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Monday, January 14, 2013
Decisions that defined Texas in 2012: No. 5

By Carter Strickland

Ah, decisions. Coaches make them and then everyone criticizes them. Of course not all of them are bad. Many are celebrated. For Texas this year it a little bit of both. This week HornsNation will take a look at the top five critical decisions made by Texas and the end result of each of those decisions. Today, at No. 5, is using Johnathan Gray in the fourth quarter against Oklahoma State.

Johnathan Gray
Freshman Johnathan Gray supplanted Texas' other veterans and became the starter at tailback.
Even without Malcolm Brown in the fourth quarter against Oklahoma State, Texas still had options.

And the Longhorns choice was to keep running the ball. Except now they were to accomplish that task with freshman Johnathan Gray. To that point, three games and three quarters into the season, Gray, the No. 1 running back recruit in the nation, had remained a mystery. Gray had nine carries against Ole Miss for 50 yards in the previous game. But the Rebels’ defense was so porous it was hard to ascertain if Gray’s skills had quickly translated to the next level or if Ole Miss even had any next level defensive players.

Then came Oklahoma State. Texas trailed 33-28 with 9:36 remaining when it started decided to go all Gray all the time. On the next Longhorns drive, Gray carried the ball five times for 45 yards. He put Texas in position to score and take the lead, which Joe Bergeron did on a somewhat controversial one-yard plunge. (OSU believed Bergeron had fumbled.)

Gray also allowed Texas to chew valuable time off the clock. The Cowboys were one of the nation’s fastest scoring offense. So Texas, knowing it was in a shootout, had to do everything it cold to quicken the quarter. That drive allowed Texas to take 3:14 off the clock.

As for the longer-lasting ramifications, Gray’s ability to run with patience, make the proper cuts and secure the ball at crucial times, allowed the coaches to have more faith in the freshman. That would prove important as Brown, the team’s leading returner rusher, would miss the next five games sue to injury and not truly be 100 percent again until the bowl game.

Gray, who had the fewest carries among the running backs in the first three games, finished with a team-leading 149 caries and 701 yards.