Horns Surprise Hapless Sooners in Red River Rivalry Runaway


Underdogs in the Red River Rivalry between Oklahoma and Texas have had a way of rising to the occasion, and the Longhorns, a 17-point underdog coming into Saturday’s annual matchup with the Sooners, did just that in humbling their hated rivals to the north in what will surely go down as one of the biggest upsets so far in the college football season.

It was apparent from the opening kickoff in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas that Texas wanted this game much more than the Sooners.

The much-maligned Longhorn defense, ranked 119th in the nation among FBS teams, set the tone early stopping the high-octane Oklahoma Air Raid attack on two successive three-and-outs in the Sooners first two possessions of the game.

Oct 10, 2015; Dallas, TX, USA; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) throws in the pocket against the Texas Longhorns during Red River rivalry at Cotton Bowl Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

In its second offensive possession, Texas attacked the Sooner defense with several tackle-breaking runs by mobile freshman quarterback Jerrod Heard that highlighted a 76-yard touchdown drive, capped off by a 24-yard touchdown strike from Heard to receiver Marcus Johnson.

That impressive Longhorn drive opened up a lot of eyes on the Oklahoma sidelines as Texas took an early 7-0 advantage in a game in which the burnt orange faithful had been hearing and reading all week that the Longhorns didn’t even belong on the same field with the Sooners this season. After the 50-7 thrashing Texas took last week from TCU, it was easy to see how the Texas fans had lost some faith in this bunch of struggling Longhorns.

And the Longhorns weren’t through smashing the Sooners in the mouth in the opening quarter of this year’s Red River Showdown. The ensuing kickoff after the Texas touchdown, which the Longhorns had to do from their own 20-yard line after being penalized for an excessive celebration penalty after their opening TD, was fumbled by OU’s Alex Ross after a 33-yard return, sending the Texas offense back on the field and setting the Longhorns up at the Oklahoma 41-yard line.

Seven plays later, Texas was on the scoreboard again, extending the lead to 14-0 over the Sooners and sending the strong message that the Longhorns weren’t going to back down to the heavily favored Sooners.

The second Longhorn touchdown came with 5:37 remaining in the first quarter on a 3-yard run by Texas backup quarterback Tyrone Swoopes, who actually appeared to have fumbled the ball right as he was stretching out to cross the plane of the end zone. The ruling on the field was a touchdown, but instant replay appeared to show that Swoopes had lost the ball prior to reaching the end zone. It all turned out for naught, though, so far as OU was concerned, because the ball was subsequently recovered in the end zone by Texas receiver Lorenzo Joe.

Oct 10, 2015; Dallas, TX, USA; Texas Longhorns safety Adrian Colbert (26) celebrates with the golden hat trophy after a victory against the Oklahoma Sooners during Red River rivalry at Cotton Bowl Stadium. Texas beat Oklahoma 24-17. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Oklahoma made several adjustments on defense and was able to contain the Longhorns and keep them off the scoreboard for the remainder of the first half, but the Sooner offense could not get untracked. Quarterback Baker Mayfield was under constant pressure and unable to locate receivers downfield, which is a big part of the OU Air Raid offense. To compound the trouble Mayfield was experiencing in the passing game, the Texas front seven were overwhelming the Oklahoma offensive line and plugging all of the run lanes for the OU running backs.

All in all, a very badly executed opening 30 minutes for the Sooner offense, made even more frustrating by an aggressive Longhorn defense that had not played like this all season in losing four of its first five games – all to teams, incidentally, currently ranked in the top 25. The game was nearly 10 minutes old before Oklahoma recorded a first down, and they had only seven total in the first half.

The Sooners finally got on the board with a little over six minutes remaining in the second quarter when a 67-yard, 12-play drive stalled out on the Texas 4-yard line and OU had to settle for a 21-yard field goal by Austin Seibert.

The Longhorns showed no letup after the intermission, taking the second-half kickoff and running almost five minutes off the clock on a 62-yard march that resulted in a 27-yard field goal by Nick Rose to stretch the lead back out to 14 points at 17-3.

Oct 10, 2015; Dallas, TX, USA; Oklahoma Sooners head coach Bob Stoops yells at Oklahoma Sooners safety Hatari Byrd (4) during a time out in the game against the Texas Longhorns at the Red River rivalry at Cotton Bowl Stadium. Texas won 24-17. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Oklahoma responded, going 87 yards on its next possession, the big play of the drive being a 50-yard pass to Sterling Shepard that gave the Sooners a 1st-and-goal at the Texas 7-yard line. Two plays later, Mayfield rolled out to his right, avoiding Texas pressure, and found fullback Dimitri Flowers in the end zone for short TD toss.

At that point in the game, , with a little over five minutes left in the third quarter, signs of life and shades of the Tennessee comeback entered the minds of the 45,000-plus screaming OU fans in attendance.

And it was looking even better when the Sooner defense stopped the Longhorns cold on their next possession and forced a punt. Oklahoma took over on its own 31-yard line after the punt exchange and advanced to the Texas 49, but could get no further and was forced to punt the ball back to the Longhorns. As it turned out, that was the Sooners last real opportunity to avoid the upset.

The backbreaker, and the play of the game so far as the Longhorns were concerned, came on the final play of the third quarter, when Texas running back D’Onta Foreman took a handoff on a 2nd-and-12 play from the Longhorn nine, broke through the Sooners’ first line of defense and rambled 81 yards before being bumped out of bounds on the OU 10-yard line by cornerback Zack Sanchez.

Two plays later Swoopes surprised the Sooner defense, which was looking for a running play on 3rd-and-goal from the 2-yard line, and lobbed a short jump-toss over the top of the OU defenders to a wide open Caleb Bluiett in the back of the end zone. That made the score 24-10 and effectively dealt the final blow to the dejected Sooners.

Oklahoma did manage to put up one more score, to narrow the deficit to 24-17 with just under six minutes remaining in the game. The Sooners got one more possession, but ended up losing 25 yards when Mayfield was sacked twice within two downs, and Oklahoma was forced to punt the ball away when the Sooners were faced with a 4th-and-36 situation. OU never got the ball back after that, as Texas picked up a couple of first downs and ran out the clock.

Texas outgained Oklahoma with 368 yards of total offense to the Sooners’ 278 yards, and 211 of those were passing yards. That is over 240 yards less than Oklahoma had been averaging on offense this season.

The OU rushing attack, which is a key to opening up the Sooners’ down field passing game, was virtually nonexistent. Samaje Perine managed just 36 yards on 15 carries and Joe Mixon added 24 yards.

Mayfield spent the entire game running for his life, literally and figuratively. Were it not for his ability to scramble and make plays with his legs, the Sooners probably would not have scored their final touchdown.

The Oklahoma offensive line was run over and pushed around like it was a practice squad unit and, if you ask me, that was the defining difference in the game. The Longhorns won this game in the trenches and with a much better game plan. Hats off to coach Charlie Strong and his UT coaching staff, which included former OU assistant Jay Norvell.

Texas wins the Golden Hat and gets to go back to Austin with a renewed sense of pride and the belief, as well as the proof, that it is not as bad a team as some were led to belief after its four losses this season.

The Sooners, on the other hand, have to go back home and regroup and get ready for another tough road assignment next week at Kansas State.

It’s hard to believe, the way Oklahoma played on Saturday against its Red River archrival, that the Sooners, now 4-1 on the season, are going to have much success when they go up against the likes of much better opponents, like Baylor and TCU, later this season.