OSU (2-2, 0-1) took a 36-34 lead with 2:34 to play in the game when, after the Cowboys went conservative with three straight running plays inside the UT 15 to burn clock, Quinn Sharp connected on a 24-yard field goal.
That left the game up to the OSU defense, the unit that was touted by Gundy and coaches as faster and more athletic and perhaps the group to lean on in the early season as a freshman quarterback — at the start of the season, Lunt; in this case Walsh — got comfortable.
The trouble on third and fourth down made a difference early in the contest, as well.
On UT's first drive, it converted three third downs, which set up a 44-yard pass from Ash to Jaxon Shipley to tie the game 7-7 early in the first quarter. Then following a Walsh interception, the Longhorns' next chance to convert a third down turned into a touchdown when a busted coverage led to a wide open Shipley in the back left corner of the end zone.
“We didn't get off the field on third down,” Gundy said. “We know that. We're aware of that.”
The defense then held strong until late in the third quarter — UT's only other score came on a kickoff return for a touchdown by D.J. Monroe — when the Longhorns scored 20 points in the final 16 minutes.
The Cowboys now head into their second bye in three weeks. One priority, of course, is Lunt continuing to work his way back from the left knee injury sustained in early in their win against Louisiana-Lafayette on Sept. 15.
But another is the defense learning how to finish.
“They just got to make a play,” Gundy said. “You can't put yourself in that situation. Coaches will have second thoughts about plays that were called. There's a chess game that's involved. We have to be able to make those plays.”