Football

Texas 24, Oklahoma 17: Horns have plenty to tweet about now

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Story highlights
  • Texas QB Jerrod Heard rushed for 115 yards and finished 8 of 11 for 53 yards passing.
  • Since 1989, UT is now 6-2 when the Horns are unranked and the Sooners are in the Top 25.
  • Defense registered six sacks, held OU offense to 3-of-12 on third-down conversions.

Posted October 10th, 2015

DALLAS — Given the craziness of the past week, it seemed appropriate that Texas quarterback Jerrod Heard took a long, hard look at his phone before answering reporters’ questions.

“I’m trying so hard not to get on Twitter right now,” Heard said with a laugh.

The Longhorns had plenty to smile, shout and tweet about Saturday at the Cotton Bowl. Texas took out a season’s worth of frustration by punching 10th-ranked Oklahoma square in the mouth and securing an electric 24-17 win that should reinvigorate the burnt-orange faithful.

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Granted, Texas is still only 2-4 overall heading into its off week, but the pressure released against OU (4-1, 1-1) was immense.

The Horns piled up 313 yards rushing, six sacks and forced the Sooners to go 3 of 12 on third down conversions. “All in all, they kicked us,” OU coach Bob Stoops said.

Heard got 14 of his 115 rushing yards on a hold-your-breath scramble on third-and-10 that sealed it. When time expired, Strong got an ice bath, players danced on the field and everybody took turns wearing the Golden Hat, the trophy symbolic of the Red River Showdown.

Afterward, Strong couldn’t help but address his critics.

“Everybody makes a big deal about nothing,” Strong said. “But at the end of the day, this is the University of Texas. This is Charlie Strong’s program. Don’t need to blame anyone else. If they play bad, you can blame me. If they play good, you give it to them. There’s no one else.

“That was the University of Texas. Today was our day.”

Longtime Texas and OU fans know this series is always unpredictable. The Sooners came in as 17-point favorites. Since 1989, UT is now 6-2 when the Horns are unranked and the Sooners are in the Top 25.

The first punch is always key. UT’s Marcus Johnson ran around the left end, stiff-armed a would-be tackler, showed fancy footwork on the sideline and scored from 24 yards out.

Then on the ensuing kickoff, Kevin Vaccaro jarred the ball loose from Alex Ross. Freshman Kirk Johnson recovered, and the Horns were in business at OU’s 41. D’Onta Foreman plugged away, moving the ball to the 14. That’s when Strong summoned Tyrone Swoopes.

Swoopes has been energized by play-caller Jay Norvell’s short-yardage package. OU fans know it as the “Bell-dozer,” named after OU quarterback Blake Bell. Norvell, who spent the last seven seasons at OU, had Swoopes run it for 7 yards. Strong said to run it again. Swoopes for 4. Then, he ran around the left end for a 3-yard score.

It was the toughest, most determined moment of the season, maybe even of the entire Strong era.

“I think our kids made their mind up that they were going to run the ball,” Norvell said. “That determined mindset is what you need to have success running the ball.”

OU finally got a field goal in the second quarter, but it was clear quarterback Baker Mayfield struggled against UT’s unpredictable blitz packages.

Malik Jefferson (2), Poona Ford (1.5), Paul Boyette, Hassan Ridgeway and Naashon Hughes all had sacks. Duke Thomas, playing one of his best games, wasn’t credited with any but was sure causing havoc via corner blitzes.

“We came inside-out, all the way across, everywhere,” Jefferson said. “We came from every direction.”

The Texas coaches were content to play it safe midway through the game. It was as if Foreman and Johnathan Gray were peck, peck, pecking their way along. Then Foreman broke loose and dashed 81 yards on the final play of the third quarter, flipping field position in the process.

“I was just thinking, ‘Go score,’” said Foreman, who finished with 117 yards. “That was it. Go score.”

Foreman’s run tied for the 11th-longest dash in UT history. Strong sent Swoopes back into the fray, and the backup quarterback executed a perfect pop pass on third-and-goal. Caleb Bluiett scored his first career touchdown, a 2-yarder that gave Texas a 24-10 lead.

The Sooners got back within seven on Samaje Perine’s 1-yard score, and then the Horns went three-and-out. No worries, though. Hughes and Ford combined to pull down Mayfield for a critical 17-yard loss on OU’s final possession.

Texas took over with 3:33 remaining and ran out the clock.

“I was pissed off,” UT guard Sed Flowers said. “It’s just frustration. I was really frustrated with the fact that our team wasn’t playing like we can play.”

So what’s possible now? A bowl game? A winning record? With six games remaining, Texas has a lot of football still ahead.

“Challenge now is to just keep pushing,” Jefferson said. “We’ve won before. We know how to win. Just keep pushing forward and get better.”

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