Turnovers in fourth quarter make the difference in Longhorns’ win over Houston

Steve Habelby:Steve Habel10/21/23


There was a time early in the third quarter and then late in the game of No. 8 Texas’ 31-24 win over Houston on Saturday at TDECO Stadium when the Longhorns looked dead in the water, the product of a lethargic performance after a scintillating first 17 minutes.

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The Longhorns had just allowed Houston to tie the game with 21 unanswered points and had resorted to a relatively unproductive running game and a dink-and-passing attack that gained just 104 yards of offense in the second and third quarters combined. 

But that was when the Texas defense came to the rescue, as it has for all but a final Red River Showdown-deciding drive against Oklahoma on Oct. 21.  

The Longhorns’ defense forced two Houston turnovers over the final 23 minutes – a fumble forced by Jaylan Ford and recovered by Vernon Broughton that led to a 25-yard Bert Auburn field goal that gave Texas the lead with 3:17 to play in the third quarter and an interception by Michael Taaffe with 12:41 remaining.

“The two turnovers today defensively were huge for us,” Texas coach Steve Sarkisian said after the win. “Obviously the pick in the end zone negated points in a key possession and time in the game. And we finally forced a fumble, which was great to see because we’ve been harping on it so much.

“So the ball was loose today. We were around it more than we’ve been in the previous couple of weeks and that’s what it’s going to take. You’ve got to keep finding a way to create these turnovers.

Add to that a final stop on fourth down at the UT 10 with 1:03 left and Texas found a way to beat a determined Cougars team that was a few plays away from winning.

“We have a determination to find a way to win games that we didn’t last year, and that shows the maturity of this team and the grit that these guys have,” Sarkisian said. “Happy to have won the ballgame, not gonna apologize for that. But lesson learned of what we need to do moving forward and how we can play better football for four quarters. That’s going to be needed as we continue to go on this journey. 

“At the end that killer instinct has to come out in us. All phases have to come together to make us the team we know we can be. We had to find a way to win and doing that on the road in these game and in this conference gives us confidence.”

Ford credited the entire team for the win and lauded the Longhorns’ next-man up mentality.

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“What you saw in the second half was just us playing our game,” Ford explained. “People had to step up when other went down. So this was a full team effort. That said we need better execution and communication from the guys in the back end. I think we will go and watch the film and find those ways we need to get better.”

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