Texas starts fast but can't close in Red River heartbreak loss to Oklahoma
While you're lamenting what could have been, and wondering just what Saturday's 55-48 loss to No. 5 Oklahoma means, try deconstructing just went wrong for No. 23 Texas in the Cotton Bowl. Things that were going so good ended up so bad for the Longhorns.
Consider this: the Longhorns at one point were leading 28-7 and forced the Sooners to send quarterback Spencer Rattler to the bench for the second straight year. Wasn't enough.
Here's how things fell apart:
• Texas' defense, which looked so strong in the first half, tired in the second.
• The Sooners, rallying around their freshman quarterback, halted Texas' momentum in the third quarter and took over the game in the fourth.
• For some reason, Texas moved away from D'Shawn Jamison returning kicks, first giving Roschon Johnson a try, then Xavier Worthy. The freshman was spectacular all afternoon save for one play late: making a questionable decision to run a kickoff out some five yards deep in the end zone, then losing a fumble at the 10 after getting stripped on the return. All this with the game tied 41-41.
• Bijan Robinson got tired in the fourth quarter. Not that you can blame him.
• Robinson had a big day, but was outshined by OU's Kennedy Brooks, who won the game with a big touchdown in the closing seconds.
• OU put up 35 points in the final two quarters behind their freshman quarterback, Caleb Williams.
Takeaways from today's game:
What does this all mean?
For Texas: This drops the Horns to 4-2 overall, 2-1 in the Big 12. It snaps a three-game winning streak. Robinson (20-137-1) did nothing to hurt his Heisman chances, flashing on a couple of big plays in front of a national audience. And it puts more pressure on the Horns, who still have a path to the Big 12 championship game but now cannot afford any more conference hiccups.
For Oklahoma: This keeps the Sooners perfect at 6-0, but it's yet another close escape to pair along with 40-35 over Tulane, 23-16 over Nebraska, 16-13 over West Virginia and 37-31 over Kansas State. That won't impress national AP and coaches poll voters. And Rattler's Heisman hopes are pretty much over. You don't throw a pick, lose a fumble and then get benched by a freshman after putting your team into a 28-7 hole and expect to realistically stay in that conversation.
Does OU now have a quarterback issue?
OU, not Texas, controlled things up front
Texas' offensive line, minus Denzel Okafor and reshuffled, fared better than most thought it would when you consider OU's decided advantage with its defensive line. But Casey Thompson was sacked three times, pressured several more, and plugged things up front for Robinson, who did his damage off the edges. And Texas' early success getting to Rattler didn't continue against Williams, and the biggest difference became Brooks, who had a Robinson-like 217-yard day with a pair of scores, including the game winner.
Still, Texas couldn't have asked for a better start
The Longhorns put up two touchdowns within the first two minutes of the game.
Sarkisian's first brilliant call? Deciding he wanted to ball after winning the opening coin toss.
Texas got Worthy, the freshman wide receiver coming off an alarmingly bad game at TCU, involved early. As in the very first snap of the game: a quick pass behind the line of scrimmage, a lead block from Marcus Washington, a smooth move to get past OU cornerback Jaden Davis, and then a 75-yard jaunt down the sideline for a touchdown.
Then, OU's first series went like this: stuffing Kennedy Brooks for a 1-yard gain, a nice open-field tackle on second down by Josh Thompson for a 2-yard catch, and a DeMarvion Overshown sack of Rattler on a blitz right up the open middle.
And then, on the punt, Overshown blocked Michael Turk's kick
And then, on the punt, Overshown blocked the punt with another rush up the middle, and Brenden Schooler -- the converted receiver-turned-safety, recovered at OU's 2. Two plays later, Robinson's touchdown run made it 14-0 and the Sooners' noses were bloodied.
By the end of the first quarter, it was a 28-7 game.
Steve Sarkisian is one hell of a play-caller
Of course, so is Lincoln Riley. Both coaches' play-calling chops were on full display.
But no matter his chops as a head coach managing the team and roster (though that, too, is working out really well), what Sarkisian doing on the sidelines on Saturdays has been impressive. Jet sweeps, play-actions, working the edges and away from OU's talented defensive front, taking shots downfield.
This was a classic chess match between two of college football's best play-callers. Riley matched Sark call for call, including a 48-yard throw-back pass razzle dazzle play, and more importantly moving to up-tempo when Texas' defense started to tire.
Alabama's loss has been Texas gain, but after their first meeting as head coaches, it's Riley 1, Sarkisian 0.
Roschon Johnson was a non-factor, even though it looked like Robinson was tiring in the fourth quarter: no carries, no catches, just one kickoff return for 18 yards. ... Texas, down 48-41 with 7 minutes left, had to go the rest of the way without Jordan Whittington, who was injured. ... Injuries: Whittington left with 10 minutes left in the game with an elbow injury. Starting DE Jacoby Jones headed to the locker room near the end of the first quarter, LB Ray Thornton was shaken up at the end of the quarter, but made it back into the game. For OU, OL Tyrese Robinson went down early in the third quarter with what looked like a knee or leg injury. ... Thompson is now 3-1 as a starter. Rattler improved to 15-2.
How the scoring went:
1st quarter: Texas 28, Oklahoma 7
Texas: Xavier Worthy, who was so quiet in Fort Worth, delivered the first boom to the Sooners with a 75-yard touchdown catch — and it was all Worthy.
Texas: Bijan Robinson delivered the third big blow for the Horns (in the first seven plays, by the way) with a 2-yard touchdown run to make it 14-0. It was set up by DeMarvion Overshown's blocked punt.
Oklahoma: The Sooners settled down, converted one critical third-and-long with a controversial catch, and cut the lead to 14-7 on Spencer Rattler's 2-yard run.
Texas: You know things are humming when Joshua Moore, who had been virtually dormant for the first five games, takes advantage of a Worthy pick for a 10-yard touchdown catch. Another good call from Sarkisian. Texas, 21-7.
It was all made possible, by the way, by B.J. Foster's second interception of the season at midfield.
Texas: Moore struck again on a first-down play that worked to perfection: the defense bit on a fake jet sweep to Jordan Whittington, the offensive line offered Thompson plenty of time and he hit Moore, who had three steps on his defender who'd bit on Whittington, for a 48-yard score.
2nd quarter: Halftime — Texas 38, Oklahoma 20
Oklahoma: On fourth-and-1 to open the second quarter, the Sooners needed inches and instead got 66 yards when freshman quarterback Caleb Williams, inserted for his rushing ability, broke out of Jerrin Thompson's tackle and then outsprinted D'Shawn Jamison, B.J. Foster and Josh Thompson for the touchdown.
Oklahoma: Field goals produce points, too. Gabe Brkic's 39-yard chipped more into Texas' lead, making it 28-17 with 12:05 left in the half.
Texas: Jared Wiley got the glory — a 2-yard touchdown catch from Thompson's fourth scoring toss of the day — but it was Bijan Robinson who did all the work, a brilliant 50-yard run that looked like it belonged on a Sunday, not Saturday. More importantly, it stopped a 10-0 OU run to make it 35-17 with 6:41 left.
Oklahoma: The Sooners, having benched Rattler for Williams, got three points back on Brkic's 35-yarder. Jamison broke up a third-down pass into the end zone.
Texas: Cameron Dicker, no stranger to knocking down field goals in this series, made it an 18-point lead at the break with a 38-yarder on the final play.
Third quarter: Texas 41, Oklahoma 30
Oklahoma: After a couple of punts to open the second half, Brkic made it a 38-23 game with a 29-yard field goal. The Sooners, however, had to settle for the points after squandering the red zone opportunity.
Texas: The Horns answered with a field goal of their own, 41 yards from Dicker, to make it 41-23 with 2:45 left in the quarter.
Oklahoma: Given second life after Jamison's strip-fumble of Kennedy Brooks was overturned, Williams found Marvin Mims for a 10-yard touchdown near the end of the quarter. It came on a third-and-11 play in which Williams bobbled the snap.
Fourth quarter: Final — xxx
Oklahoma: Another short OU field goal after getting close, this one from 26 yards out, but it made it a one-score game with 11:44 left. The 71-yard drive made it 41-33.
Oklahoma: On third-and-19, a harried Williams launched a 52-yard touchdown pass to Mims, who made a brilliant play to keep his foot inbounds by an inch or two. And then Williams connected with Drake Stoops to tie it up 41-41 with 7:25 to go.
Oklahoma: Brooks' 18-yard run off a direct snap put the Sooners up for the first time, thanks to Worthy's fumbled return on the kickoff from OU's previous score. Sooners, 48-41, with 7:10 left.
Texas: Worthy's 31-yard touchdown came at the perfect time — with 1:23 to go, bringing Texas back from the ashes to make it 48-48.
Oklahoma: As the Sooners tried to maneuver for a game-ending field goal try, Brooks took care of things himself with a 33-yard touchdown off the left side. It was off a direct snap, the exact play he scored to make it 48-41, and he did it with one second left.
Texas football: Texas football team is learning who it is, and isn't