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Texas jumps ahead early but collapses late as Oklahoma mounts epic rally

DALLAS — Steve Sarkisian is tired of hearing about Arkansas. Well, now he’ll get hammered for weeks about Oklahoma.

The Texas coach looked helpless at times during one of the biggest burnt-orange meltdowns in Red River Showdown history. The Longhorns had an electric start, ran up a three-score lead and then watched it all melt away at the Cotton Bowl.

No. 5 Oklahoma’s 55-48 victory Saturday will go down as one of the sweetest come-from-behind wins in series history. It was the first time in UT history the Horns had lost after leading by 21 points.

The 23rd-ranked Horns thought they had one last chance after they tied it up with 1 minute, 23 seconds remaining when Xavier Worthy hauled in a 31-yard touchdown. But in storybook-ending fashion, OU’s Kennedy Brooks took a direct snap, faked a lateral and raced 33 yards to ice it with three seconds remaining.

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Oklahoma running back Kennedy Brooks runs for a fourth-quarter touchdown in the Sooners' 55-48 win over Texas on Saturday at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. Brooks rushed for 217 yards and two scores, including the winner with only three seconds left in the game, to outduel Texas' Bijan Robinson.

“I’d love to say the call was wrong here and there,” Sarkisian said. “The 50-50 balls that went up in the air, they came down with it. The broken plays really hurt us.”

Ultimately, Sarkisian said, “Big picture-wise, this will test our mettle.”

This was the ultimate gut punch for Sarkisian’s Longhorns (4-2, 2-1 Big 12). OU fans in the crowd of 92,100 stormed the field, something that rarely happens in Dallas. The Sooners (6-0, 3-0) are now in the driver’s seat in the conference race and wearing the Golden Hat trophy to boot.

The Horns sang “The Eyes of Texas” in the north end and left the field without incident. But the psychological damage might be enormous.

“I believe that we’ll be OK,” running back Bijan Robinson said. “It’s all in God’s plan, in my opinion. Bounce back. Stay positive and keep growing.”

Texas wide receiver Xavier Worthy reaches for a catch. The freshman had a huge day with nine catches for 261 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including a 75-yard score on the very first play of the game.

Maybe this was the first of two Texas-OU games this year. These two could meet again in the Big 12 championship game. UT receiver Joshua Moore sure hopes so. “If we handle our business,” Moore said, “we’ll see them again soon.”

Texas fans figured this day would belong to Casey Thompson, the Oklahoma City-raised quarterback who couldn’t wait to start for the Longhorns. He completed 20 of 34 passes for 388 yards and an eye-popping five touchdowns playing with a “banged up” thumb, Sarkisian said.

“There’s no way I was going to let anything take me out of this game until they carted me off,” Thompson said.

But the offensive line started breaking down in the second half as the Sooners cranked up the defensive pressure. Robinson had a 33-yard gain in the second half but only 14 yards on the other eight carries after halftime. He finished with 137 yards on 20 carries and one score.

Forget the political correctness. This was a classic Shootout, one that had all the hallmarks of a game fans talk about for years and years. Those in the Texas ecosystem will be forever bothered by how good the Horns looked at the start and how bad it all looked at the end.

The first quarter was a game all its own. Sarkisian believes in starting fast, and that’s exactly what Texas did. The Horns won the toss and took the ball, a rarity. On the game’s first play, Thompson threw a pass in the flat to Worthy, who wiggled past Jaden Davis and took off for a 75-yard touchdown. 

Texas safety Brenden Schooler tries to rev up the crowd at the Cotton Bowl during Saturday's 55-48 loss to Oklahoma at the Cotton Bowl. The Longhorns led 28-7 at one point and forced OU to bench starting quarterback Spencer Rattler but couldn't hold on for the win.

On OU’s first possession, UT’s DeMarvion Overshown blew up a third-and-7 play to force a punt. Overshown then blew through OU’s protection and blocked the punt, setting up Robinson’s score from 2 yards out. Texas was up 14-0 in less than two minutes.

The Sooners calmed things down with a 10-play drive to get on the board. But the Horns were cooking again when Rattler misfired and threw an interception straight to B.J. Foster. Thompson hit Worthy for a 27-yard gain and then found Moore for a 10-yard touchdown throw. 

Texas couldn’t get its long-range passing game going in September. But Thompson was unloading on the Sooners. The Horns went up top again, this time with Thompson hitting Moore for 48 yards and another score. Not even a quick-moving fox that scampered onto the field could keep the Horns from going up 28-7.

Perhaps the game’s most intriguing play — at least from OU’s perspective — happened early in the second quarter. OU coach Lincoln Riley sent backup quarterback Caleb Williams in on fourth-and-1 at the Sooners’ 34-yard line. Williams, the guy OU fans have been clamoring for, got through the line and raced 66 yards for a score. 

Texas fans spent the rest of the second quarter watching Thompson, and not in a good way. He appeared to suffer the hand injury on a dropped screen pass to Robinson with about 13 minutes before halftime. 

Backup Hudson Card started throwing on the sideline. But considering Thompson had waited his entire life for this game, it’d take more than a bum hand to keep him out. Thompson stayed in the game, hit Jordan Whittington on a slant pass and kept going. 

Rattler earned his way to the bench after trying to get cute in traffic and ending up fumbling the ball. Overshown, having a career day, pounced on it. Robinson then ripped off a 51-yard run that’ll lead his Heisman highlight reel, and Texas went up 35-17 on Thompson’s quick throw to Jared Wiley. 

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Some of the most athletic plays didn’t even count. Marcus Washington’s toe was out of bounds on what would’ve been the biggest catch of his Texas career. D’Shawn Jamison showed incredible effort to rip the ball out of Kennedy Brooks’ arms milliseconds after Brooks’ knee hit the turf. 

Oklahoma had an 85-yard punt. Texas had a 78-yard punt. 

The Sooners got it back to a one-score game on Gabe Brkic’s 26-yard field goal with 11:44 remaining. Then the pylon camera was the only thing that showed how Marvin Mims’ foot was not out of bounds as he dove in on a 52-yard score. Rattler came back on the field and hit Drake Stoops for the two-point conversion to tie things up 41-41.

Worthy had a career day catching the ball. He had 261 receiving yards on nine catches and two touchdowns. But those numbers were rendered moot by the freshman’s disastrous decision to bring a kickoff out of the end zone with 7:25 remaining. He fumbled on the play, and OU took over at the Texas 25. 

Brooks went 18 yards to pay dirt on the next play and gave OU a 48-41 lead. Thompson rallied the Horns one more time with two outstanding throws to Worthy, including a 31-yard touchdown into the northwest corner that had the Texas fans going ballistic.

“That was a really cool moment for him to bounce back from the fumble,” Sarkisian said. “The guy’s a great player now, but his future is even brighter.”

It was all a huge setup for Kennedy’s finish. As much as Sarkisian talked up his team’s fight, the Longhorns will have to regroup. Oklahoma State will come to Austin next week looking to kick the Horns while they are down.

“We’ll get better,” Sarkisian said, “but in the short term, our mettle is going to get tested.”

Contact Brian Davis by phone or text at 512-445-3957. Email bdavis@statesman.com or @BDavisAAS.