DALLAS – Charity, we’ve been told, begins at home. Saturday, Texas was exceedingly charitable playing three hours from its home in the Cotton Bowl.
This is not to say that No. 8 Oklahoma didn’t earn its 28-20 victory over the Longhorns in the annual Red River Rivalry. But 16th-ranked Texas – and that poll position might be in jeopardy after 162 consecutive weeks – made all the crucial mistakes possible to benefit OU.
“We found a way to make this not so pretty,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. “We prettied it up a lot at the start but we uglied it up there at the end. There’s something to be said to still be winning.”
Last year, the Sooners made a nasty habit of losing close games. Four of this year’s five victories have been by a total of 20 points.
“I can’t see 5-0 as a bad thing,” Oklahoma linebacker said. We’re making the games closer than they need to be.”
“We’re back to OU football,” a wry Stoops said. “We’re being criticized for winning.”
Near the end of the game, with a victory seemingly in hand, the Sooners (5-0, 1-0) nearly trumped Texas’ philanthropy.
After the Longhorns (3-2, 1-1) pulled within 28-20 with 2:57 remaining, they eschewed the onside kick and kicked off deep. On a second-and-10 play from its own 20, OU quarterback Landry Jones was confused by the play signaled in from the sideline. He rolled right instead of left and was sacked by Emmanuel Acho and fumbled.
“I was supposed to cover the running back in the flat but he tripped so I aborted and went after the quarterback,” Acho said. “I knew it was a close game and I tried to get the ball out.”
UT’s Jared Norton was poised to recover it but Jones flailed with his right hand and knocked the ball backward. It rolled out of bounds and the Sooners retained possession at their own 6-yard line.
“I thought we were gonna pick it up and run it in for the touchdown,” said Texas coach Mack Brown, whose team had nine ill-timed penalties for 81 yards. “I was thinking about the 2-point play. Like the rest of the day, it rolled out of bounds.”
With the Sooners forced to punt, Texas was in position for a final possession to force overtime. But UT’s Aaron Williams couldn’t field the punt and Oklahoma’s James Winchester recovered. For the Longhorns, it was more of the same.
“Aaron was obviously devastated and I told him I made a lot of mistakes and the entire team made mistakes,” Brown said. “He did not lose the game.”
Here’s the break down of the key instances where Texas
Contribution No. 1: Oklahoma opened the game with a 13-play, 83-yard drive that sputtered at the start. But a Texas personal foul on a third-down completion that was short and then a holding call on a third-down play kept the drive moving.
Contribution No. 2: Oklahoma countered D.J. Monroe’s 60-yard touchdown run that made it 14-7 by taking advantage of two more Texas misplays. John Gold’s punt traveled just 27 yards and gave the Sooners possession at the Texas 48. The drive appeared to stall when Jones’ third-down pass to Stills was broken up but UT’s Chykie Brown was called for pass interference. Jones found tight end James Hanna alone in the back of the end zone on third and goal from the 2.
Contribution No. 3: The Longhorns reached OU territory once in the first half thanks to a 24-yard run by Fozzy Whittaker. But that drive blew an engine thanks to illegal procedure penalties on tackle Kyle Hix and tight end Greg Smith.
Contribution No. 4: Texas took the second half opening kickoff, overcame two holding penalties, converted a fake punt on fourth and 3 to kick a field goal to make it 21-10. Momentum appeared to be building. The Sooners’ next possession nearly added to the Texas surge. Jones was sacked and recovered by UT’s Eddie Jones. But Jones was flagged for being offside. Instead of taking over at OU’s 19, the drive eventually ended in a Sooner punt.
“So many times in this game when we had opportunities to win,” Brown said. “We get that fumble there, we’ve got a first down with momentum. I like our chances there.”
Contribution No. 5: In the fourth quarter, another OU drive was thrown off schedule by a sack of Jones. On third and 20, Jones’ pass was incomplete. But Texas freshman Jackson Jeffcoat was tangled up with OU offensive tackle Donald Stephenson. Jeffcoat was called for unsportsmanlike conduct. The penalty rejuvenated the drive and OU scored on DeMarco Murray’s 20-yard sideline tightrope touchdown to make it 28-10.
“The penalties were absolute killers … absolute killers,” Brown said. “I can’t comment on any of ‘em, I’ll be excited to watch ‘em and see. They called the penalties on us. Take nothing away from how well Oklahoma competed and played.”
The team that has gained the most yards rushing has won 12 consecutive games in this series. Oklahoma finished with 124 to Texas’ 107 but that Longhorns’ total comes with an asterisk. Two runs accounted for 84 yards; take away those two plays and UT had 23 yards rushing on 20 attempts.
OU’s Murray went back to the future; he had 128 yards against Texas as a freshman in 2007. Saturday he had 115 yards on 25 carries with two rushing touchdowns.
The Sooners had lost four of the last five to Texas so perhaps they were due for the Longhorns to be the team suffering misfortune.
“A lot of it’s good play but there’s always good fortune that can make a difference,” Stoops said.
Stoops said he could care less if his team’s triumph would provide a “bounce” nationally. But winning the Big 12 Conference opener gives the Sooners a big edge in the South Division.
Texas, meanwhile, has lost consecutive games for the first time since time since losing to Kansas State and Oklahoma in 2007. On Oct. 16, the Longhorns will play at Nebraska and you haven’t been paying attention if you don’t know the implications of that contest.
“We fought our hearts out,” the Longhorns’ Sam Acho said. “Last week we didn’t fight. This week we fought and it came down to a couple of plays, a couple of inches. We’re gonna keep on fighting.”