The Texas Longhorns have been at their best in the fourth quarter this season.
Texas has finished strong on the road each of the last two weeks, outscoring Kansas and Texas Tech by a total of 21-3 in the final quarter. In nine games this season, Texas owns a 95-66 advantage in the fourth quarter and has been outscored just three times. Last season, UT scored only 77 points in the fourth quarter in 13 games.
"We've been able to finish football games, and that's something we've worked on since back in the spring," offensive lineman Mason Walters said. "If you focus on something and you work to get better at it, you will."
Against Texas Tech last week, the Longhorns sealed the 31-22 victory by running out the final 5:15 on the clock. Texas called nine consecutive running plays to end the game following a missed field goal by the Red Raiders.
"I was excited to see our football team just physically finish the game," UT offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin said. "We were getting it done, we were able to run the ball, we were able to finish this game with the ball in our hands and kill the clock. All the stuff that you preach about came true."
Freshman tailback Johnathan Gray had six carries for 36 yards on the final drive. The former Aledo High School star finished the game with 106 yards on 20 carries.
"He was really taking advantage of all those blocks and making big runs out of it, not just getting four or five yards." Harsin said. "He had a grit to him there at the end to finish those runs and that was inspiring for everybody around him."
The No. 19 Longhorns (7-2, 4-2 Big 12) were pleased they didn't have to attempt a pass on their final possession.
"That's what you want to do as an offensive line when you see that amount of time on the clock," Walters said. "We were able to run the clock out on the road and being able to do that is really important. We will probably be asked to do that again."
While Texas' running game has been inconsistent at times, it has been successful in the fourth quarter. Against Texas Tech, the Longhorns rushed for 81 yards on 14 attempts (5.8 average). Texas averages 4.8 yards per rush on the year. UT passed just once in the fourth against Tech, a 25-yard touchdown to Mike Davis.
"You love to win games with a four-minute offense at the end of the game when you just kill the clock and don't have to throw the ball, and that was evident [last] Saturday," coach Mack Brown said.
But Texas has not been quite as dominant leading into the fourth quarter. In seven Big 12 games, Texas has been outscored 69-65 in the first quarter, 69-59 in the second and 47-30 in the third quarter.
"There's some lulls during the middle of the game that we need to work on to play a complete game," quarterback David Ash said. "In some of the games we won there's chances to turn a game that shouldn't be close into a blowout. But we don't take that opportunity and it ends up being a 10 point [lead] that could have been a 21 or 24 point [advantage]. That's something we need to work on."
By Austin Laymance/Special to the Star-Telegram