though, be the decider in him making an appearance in New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony.

6. Sesi Vailahi, One for the Future

The Pokes were without Jaden Nixon on Saturday for reasons undisclosed. Coming off an ankle injury, Elijah Collins suited up for the first time in a long time, but it appeared as if he was an “in case of emergency” option. So that left true freshman Sesi Vailahi to spell Ollie Gordon when needed.

Vailahi raised a few eyebrows in mop up duty against UCF, carrying four times for 20 yards, and though he didn’t get a ton of run Saturday, he was still impressive for a true freshman playing in a conference title game against a blue blood. Vailahi had two carries for seven yards and two catches for 12 yards. Nineteen total yards isn’t anything ridiculous, but the way he carried himself and the fact he didn’t look out of place despite getting his first major snaps in the Big 12 title game was enough to at least keep a close eye on him moving forward.

He converted a 3rd-and-2 from the Texas 12-yard line in the first quarter to set up OSU’s first touchdown. It came on the same play that Nixon converted the fourth down on against BYU last week — a fake to Gordon and a swing pass two the second back.

The Cowboys got Vailahi late in the 2023 cycle, signing him out of West High School in Salt Lake City. His high school film was interesting, as his team sometimes ran the triple option and put him in the slot when playing out of a more traditional spread.

7. Two Trips to Arlington, Two Totally Different Losses for the Pokes

It was going to be hard to one-up the heartbreak from OSU’s 2021 trip to Arlington, but portions of this game at least made you think about it.

The Cowboys came into that game as a College Football Playoff hopeful and came mere inches short of winning the game. There was much less pressure on the Pokes on Saturday with a chance to ruin Texas’ CFP bid and send the Longhorns to the SEC on a loss in the process. But getting torched to that extent was also rather disappointing.

OSU and Texas have had so many fun games over recent history that this last one being an udder dismantling of the underdog just didn’t feel like the right way for this series to go out.

8. Bowl Possibilities

The bowl streak lives on, the next stop in OSU’s wacky, ridiculous, unconceivable 2023 season.

The most likely bowl destination at this point seems to be the Cowboys making a return trip to Houston for a Texas Bowl tilt against an SEC foe.

With four losses now, dreams of a trip back to Arlington for the Cotton Bowl are dead, but there are a few other possibilities. The second most likely option (and the one I’m rooting for) is a return trip to Orlando for the newly minted Pop-Tarts Bowl, but the Cowboys could also find themselves in the Alamo Bowl. It’d be a tough to imagine OSU slipping to the Liberty Bowl, but I suppose it is also a possibility.

The Alamo Bowl slot is interesting because while OSU beat OU and finished ahead of the Sooners in the standings, OU will enter Sunday ranked well ahead of the Pokes. However, if the Sooners find a way to move up into the top 11 (they entered Saturday at No. 12) despite being idle, OU could be New Year’s Six bound, which could shift where the rest of the Big 12 teams go. That would all of a sudden likely free up the Alamo Bowl for either Kansas State or OSU then the other would likely go to Orlando. With as close as all the teams finished near the top this year, there feel like a ton of possibilities.

9. The New Big 12

A fun trivia question for the future: Arch Manning took the final snap for Texas in Big 12 play.

The landscape has changed. Although it’s a real downer the Big 12 trophy belongs to an SEC team, I’m excited for the future of the league (though I’m less excited about all the travel). Saturday’s blowout aside, this league is so much fun because of its parity, and with the additions of Utah, Arizona, Colorado and Arizona State, I don’t imagine that parity is going anywhere.

Will the Big 12 be thought of as highly as the SEC or Big Ten? No, but man, does it look like a fun conference heading into next season. It feels like a conference with endless possibilities, one where there is no major power running the show. That might not do a ton for casual college football fans, but for those in Big 12 country (which geographically spans most of the country at this point) it ought to be so much fun every week.

10. It Was About the Journey, Not the Destination (A Coping Mechanism)

Ever since the Cowboys’ 33-7 loss to South Alabama on Sept. 16, the Pokes have been playing with house money.

This group of Pokes took a season that seemed dead on arrival all the way to the Big 12 title game. It went from the bowl streak being on life support to a nine-win season where one of those wins was the last regularly scheduled meeting with OSU’s blue-blood, in-state rival.

This was undoubtedly a disappointing performance, but OSU making it to Arlington — staking its claim as a contender in the new-look league — is something to be celebrated, especially after how this thing started.

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