Kirk Bohls

American-Statesman Staff

Column

Bohls: Resounding win over OU propels Texas back into national relevance

Posted October 6th, 2018

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Story highlights
  • Texas coach Tom Herman said he loves the steps his team is taking but isn't sure this was a get-over-the-hump game.
  • With their fifth straight win, the Longhorns should return to national prominence.
  • Texas might still be a year away, but this big-game victory almost had the feel of the 2005 road win over Ohio State.

DALLAS — Texas beat Oklahoma.

And then Texas beat ’em again.

This game was so sweet for its long-suffering fan base, Texas actually won this game twice. Sounds better that way too since the Sooners had won six of the last eight meetings and basically own the Big 12.

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The Longhorns thought they had won it outright when it went ahead 45-24 and might have, but for a furious, 21-point fourth quarter for the Sooners, who tied the game with just over 2 1/2 minutes to play.

Then Texas won it for good, 48-45, in the final seconds on a 40-yard field goal from freshman kicker Cameron Dicker, who was so calm and nerveless that he didn’t even watch the ball sail dead center through the south end zone uprights.

Winning with Dicker was even slicker than the total domination Texas had practiced most of the afternoon in the Cotton Bowl because it teased the Sooners fans, at least those who hadn’t poured out of the stadium exits at the start of the fourth quarter after Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger and friends absolutely mauled seventh-ranked OU all day long.

A Texas fan holds up a sign during an NCAA college football game against Oklahoma at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas, on Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018. Texas defeated Oklahoma 48-45 to improve to 5-1. [NICK WAGNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
“I really wasn’t too nervous,” said Dicker, who’d kicked a pair of game-winning field goals in high school, both against Cibolo Steele. “I played at Lake Travis, and we’ve played a lot of big games.”

Actually, Dicker seemed a bit sicker that the kick wasn’t even longer. “The long ones are kind of fun,” he said.

Texas suddenly is all about the fun. And winning. Funny how they go together. The Longhorns are so carefree but focused, they even trotted out a wide receiver pass where Lil’Jordan Humphrey threw a 2-yard jump pass to fellow receiver Collin Johnson, a play Herman put in on Tuesday. And how many times did they complete it? “Every time,” Johnson said.

Six games into the season, the 19th-ranked Longhorns are a confident, loose bunch who are proving themselves week in and week out since stubbing their toes against Maryland. That season-opening defeat is looking more like a weird aberration, one that ultimately could cost Texas big-time because it could be 6-0 now instead of 5-1.

But what does the Horns’ fifth straight victory mean?

Everything.

One cannot overstate the significance of this signature win for a team that has found its true identity as well as three stud receivers and a dynamic quarterback/leader in Ehlinger, who outplayed his celebrated OU counterpart and outclassed Kyler Murray as well in an ugly post-game incident when the Sooners quarterback angrily waved off the Longhorns.

He may not be dazzling or take anyone’s breath away, but Ehlinger has become ruthlessly efficient as both a runner and a passer with a ceiling that keeps getting pushed higher each week. That’s no picks now in five consecutive games.

Texas wide receiver John Burt (1) and quarterback Casey Thompson (8) celebrate with fans following Texas’ 48-45 win over Oklahoma in an NCAA college football game at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas, on Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018. [NICK WAGNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
But this was a win for Tom Herman’s program, one built on tough, physical defense and balanced, turnover-free offense. It should accelerate Texas’ progress by leaps and bounds. Humphrey’s 19-yard push-the-pile, third-quarter run said it all. Texas is not to be messed with.

This one almost had the feel of that electric win over Ohio State in Columbus back in 2005 when Limas Sweed was the hero and the game was the impetus for a national title. Texas isn’t that far along, but this may have been its most complete performance since it trounced No. 13 Oklahoma State in 2009 or whipped what would become an 11-2 Oklahoma team in 2013 that killed Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

A statement game of all statement games, this Texas proved it can play on the big stage and beat a damn good team on that stage, derailing OU’s national championship ambitions. Texas beat a third ranked program and will now find itself on the national radar as a relevant team. It may even climb close or into the Top 10 and — don’t faint — thrust itself into the conversation as a College Football Playoff contender.

Just don’t ask Herman to go there.

“I won’t even begin to think about that,” Herman said, dismissing any CFP talk although his team might well be favored in every remaining game. “Winning this game will have no effect on our performance against Baylor next week.”

But surely Herman would agree this had the feel of a get-over-the-hump game because Texas beat a blood rival — convincingly for most of the day despite the narrow margin — and quite frankly looks like the best team in the Big 12.

“I do not think this was a get-over-the-hump game,” the second-year Longhorns coach said, “because that would mean we are defining where the hump was.”

Oklahoma was the hump, Tom. The Sooners have won the last three Big 12 titles, and he beat ’em. After Longhorn Nation has groveled in misery ever since Colt McCoy suffered a shoulder stinger against Alabama and Texas lost that 2009 title game and pretty much its mojo for what seems like a decade, Texas is flush with euphoria. It may not be back quite yet. That has to sustain itself over a much longer period, but this team is legit.

And has unfinished business.

“We’re not done yet,” said senior defensive end Breckyn Hager, who wore Tommy Nobis’ sacred No. 60 jersey as he did in Texas’ bowl win last December. “We’re not even close to done. God told me we were going to win this game. And God told me I was going to get a haircut.”

Hager, of course, has promised not to shear his golden locks until the Longhorns win a league championship. They had a close shave on an overcast day in the Cotton Bowl but were as resilient as they were relentless.

Now, as senior P.J. Locke III said, the team has to block out all the noise, all the distractions that could undermine this turnaround.

“We can’t get complacent,” he said. “We can’t be satisfied with a win over Oklahoma.”

There’s more to accomplish.

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