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Golden: Too much gas led to a second-half heartbreak for Texas, Sarkisian

Horns drop to 4-2 and 1-1 in Big 12

  • Texas led 38-20 at the half.
  • The 18-point lead at the half was its biggest since a 24-6 lead in 2005.

DALLAS — All gas and heartbreak.

Steve Sarkisan learned a valuable lesson Saturday in his first Texas-Oklahoma experience. Timing is everything and Sark lost his coaching balance in the second half against the program that's standing between Texas and a return to national relevance.

The 55-48 loss to Oklahoma was a real knife to the cockles because the Horns did so many good things at the beginning.

It was a true classic for college football purists, but Longhorn Nation will look at the rest of this season through a lens of heartbreak, disappointment and true anger if their team doesn’t come back from this soul taker.

Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian congratulates running back Bijan Robinson after a long run during the Red River Showdown at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. Texas blew a 38-20 halftime lead and lost 55-48, despite 137 yards rushing by Robinson.

Texas vs. OU:Watch Longhorns score first, but OU win in these Red River Showdown game highlights

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Texas let Oklahoma off the hook, pure and simple.

The first quarter felt like a Mike Tyson fight from the 1980s. You old heads remember when a 20-year-old Iron Mike was dispensing of grown men in record time. First-round knockouts became the norm and the question was never if Tyson would record the KO, just when.

Well, this time referee Richard Steele wasn’t there to count the Sooners out after No. 23 Texas scored 14 points in the first 113 seconds. OU rose from the canvas and showed true heavyweight punching power when it mattered most.

Oklahoma running back Kennedy Brooks runs in for the winning touchdown against Texas during the fourth quarter of the Red River Showdown in Dallas on Saturday. Oklahoma won 55-48 behind Brooks' 217 yards.

“We knew even if we came up by a lot we knew they weren’t going to back down,” Texas wide receiver Joshua Moore said. “We know they wanted to beat us as much as we wanted to beat them.”

Texas’ 38-20 lead at intermission represented the biggest Longhorns lead entering the third quarter since the 2005 national championship team led 24-6 en route to a 45-12 win, but the final 20 seconds of the half signified possible trouble on the horizon. Sark, who has preached "All Gas No Brakes" since arriving from Alabama, took his foot off the pedal after Casey Thompson connected with Worthy for 39 yards to Oklahoma's 32.

With two timeouts in his pocket, he settled for the field goal when he could have pressed forward and taken a shot into the end zone against a secondary that Thompson had shredded.

More:It took years, but Oklahoma native Casey Thompson’s time has arrived in Red River Showdown

You don’t need me to tell you that Texas is a few eons short of its 2005 level, but in the days and weeks that lie ahead, Sarkisian, who chided the media on Monday for continuing to ask about the Arkansas loss, will have to answer for his team’s inability to put away the Sooners.

He remained stuck in fifth gear when he could have benefited from handing the ball off to the best running back in the country with an 18-point lead. Bijan Robinson was reduced to an afterthought one week after Sarkisian pounded him into the TCU defense 35 times for 216 yards. He carried the ball 11 times for 102 yards in the first half, but Sarkisian decided to air it out in the final two quarter. Sure, Thompson played wonderfully, but Robinson getting only nine carries for 35 yards in the deciding half just can’t happen.

Texas quarterback Casey Thompson turns upfield past Oklahoma linebacker Brian Asamoah during the Red River Showdown in Dallas. Thompson threw for 388 yards and five touchdowns in the 55-48 loss.

On the other side, give Oklahoma's Lincoln Riley credit for having the guts to pull an ineffective Spencer Rattler. Caleb Williams’ relief performance reduced Thompson’s 388-yard, five-touchdown performance to bridesmaid status and reemphasized the fast fading belief that the Sooners were there for the taking. Riley also patiently stuck with the running game in the third quarter when the clock was working against his team.

Texas’ pass rush dis-a-freaking-peared in the second half and the Sooners, to their credit, made some magnificent plays off schedule. The defense wore down and there were no takeaways to be had against the less experienced but more elusive Williams, and no tackles of burly running back Kennedy Brooks, who gashed them for 217 yards, one more than Robinson netted against TCU last week.

Kudos have to go to the indomitable spirit of Thompson, who put on a great show with freshman wideout Xavier Worthy showing some real star potential despite a massive fumble that allowed the Sooners to take the lead after foolishly returning a kickoff from five yards deep in the end zone.

The fact that he was in there instead of the more experienced Roschon Johnson was on the coaching staff. Worthy is a playmaker, but this was a case of confidence overruling prudence.

“We have to give credit to those guys,” Thompson said. “They made plays when it counted."

To have it get away in such crushing fashion … it’s something the Horns will have to process with more football left to be played.

“We live for moments like this,” Thompson said. “It’s college football on the biggest stage.”

There will be other moments and maybe Texas will finish the next time.

The word hope is dangerous because sometimes good things don’t readily arrive. This was a real chance to take a step forward as a program, but the Horns blinked against a battle-tested team that showed zero panic when it was against the ropes early.

In the end, the 4-2 Horns have a quarterback who showed he can deliver in big moments and a running back who is already NFL-ready as a sophomore, but Sark and Kyle Flood have work to do with a poor offensive line and a defense that gave up 339 yards on the ground.

The head coach will have to be better. He was spotted 14 points and couldn’t hold his water. Sarkisian has been on championship sidelines, but never as the head coach. This is a great test in his early Texas tenure. The hurt he spoke of following the game can’t follow them into the next two games against Oklahoma State and Baylor.

They should bounce back, but Saturday was a great indicator of the work that remains to be done.

“Our mettle will be tested,” Sarkisian said.  “My mindset is I’d like to get another crack at these guys in December.”

They’re good enough to get there, but the post-OU depression can’t last for more than a couple of days, or there won’t be a Big 12 title bout rematch.