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Missed chances hurt Texas

AUSTIN, Texas -- A couple of inches.

Sure it's a cliché, but for Texas, that was the difference between a season-altering victory and a 38-26 loss to Oklahoma State on Saturday.

If David Ash's fourth-down pass to a wide-open Fozzy Whittaker is right in the numbers and not at his knees, the Longhorns cut OSU's lead to 38-31. Instead, Whittaker's knee fell a couple inches short of the goal line.

Two plays later, Brandon Weeden desperately fired a pass right into the hands of UT safety Blake Gideon.

It's an easy pick-six and another game-changing break for the Horns -- if only Weeden hadn't stepped his right foot out of the back of the end zone.

Add in two dropped interceptions and an untimely three-and-out and you get one giant missed opportunity to knock off the No. 6 team in the nation.

"We didn't get the breaks -- or didn't make the breaks -- that we needed to in the second half to win the game," Texas coach Mack Brown said.

To Gideon, Saturday's loss wasn't all about which team got luckier.

"You create your own fortune," he said. "They're playing very confident right now, and they're flying around on both sides of the ball. Breaks tend to fall peoples' way like that."

Texas got one fortunate break to open the second quarter, when Justin Tucker's 45-yard punt deep into Cowboy territory deflected off OSU's Andrae May. That flub put UT 15 yards away from a 7-7 game. Malcolm Brown needed only one carry to punch it in.

But the Longhorns needed a lot more help than that to win the game.

Cornerback Carrington Byndom picked off a Weeden deep ball on OSU's next drive, but he fell out of bounds.

Another errant throw slips through Adrian Phillips' hands on a third down later in the quarter. Weeden hit Justin Blackmon for 16 yards to keep the drive alive, then twice more. His third catch makes it 14-7.

And once again, late in the fourth quarter with Texas trailing 38-26, a Weeden pass is just asking to be intercepted. UT corner Quandre Diggs breaks in front of Phillips and Cowboys receiver Hubert Anyiam, then lets the ball bounce right out of his hands.

"Our struggle defensively is going from good to great," Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said. "I think that's what we'll look at tomorrow. Bottom line, to play top-five teams and win those type of games, you have to make those plays.

"We have to continue to try and strive to understand what the impact of turnovers make on this football game. We were close to a bunch of them today, but you've got to capitalize. When you play a team like this, they only give you so many chances and you have to capitalize."

Those little gut punches ruined a game in which Texas had done so many things right. The Longhorns ran for 231 yards. They owned time of possession by a margin of almost 20 minutes. The young cornerbacks held Blackmon for less than 100 receiving yards, a feat no secondary could accomplish last season.

The Longhorn defense wasn't the only culprit when it came to squandered opportunities.

Texas responded to Weeden's safety with a quick three-and-out. Despite UT's continued success on the ground, all three were pass plays -- an incompletion, a quick hit to Whittaker for a 3-yard loss and then an 8-yard sack.

"With momentum changes like that, you've got to be able to capitalize on it," Texas co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin said. "We've got to take advantage of what our defense is giving us. We've got to find ways to score."

Harsin admitted the Longhorns' defense gave his unit more than its fair share of promising situations. Settling for a trio of three-and-outs and a total of three points on UT's four longest drives won't make for many upset.

The Longhorns' longest drive of the day lasted 16 plays. It ended with Whittaker rolling into the end zone and leaving it without any points.

"I put it on myself," he said. "It's a low ball, and I had to try to get it up and extend into the end zone and try to get our team a touchdown. I fell short. We just have to have those plays."

On Saturday, Texas learned the hard way that the difference between making them and missing isn't much.

Max Olson is a freelance writer.