Oklahoma Takes Advantage of Mistakes by Texas in Red River Rivalry
With the Texas Longhorns trailing by eight points and time running out, the Longhorns wanted somebody -- anybody -- to just fall on the ball as it lay still near the OU six yard line. UT coach Mack Brown, however, had grander thoughts as middle linebacker Jared Norton hovered near the ball just before Jones reached out and, with just enough force, shoved the football out of bounds with a little over a minute to play.
"I actually thought -- I'm not sure whether it was Emmanuel (Acho) or Jared -- I thought we were going to pick it up and run it back in for the touchdown," Brown said. "I was just thinking about the two-point play very honestly. Then it just kind of sat there and sat there and rolled and, like the rest of the day, it rolled out of bounds."
Sure, Aaron Williams fumbled away the punt a couple plays later to ice the game, but the Longhorns' deflating 28-20 loss to the Sooners in the 105th installment of the Red River Rivalry hinged on the missed opportunity with a point-blank shot at the end zone.
It almost seemed fitting the 21st-ranked Longhorns couldn't capitalize when they needed to most. They had made mistake after mistake to squander chances against Oklahoma throughout the afternoon as an evenly divided 96,009 watched. Why should the ending be any different?
The biggest and most glaring blunders came on the numerous penalties. The offense stalled drives as it has most of the season with false starts and holding penalties up front. But this time, a normally disciplined Longhorns defense committed mindless penalty after mindless penalty that allowed DeMarco Murray and the rest of the Oklahoma offense to keep rolling.
The Jackson Jeffcoat pushing of an OU player to the ground after the defense had held its ground on third-and-20 stands out because instead of getting the Sooners offense off the field, a few plays later Murray raced 20 yards down the sideline for a touchdown that put his team ahead 28-10.
Texas committed nine penalties for 81 yards with the defense being whistled four times on third down when it had the OU offense headed off the field.
"Just absolute killers. Absolute killers," Brown said of the penalties. "Even on our touchdown drive, we overcame two offensive holding penalties. I can't comment on them. I'm going to go home and watch them as soon as I can. See whether they were there."
Whether or not they were there, the reality is all the blunders worked to extend the Longhorns' losing streak to two games with perhaps their biggest game of the season on the horizon in two weeks when they head into Lincoln to take on the undefeated Nebraska Cornhuskers. Texas (3-2, 1-1 Big 12), which has a bye this upcoming week, could realistically go into the Big 12 Championship Game rematch unranked after being in the AP Top 25 for an NCAA-best 162 straight weeks.
Naturally, the Longhorns will be searching for answers these next two weeks.
"As a leader you try to find a way to win with this team," said senior defensive end Eddie Jones. "That's something we don't do here at Texas is lose. We have to find a way to get back out there and change these two losses."
Without question, the Longhorns played with much more heart and determination Saturday than they did a week earlier in a stunning 34-12 loss at home to UCLA that dropped them out of the Top 10.
They didn't quit even after Oklahoma came out in the first half and marched effortlessly down the field on its first two drives of the game to open a 14-0 lead.
They came back harder with 10 straight points in the fourth quarter. Murray seemed to slam the door on a 20-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter. They may have found a playmaker on offense after converted receiver D.J. Monroe burst through the line for a 60-yard touchdown run in the first quarter for Texas' lone offensive highlight of the day.
Those examples are what Texas is hedging its fading hopes on going forward.
"The one thing that seemed big throughout the entire game is that we fought, we fought our hearts out from the first play to the last play," Sam Acho said. "We didn't care about what the score was. We didn't look at the scoreboard, we fought. Last week, we didn't fight as much as we wanted to. This week, we fought it and it came down to a couple plays and a couple inches really.
"We fought our hearts out and we are going to keep on fighting. (Nebraska) is just going to be another fight, another battle."
We thought coming into the season that the Nebraska game would not set the tone in the Big 12 for the rest of the season, but it could quite well shape the BCS national championship game picture. Now, the Longhorns are just hoping to stay in the Big 12 South race. No. 8 Oklahoma (5-0, 1-0) has a two-game lead on them and no real challenges with Nebraska missing from the regular-season schedule.
"We still look forward to our goals," said UT running back Fozzy Whittaker. "There is no telling what can happen. We just got to keep preparing each week and get ready for Nebraska in two weeks."
While many of us are thinking with a first-year quarterback in Garrett Gilbert, and with no real identifiable playmakers on offense, this could indeed be a rebuilding year for the defending Big 12 champion and national runners-up, Brown and his players aren't ready to concede anything yet.
"I don't think you ever face anything other than you want to get better and you go back to work," Brown said. "We spent a lot of energy out at (Texas) Tech, we didn't spend as much as we needed to last week and we came in here and spent a lot of energy today. We are the type of team ... we have to play like this to win with this energy. We played hard. If we play hard enough, we will be fine."