There is nothing better than sitting in the Cotton Bowl in October and watching the tunnel-side of the stadium empty out while there is a game being played. It is the best. I don’t really even mean the best as far as sports go, I mean the best. Period. It really is something I enjoy as much as anything a person can enjoy, because if you are sitting in the Cotton Bowl in October it’s the Texas/ou game, and if the tunnel side of the stadium is emptying out it means the sooners are losing (they always get the tunnel side) and if the game is still being played it means they are getting beat soundly enough that their fans have quit and are headed back to their own state/wherever they live in Dallas and aren’t sticking around to even see how it actually ends. Sooo good.
It’s been a long time since I’ve had that feeling. 8 years to be exact. Wins in 2006, 2008 and 2009 were close and kept everyone interested, but this year the tunnel side started emptying out with 11 minutes to play in the game and a sizable chunk of sooners fans didn’t even see one of the three good plays ou made on the day, the pick six. I like this feeling.
There are other parallels to 2005. Such as:
- Texas never trailed
- The ou quarterback stunk
- I didn’t wear a hat
See? Uncanny, isn’t it. And just like in 2005, Texas absolutely dismantled the sooners, smothering their offense and forcing turnovers; but unlike 2005, no one saw this coming. No one. I had laid out a plan as to how Texas could win the game, but I was clear I had no idea if they would be able to do it. They did, and it was a thing of beauty. Putting myself in the mindset of a sooner fan, I asked myself this question: Is this is the worst Texas loss ever for oklahoma? I thought about the big upsets in the series: 1992, when ou came in ranked No.16 and lost to 2-2 Texas, 34-24. Was that it? Maybe. Or maybe it was 1991, when they were No.6 and lost to unranked Texas, 10-7? What about 1990, when the No.4 sooners missed a last second field goal and lost, 14-13? Or was it Johnny Walker’s 25-yard touchdown reception from freshman Peter Gardere in 1989 when Texas upset No.15 oklahoma, 28-24, and ended a 5-year Red River winless streak? The answer I came up with was none of the above. 1992 mirrors the game this year in many ways: a ranked ou team facing a struggling Longhorn team, but things were different. Gary Gibbs was in his fourth year as the head coach in ’92 and many sooner fans were done with him, wearing “Fire Gary, Hire Barry” shirts as a call to bring back the king of sleaze, Barry Switzer, who Gibbs replaced. They had already lost one game that year and Texas had won the last three over ou, beating the higher ranked sooner teams in different ways each time. While it was frustrating, it was hardly a stunner like 2013. No, this is the worst loss by an oklahoma team to Texas that I can I remember and the 36-20 score didn’t tell the story of the physical domination on the both sides of the ball. The fans leaving with a nearly a quarter to play did tell the story. It was over and everyone knew it.
And by “worst loss to Texas” I am saying that from the ou perspective. From the Texas side, it was just complete dominance from start to finish… I’ll get right back to that. Let’s break it down. This is going to be fun.
TEXAS 36 No.12 oklahoma 20
“…Give’em hell, give’em hell, ou sucks! And it’s goodbye to all the rest.” That never gets old, does it? Texas came out ready to fight and delivered blow after blow, punishing the sooners up front on both sides of the ball and taking their will. I have never seen a Texas team do that to an oklahoma team, win, lose or draw, and how they did what they did was as impressive as anything I’ve seen Texas do in this game when you consider the state of both programs coming in. Let’s take a look at what went down. Here’s what I saw at hottest Texas/ou game I can ever remember:
Quarterbacks: As well as he played, and he played well, if I am Major Applewhite I’m getting on Case McCoy in the film room this week. McCoy finished 13-21 for 190 yards and two touchdowns. Both touchdowns were fantastic- the 59-yard wheel route to Marcus Johnson on 3rd & 11 when hit him in stride behind the single coverage and the 38-yard rainbow, smart bomb-accurate pass he laid into Mike Davis’ hands to give Texas a 36-13 lead… But, there were misses. He had Alex De La Torre WIDE OPEN on the 4th & 2 play at the ou 22 for a touchdown, but the pressure made him throw it high. You can’t throw that high, it has to be on the money. He missed Kendall Sanders for a touchdown and nearly had Mike Davis for another, and let’s not forget to two atrocious screen attempts. One was picked off for a touchdown on a throw he never should have tried to make (it should have never been called if you ask me) and the other would have been picked off for a touchdown had it been a better pass, but instead it bounced at the defender’s feet. Jaxon Shipley also bailed out McCoy over the middle on some very high passes that he went up and got, getting tattooed in the process. He’s a senior and has played a lot of football, but there is plenty to work on this week. But that’s for the staff and for TCU, as for the ou game he was brilliant and made the sooners pay for doing exactly what I said they’d do: stack the box and make him throw to beat them, and that’s exactly what he did. Great job.
Running Backs: Best day I’ve seen from the running backs in a big game in a very long time. They hit holes, they moved piles and made cuts and delivered as many blows as they took, finishing runs by getting first downs. On the day the Texas backs rushed for 245 yards on 60 carries and averaged 4.3 yards per carry. The Longhorns had two backs top the 100-yard mark in the ou game for the first time ever with Jonathan Gray’s 123 yards and Malcolm Brown’s 120 yards and each got better as the game went on. After forcing a turnover on downs at their own 12 with 5:14 to play, Brown and Gray (mostly Brown at the end) drove the ball to the ou 44 before taking a knee to end the game. That means Texas ran out 5:14 on the clock and ou knew what was coming, and still couldn’t stop it. I said last week Texas needed to own the line of scrimmage because I didn’t think this front seven was that good. They did and the backs made them pay. Sensational job from the unit. Joe, you won’t play tailback if you can’t hold on to the ball. My guess is the big man has to earn it back by lead blocking for a while.
Wide Outs/Tight Ends: A’s all the way around. Mike Davis and Marcus Johnson made the Sportscenter highlight reels with sensational touchdown catches, but it was Kendall Sanders (4 catches, 29 yards) and Jaxon Shipley (5 catches, 59 yards) that moved the chains on third down. Both guys came up huge in clutch situations to extend drives: Shipley for 10 on 3rd & 7 and Sanders for 22 on 3rd & 13 on the game’s opening drive; Shipley’s 18-yard grab to set up the half-ending field goal and Sanders’ 7-yard grab on 3rd & 6 that set up Mike Davis’ touchdown reception two plays later. Even more than the receiving yards, they all blocked so well. Texas sprung a big play on 3rd & 8 when Gray took a draw for 38 yards. It would have been about 10 yards if Shipley and Davis weren’t working so hard blocking downfield, clearing a path to the sideline to allow him the space. On Shipley’s 18-yard grab at the end of the half, John Harris was very close to replicating Quan Cosby’s decleater of Lendy Holmes when he buried No.10, springing Shipley to the sideline for a few more yards. Well done, everyone. And well done to Geoff Swaim and Greg Daniels, who seem to be settling into their roles of h-back/fullback/tight end very well. I expect one of you will score at TCU. Looking at you, Mr. Swaim.
Great job from everyone. Again, MJ? Anyone?
Offensive Line: No sacks. 445 yards of offense, 255 yards rushing. A few false starts, but nothing to sweat over. An outstanding job. The best games I’ve seen from Dominic Espinosa and Mason Walters in their careers. I said last week this game was all about how the boys up front handled a suspect front seven and asked them “one time, fellas. One time.” They responded with domination that I haven’t seen in four years. A fantastic day against the tormentor of Texas tormentors. Every one of them should get that golden hat for a day, because without their efforts none of the skill players do anything. KEEP IT UP. I don’t know what was said or what was done, but do it again. Crash Davis’ line about messing with a streak is coming to mind. Don’t (mess) with it. Rose goes in the front, big guy.
Defensive Line: Outstanding. The sooners had nothing in the middle and the defensive tackles, all four of them, would have played a competitive game with the sooner offense by themselves, losing 13-7. Malcom Brown, Desmond Jackson, Hassan Ridgeway and Chris Whaley completely shut down the inside running the sooners like to use and never let Blake Bell scramble up the middle to break contain. And let’s not forget the touchdown. Dropping into coverage, Whaley snagged a late Bell pass over the middle as Adrian Phillips hit him on the blitz. The big man hauled it in an remembered his tailback days (70 pounds and three years ago) and raced to the pylon, running right over Blake Bell for a 31-yard touchdown, changing momentum in the game. That catch, that run and the guy he ran over now mean he will forever be known to me as The Whale-Dozer. The Texas offense had just fumbled and the Texas fans were nervous, wondering if this is where it fell apart. Defensive Coordinator Greg Robinson dialed up a zone blitz and The Whale-Dozer and Adrian Phillips turned it into a game-changing play. Outstanding.
I said last week the ends could really turn this game and they did. They got pressure on Bell and never let him break contain outside. They kept him in the pocket and totally abused the tackles: 11 tackles (8 from Cedric Reed) and three sacks (two from Jackson Jeffcoat) from the starters and another 3 tackles and a sack from the backups. They controlled the edge well enough that ou opted to not try and run as much as I thought they would and completely befuddled Blake Bell. There were times when he’d see the rush coming and look like he had no idea where to go or what to do. He couldn’t step up because of the tackles and he could get outside because of the ends and he just seemed to forget he was the size of Dirk Nowitzki. Fantastic work from the DL, who dominated the sooners up front and set the tone for the entire game.
Linebackers: Texas went with a two linebacker formation all day, running a 4-2-5, and the backers were asked to handle the running game almost exclusively. The simpler approach with less responsibilities paid off as Steve Edmond and Dalton Santos, playing together, combined for 12 tackles. There were still some issues, but the heart and desire and aggressiveness was there. Back to summer camp: if you are aggressive, it means you’re not overthinking and worrying about where you have to be. That was evident on Saturday as both guys were full-speed, full-tilt and it was terrific to see. My favorite play was watching Dalton Santos chase down an ou running back outside, making the tackle at the sideline for a loss. That was a 240-pound guy chasing a tailback laterally and not only making the play, but making it for a loss. It’s the sort of play we haven’t seen from the Texas lb’s in a while. Welcome back. Great job by the corps and Greg Robinson, knowing his guys’ strengths and establishing a defensive identity that I think we’ll see in the coming weeks.
Secondary: 2012 Texas/ou will be remembered as Trey Millard jumping over Texas Longhorns and embarrassing them. Twice. This year he tried that nonsense on the first drive and was nearly ripped in half. In fact, I was pretty sure Adrian Phillips was trying to catch him mid-air and rip him in half. None of the problems last year presented themselves this year. Sure there were missed tackles and there will be until Greg Robinson or someone gets the spring and summer to drill that out, but it was so much better than at any time since 2009 it wasn’t funny. Even in 2010, when Will Muschamp was here and Texas was in the game with ou right up until the end, the blown assignments and penalties on defense were maddening. Not this year.
Quandre Diggs must not have liked my “no more NFL corners” talk because he showed up. He had a sack and a next-level break up of a pass as ou tried to get out of their end zone. He finished with six sacks and totally shut down his side of the field. So did Carrington Byndom, as the two held ou’s receiver corps to pretty much useless, allowing one big play at the end of the game on a bubble screen. The coverage was so good that at one point, on Duke Thomas’ interception, Blake Bell looked like he had no idea what to do with the ball. Unable to run because of the push up front and unable to find anyone due to great coverage, he looked like he just closed his eyes and threw it, hitting a surprised Thomas in the chest. So surprised, I think, he fell down after making the catch. And hats off to Adrian Phillips, victimized by the leaping Millard in 2011, who had a team-high 9 tackles and seems like he’s back to the aggressive, playmaking guy he was pre-shoulder injury in 2011, and that guy is a hell of a safety.
Work to be done, but the sooners have made chew toys out of the Texas secondary as of late and this year they gave up no touchdowns, got a sack and a pick.
Special Teams: Knowing what a mean, yell-y jerk Bob Stoops is, I really thought he was going to go after his punter with a pen, Joe Pesci Casino-style, for that absolutely miserable effort he gave in chasing down Daje Johnson. Had he just fallen on the ground and played dead or run and hid behind the sooner wagon in the end zone it wouldn’t have been any worse than the two steps and no arms extended attempt he did make. Embarrassing. That 85-yard touchdown return (called by my man behind me in the stands right before the kick) was the backbreaker and showed to everyone that Texas has some dynamite talent on this team.
Again, I expect some heat in practice after that long kickoff return set up the only offensive touchdown of the day for ou and a blocked extra point is unacceptable, but Johnson’s punt return for a score and Anthony Fera being absolutely NAILS on field goals offset it. Seriously, 50 yards is not an easy thing, especially in the Cotton Bowl, but Fera drilled it.
Let’s get another one at TCU, Daje. Didn’t you commit there? There were talking about you.
TEXAS (4-2/3-0) BYE
Admit it- how many of you thought this was possible? I get teased by friends because I’m overly optimistic at times. But that’s who I am. I was very clear last week that I thought this ou team was suspect- a week front seven, a less-than-great offensive line and a quarterback that should be playing tight end- but I didn’t see this coming. I knew what Texas had to do in order to win, but that doesn’t always translate in this game. Texas rarely is more aggressive than ou, even when they are clearly better like in 2005, 2006 and 2009. Those games were close, at least early on, because ou was ready to street fight and Texas was tentative. Not this time. Texas was the aggressor, evidenced by that going for it on fourth down early in the game, and seemed like the more physical and angry team. At the start of the fourth quarter, as the band played the Wabash Cannonball, the team gathered at midfield, all of them, and it was an animated meeting. The entire team was bouncing around as they broke and they all immediately turned to the Texas fans and give them energy, fire and enthusiasm. I’ve never seen that at the Cotton Bowl. I’m not sure who was leading it or what the specific words were, but you could tell the message was “We aren’t losing this (words for adults) game.” And the team’s interaction with the fans immediately after that huddle was the same: “Hey, everyone, stick around because we aren’t losing this (words for adults) game.” Everyone knew it right then, and it wasn’t a coincidence that four minutes later the sooner side of the stands was less than half full.
Texas brought their A-game and Greg Robinson should get his own golden hat for totally shutting down the sooners, who managed one offensive touchdown and that was set up by a great kickoff return to the Texas 25. It’s clear the Horns are buying into what he’s saying and that’s a great thing. The whole team looked unified and on the same page, which isn’t always the case. The defense picked the offense up, special teams converted and they made plays. Football is a game of inches, and few inches here or there and the score is not 36-20, but 50- 6. A wonderful day, an inspired day, from the Longhorns.
And now it’s over. We, the fans, get to bask in it for another week as the team is off, but all the happy feelings and euphoria will be distant memories if the Horns fall flat at TCU next Saturday. Texas isn’t good enough to ever take anyone for granted and I think now they know that, but they also know what they are capable of when they are dialed in and focused. Texas needs to attack the TCU work week with the same mindset they did ou, because THAT team in the Cotton Bowl was the one most expected to see all season. The team that showed up in Dallas is going to be a nasty matchup for everyone else on the schedule. Keep it up, boys. KEEP IT UP.
A week off to rest up, heal up and learn more basics from Greg Robinson before the second half of the season starts at TCU (6:30 pm, FS1). Enjoy the down time and let’s get some Thanksgiving payback on 10/26.
Last Week in the Big 12
No.22 OKLAHOMA STATE (4-1/1-1) BYE
WEST VIRGINIA (3-3/1-2) BYE
KANSAS 17 TCU 27
See? TCU didn’t even care. They turned it over five times and still won, mostly by running for 207 yards. Jake Heaps outplayed Trevone Boykin. Jake. Heaps. I can’t wait for this game in two weeks.
IOWA STATE 35 No.20 TEXAS TECH 42
Davis Webb started for the injured Baker Mayfield (Injured? Need a lawyer? Call Wayne Wright Associate Davis Webb…) and he threw for 415 yards as Tech amassed the number of the beast (666 total yards) and outlasted a very game Iowa State team. More importantly, did the Tech kids get everything done in time to be completely rude to the visiting teams? 11 am is SOOO EARLY.
No.15 BAYLOR 35 KANSAS STATE 25
Baylor looked human for the first time this year. K-State, with qb Daniel Sams in the game, rushed for 332 yards and had the bad luck of a bad team: a missed field goal, missed two-point conversions and a late interception that seemed to be an attempt to throw it away that led to a Baylor score with 1:16 to play that iced the game. You knew it was coming at some point, I just didn’t expect it against K-State. Is there a blueprint to beating the Bears? Maybe so.
This Week in The Big 12
TEXAS (4-2/3-0) BYE
KANSAS STATE (2-4/0-3) BYE
IOWA STATE (1-4/0-2) @ No.12 BAYLOR (5-0/2-0) 6pm ESNPU
I think Iowa State keeps this close. For a while. They have the offensive horses to make this a race, but Baylor has too much fire power. 50s to 20s and Baylor soars to No.3 or something.
No.18 oklahoma (5-1/2-1) @ KANSAS (2-3/0-2) 2:30pm ABC
Best scene of the day, post-game: The sooner kid that walked past 10 tables before jumping in my wife’s face to taunt her before walking out. I quickly, and loudly, asked him if he understood what taunting meant, among other things, as his girlfriend looked totally lost. As this is happening the waitress, the manager and a police officer grab them and start going over the tab they seemingly tried to walk. We left an hour later and they still had him. Moral of the story: ou fans walk tabs.
TCU (3-3/1-2) @ No.21 OKLAHOMA STATE (4-1/1-1) 11am FOX
The Frogs are staring under .500 right in the face. OSU is usually up for these morning games and with Texas’ win last week the door is open for the Big 12 Title. I think TCU stems the Cowboy tide, but they will not be able to muster enough offense win.
No.16 TEXAS TECH (6-0/3-0) @ West Virginia (3-3/1-2) 11am FS1
No breaks, Tech. NO. BREAKS. At least this one is on the road so you guys don’t have to drive to the stadium, paint yourselves black or harass the visitors or anything. This is like military school, isn’t it? I hope that some of you go, because you are about to meet your northeast counterparts in Big 12 hospitality. I expect a big surge from WVA early, but Tech will weather and win, breaking the spirit of this WVA team for 2013.
That’s it for this week. You can reach me at FromTheStands@gmail.com or on Twitter @TreyMcLean.