Reality grabbed the No. 21 Texas Longhorns by the face mask last weekend and now their season is very much on the line.
Dreams of a return trip to the national championship game would seem all but dashed and a loss to the No. 8 Oklahoma Sooners would put any shot at the Big 12 South title in serious jeopardy.
How can Texas (3-1, 1-0 in Big 12) regroup and surprise the Sooners (4-0, 0-0) in the 105th edition of the Red River Rivalry on Saturday afternoon at the Cotton Bowl?
Here's five ways:
1. No turnovers:The oldest adage in football remains the truest and Texas knows it. The Longhorns have given away the football 10 times and fumblitis has been a serious issue. Six giveaways have come via fumble in four games, including three fumbles among four first-half turnovers last week against UCLA that buried the Horns in a hole that only grew deeper. Up next is another challenge. The active OU defense has surrendered points and has looked vulnerable, but it's also been opportunistic with six interceptions and six fumbles.
2. Explosive offensive line:It's time for Kyle Hix and company to show they can take it to an opponent. Texas came into the season wanting to establish a ground game to complement first-year starting quarterback Garrett Gilbert, but it just hasn't worked out. The Longhorns have used four different tailbacks and now speedy D.J. Monroe seems to be next in line to get the majority of the carries. He'll need the help of an underachieving offensive line if he's going to get the job done.
3. Speed merchant: If the Longhorns can't run the football, then they're going to need big plays to come from somewhere to get a sputtering offense in the end zone. Unfortunately for Texas, exciting freshman receiver Mike Davis, who leads Texas receivers with 16 catches and two TDs, is questionable with a left knee injury. Somebody has to step up, so why not the fastest guy on the field Marquise Goodwin? Goodwin has 14 catches on the season, none for more than 32 yards, and he has yet to hit paydirt. That must change.
4. Sack attack:Texas leads the Big 12 in sacks with 14. Two players, defensive ends Eddie Jones (four sacks) and Sam Acho (three) both rank among the top five sack artists in the conference and freshman Jackson Jeffcoat isn't far behind with 2.5. The OU offensive line hasn't been immune to the pass rush in four non-conference games. Quarterback Landry Jones has been dumped eight times. By comparison, Texas has given up five sacks in four games.
5. Secondary showdown: Why is the pass rush so important for Texas? His name is Ryan Broyles and he is lethal. His 41 receptions lead the nation and his 120.5 yards per game ranks fourth in the nation. Along with a strong pass rush, Texas will need a superior effort from its heralded secondary. Cornerbacks Curtis Brown, Chykie Brown and Aaron Williams, plus safeties Blake Gideon, Christian Scott and Kenny Vaccaro will have to be on their toes. But, they can't get lulled by Broyles or they'll get burned by tailback DeMarco Murray (16 catches) or Kenny Stills (13 catches).