Oklahoma Sooners linebacker Kenneth Murray (9) hits Texas Longhorns quarterback Sam Ehlinger (11) in the 3rd quarter during an NCAA college football game at the Cotton Bowl on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019, in Dallas, Texas. This game makes up the114th rivalry match up. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Kirk Bohls

American-Statesman Staff

Column

Bohls: Texas’ shortcomings exposed in loss to worthy ‘opponent’

Posted October 12th, 2019

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Story highlights
  • The feeling here in August was that Texas, while talented in a few spots, lacked enough muscle and offensive firepower and defensive depth to make a legitimate run at a first-ever College Football Playoff berth.
  • This was one of the most lopsided, one-score games in the 115-year history of this rivalry, one so storied with emotions running so deep that Big 12 referee Mike DeFee unnecessarily threw a flag for unsportsmanlike conduct on both teams before they’d even kicked off.
  • “Why can’t anybody in the country stop them?” Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger asked rhetorically. “They’re really good.”

 

DALLAS — They’re a year away.

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Or, maybe with a little luck and a very big win streak from here on in, maybe a couple of months away.

The feeling here in August was that Texas, while talented in a few spots, lacked enough muscle and offensive firepower and defensive depth to make a legitimate run at a first-ever College Football Playoff berth. It seemed destined to absorb two or three losses.

Sixth-ranked Oklahoma (6-0), smarting from a loss to its blood rival in this Cotton Bowl last October, validated those concerns by delivering a convincing 34-27 punchout of 11th-ranked Texas on a picture-perfect Saturday afternoon.

Texas defensive back Brandon Jones (19) tackles Oklahoma wide receiver CeeDee Lamb (2) during an NCAA college football game at the Cotton Bowl on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019, in Dallas, Texas. [NICK WAGNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
The loss, coupled with the bitter defeat to LSU in the second week, knocks Tom Herman’s 4-2 team from the list of heavyweights. But it can stamp a return game with OU in December in the Big 12 title game for the second year in a row, provided the defense learns how to tackle between now and then as well as field kickoffs properly and protect the hardy Sam Ehlinger, a victim of a 10-year-old school-record nine sacks.

This was one of the most lopsided, one-score games in the 115-year history of this rivalry, one so storied with emotions running so deep that Big 12 referee Mike Defee unnecessarily threw a flag for unsportsmanlike conduct on both teams before they’d even kicked off.

It wasn’t very sporting of the Sooners in the early going either as they scored on their opening drive and mauled the Longhorns on the stat sheet with overwhelming numbers like 276 yards rushing and 511 yards of total offense. The game was tied briefly for about a minute in the third quarter. Otherwise, OU was in control.

Oklahoma defensive lineman Kenneth Mann (55) presures Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger (11) in the second half of an NCAA college football game at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. [Stephen Spillman for Statesman]
So was Ehlinger surprised by the way OU’s offense ripped up and down the field with ease?

“Why can’t anybody in the country stop them?” the Texas quarterback asked rhetorically. “They’re really good.”

Fair point.

OU is that good. So go ahead and crown them as the best in the Big 12 although the Sooners will play out the formality of six more conference games. Sure, they could slip up because they won’t play with the same cold-blooded thirst that they do in this showdown, but don’t bet on it.

“We’re going to continue to get better,” OU coach Lincoln Riley said. “This won’t be our best game.”

Gulp.

But it looks clear enough that the potent Sooners are the class of the league and have an excellent chance of proving that and more in the CFP after two consecutive trips to the Final Four the last two years. Especially now that it learned it’s legal to play good defense under new coordinator Alex Grinch and forced seven punts in the first three quarters.

And it appears just as obvious that Texas lacks the overall balance on both sides of the ball and the ability to, well, tackle. That commodity comes in handy if you want to be a champion.

But the Longhorns couldn’t get the Sooners and their vast array of weapons like quarterback Jalen Hurts and magical receiver CeeDee Lamb off the field.

OU scored on six of 11 full possessions and had turnovers at the Texas 7 and Texas 11 to prevent even more points. It just ran all over Todd Orlando’s Longhorns, too.

Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) controls the ball behind his back as Texas Longhorns linebacker Joseph Ossai (46) tries to force a fumble on the play in the 3rd quarter during an NCAA college football game at the Cotton Bowl on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019, in Dallas, Texas. This game makes up the114th rivalry match up. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Hurts went for 131 yards and averaged 7.7 yards an attempt. Kennedy Brooks also went over the century mark with 105 yards and a healthy 10.5 average. Rhamondre Stevenson was at 6.2. T.J. Pledger an even 5.0.

Did that stun Texas linebacker Joseph Ossai?

“It did,” Ossai said. “But we’ll fix it.”

How?

“We’ll fix it,” he repeated.

It’s a long laundry list of stuff to be repaired. Ehlinger’s now been sacked 12 times the last two games and was under siege all day although Herman advised to spread the blame around besides just on the offensive line’s shoulders. Left tackle Samuel Cosmi, who ripped the OU defensive line as ordinary and not a big worry during the week, wasn’t made available.

Herman was, and he was very much taken aback by this crushing defeat.

“Hats off to our opponent,” said Herman, who declines to call Oklahoma by name. “We didn’t play well, and we’ve got to figure out. … That’s our job as coaches is to get to the root of the issue and make sure that we correct those things so they don’t happen again.”

Herman knows by now that he has an elite quarterback and slot receiver in Ehlinger and Devin Duvernay, who had some uncharacteristic flubs on kickoff returns to doom the offense to atrocious field position. He’s got a terrific star running back in Roschon Johnson, who had a momentous 57-yard run in the third quarter. He’s got a super linebacker in Ossai.

But he’s got some holes at receiver. The tight end has been invisible this year. The defensive line has two sacks all season and doesn’t have a true standout yet. The injury-wracked secondary is a nightmare, plagued by horrendous tackling and coverage busts.

Yeah, Texas is at least a year away from trying to prove it is for real on the national stage, but all is not lost. There’s a strong possibility of a second game with OU in two months. They could get a shot at redemption in Arlington in December, but in the meantime Texas has for sure shed its label as a CFP contender.

“I mean, this hurts,” Herman said. “It really does.”

That opponent’s pretty good.

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