Grading the Texas Longhorns: Week Five – Oklahoma State

Spruce Derden- US PRESSWIRE

The Texas Longhorns escaped from Stillwater with a nail-biting 41-36 win over the Oklahoma State Cowboys, which is already being analyzed with a fine tooth comb. Texas has a few days to prepare for their biggest test of 2012 so far, as they return to Austin to take on the West Virginia Mountaineers at Darrell K. Royal Texas Memorial Stadium next Saturday night in prime-time.

Let’s take a look at how each of the positional groupings performed last evening at T. Boone Pickens Stadium:

Quarterbacks: A

With each passing week, Texas sophomore signal caller David Ash is gaining respect and flipping doubters into believers. In spite of throwing his first interception of 2012 during the second half against Oklahoma State, Ash’s composure and execution when it was needed were impressive.

Ash finished 30-37 for 304 yards and three touchdowns– all three to standout sophomore wide out Jaxon Shipley– with whom a consistent chemistry will be essential as Big 12 Conference play continues on. Ash not only found Shipley with consistency but also utilized D.J. Grant and Mike Davis to spread the field and keep the Longhorns’ offense chugging along.

In short, Ash is looking more confident in what he can do on the football field, and that confidence is being shared by his teammates. He’s one of college football’s emerging young stars and the Longhorns are all the better for it.

Running Backs: A

In spite of the loss of Malcolm Brown in the first half, the Texas running backs had another solid outing. Joe Bergeron rushed for 15 carries and 48 yards for two touchdowns– one of which was the game-winner for Texas and has already been a source of controversy– and consistently won his carries for positive yardage.

After two weeks of training wheels, true freshman Johnathan Gray has been unleashed. The Aledo native was Texas’ leading rusher last evening, carrying the ball 12 times for 68 yards and showing some impressive pop and acceleration when hitting the holes.

Brown and Bergeron were also complimented by senior fullback Ryan Roberson who did an impressive job catching balls out of the backfield for positive yardage, ending the evening with four catches and 23 yards at the most opportune times.

Wide Receivers: B+

Jaxon Shipley– it all began and ended last evening in terms of wide receiving production with the sophomore from Brownwood. Shipley finished the evening with five catches for 82 yards and three touchdowns and consistently found space to make himself available for David Ash when he was needed most.

Shipley’s consistent and precise route-running has become a trademark, and Texas fans can only expect these numbers to improve going forward. There’s no doubt left that Shipley is this team’s No. 1 receiver and David Ash’s primary target.

Mike Davis made the biggest play of the evening in Texas late fourth-quarter drive which set up the Joe Bergeron game-winning touchdown, but also dropped a perfect pass for a potential touchdown in the first-half which could have created more separation early on.

Marquise Goodwin was solid, but unspectacular, and will need to step it up a notch and break a few big plays in coming weeks.

Offensive Line: B

For the most part, the Texas offensive line opened up the holes they needed to for the running back tandem and gave David Ash adequate protection to get the job done. Another solid performance as a whole.

Defensive Secondary: B+

The Texas secondary put in one of their better collective performances so far this season, limiting the ability of Cowboys quarterback J.W. Walsh to complete the long ball and making things difficult. Quandre Diggs had a nice game, but on the flipside, safety Adrian Phillips was awful.  Two missed tackles by Phillips in the open field led to big gains for Oklahoma State, and it’s my bet his place on the depth chart could soon be given up to sophomore Mykelle Thompson who played well and has come on in recent weeks.

Linebackers/Ends: C

The absence of unspoken leader Jordan Hicks was noticeable last evening as the Texas linebackers failed to make many plays in the Cowboys’ backfield and far too often allowed carries into the second level, especially from Stephen Randle who finished the evening for Oklahoma State with 199 yards on 25 carries. Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor had decent evenings, but will need to be more impactful as the meat of the Big 12 schedule looms.

Defensive Line: B-

Meh. The Texas defensive line was largely unimpressive again in Stillwater. This unit continues to struggle getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. A few nice plays by Ashton Dorsey and Desmond Jackson notwithstanding, this unit– along with the Texas defense as a unit– have plenty of work to do in the weeks ahead to be more impactful and force offenses to mold themselves to them, instead of vice versa.

Special Teams: C

The electrifying 100-yard kickoff return by D.J. Monroe was negated by the complete absence of the kicking game, and first-time struggles for punter Alex King who has been dependable to this point in the season. The return of Anthony Fera to the kicking game is no longer necessary, it has become desperate, as it’s obvious that Mack Brown doesn’t trust Nick Jordan in any kicking scenario greater than 30 yards.

The Texas Longhorns face off against the West Virginia Mountaineers on Saturday evening in Austin in a game that could determine how the Big 12 shakes out much later in the season.

Kris Hughes is the College Football Network Manager for Rant Sports and a member of the Football Writers Association of America.

You can follow him on Twitter or check out his Facebook page.

Kris is also the host of the Rant Sports College Football Hour on the TSC Radio Network on Sunday evenings at 8 Central Time and Rant Sports Radio on the Blog Talk Radio Network Wednesday evenings at 8 Central Time.

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