The fans gave Texas a standing ovation as they walked off the field in the old Cotton Bowl Stadium. The Longhorns dug deep for a valiant effort against their rivals from Oklahoma, and the fans recognized it and rewarded it appropriately. Despite giving Oklahoma everything it could handle, it was No. 11 Oklahoma (5-1, 2-1 Big 12) that escaped state fair with a victory over Texas (2-4, 1-2 Big 12). Thanks to a special teams and a defensive touchdown, Oklahoma avoided a second straight loss in the state of Texas in as many weeks with a 31-26 victory over the Longhorns.
After a tough battle in the first half, Oklahoma came out and flexed its muscle in the second half in building a 31-13 lead a few minutes into the fourth quarter. How they got there was a-typical of what Oklahoma has done this season. The Sooners were without a third-down conversion until the final minutes of the game (0-for-9 before the final possession of the game). Trevor Knight was held to just 12-of-20 passing for 129 yards and a touchdown and the running game managed just 103 yards. Samaje Perine was the leading rusher for Oklahoma, and his 13-yard touchdown run early in the fourth ended up being the game-winning score.
After falling behind by 18 points, Texas could have easily packed it in and let the inevitable result play out. Instead, the Longhorns stormed back and made a run. Quarterback Tyrone Swoopes led the charge on offense with a touchdown pass to John Harris midway through the quarter. After the defense did its job, Swoopes again led the offense downfield, gassing Oklahoma’s defense in the process. After a 12-yard run by Swoopes for a score, Texas scrambled to try to get a two-point conversion attempt put together to make it a three-point game.
The play clock continued to run and Texas was unable to get a play off. Rather than accept a five-yard delay of game penalty, Strong used one of his timeouts to try to get the right play. The decision to use a timeout in that situation might be worth discussion, as the Longhorns likely would have benefitted from having that extra timeout on defense. Texas failed to get the two-points once they did run a play, so the timeout was ultimately wasted. Had Texas just accepted the delay of game penalty, the two-point conversion attempt could still be run with a little more room to spread things out, which seemed to be playing to the advantage of Texas at that point in the game. Texas also would have had one extra timeout to use to save some clock. Instead, Texas ended up running out of timeouts on defense and not getting the football back until 19 seconds remained. Maybe Oklahoma would have won anyway, but this felt like a coaching decision worth taking a harder look at moving forward.
Texas head coach Charlie Strong is not one to take pride in moral victories, but he should be able to take something from this performance against Oklahoma once he allows it to settle in. The Longhorns were called for 11 penalties to Oklahoma’s three. Texas will look to snap a two-game losing skid next week at home against Iowa State. At 2-4, Texas must win four of their final six games to become bowl eligible. That schedule includes games at a ranked Kansas State and Oklahoma State and at home against a ranked TCU squad.
Oklahoma will host Kansas State next weekend. The Sooners also remain in the Big 12 hunt, as TCU and Baylor are underway in Waco to determine who sits in first place. Oklahoma can still have a great chance to win the Big 12, and perhaps even make a push for a College Football Playoff spot, but the Sooners look to have some work to do.