Oklahoma football: Sooner defense delivers a Big 12 championship

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - DECEMBER 01: The Oklahoma Sooners celebrate a 39-27 Big 12 Championship win against the Texas Longhorns at AT&T Stadium on December 01, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TEXAS - DECEMBER 01: The Oklahoma Sooners celebrate a 39-27 Big 12 Championship win against the Texas Longhorns at AT&T Stadium on December 01, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

In a season when the Oklahoma football offense has ruled the universe, it was the defense that rose up and ensured a Big 12 championship for the No. 5 Sooners with a 39-27 win over archrival Texas.

There was no Golden Hat awarded in this Red River game, but the Sooners got something much more valuable, a Big 12 championship trophy and a record fourth consecutive conference crown.

The 14th-ranked Longhorns scored first, going 75 yards on nine plays after receiving the opening kickoff, capped by a 16-yard touchdown run by Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger. The Sooners were held to two field goals on their first two possessions and trailed 7-6 just 10 seconds into the second quarter.

Kyler Murray and Oklahoma’s heralded offense finally got going in the second quarter. The Sooners stopped Texas on back-to-back possessions, and Murray made the Longhorns pay with a couple of touchdown passes that gave OU a 20-14 advantage heading to halftime.

Oklahoma received the second-half kickoff and Murray orchestrated an eight-play, 75-yard scoring drive, with Trey Sermon running it in from six yards out to extend the Sooners’ advantage to 27-14.

The Longhorns responded with an seven-play, 75-yard touchdown drive of their own to draw back within six points, at 27-21.

The Sooners were forced to punt on their next possession, and Ehlinger jumped on the opportunity, leading the Horns 68 yards and a tying touchdown with a five-yard scoring toss to 6-foot, 6-inch wide receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey. The extra-point try by Texas kicker Cameron Dickey, however, was partially tipped at the line of scrimmage and bounded off the crossbar and back toward the line of scrimmage, resulting in a missed extra point, preventing the Longhorns from taking the lead.

OU produced a 68-yard drive on its ensuing possession, but the drive stalled at the Texas 1-yard line, forcing the Sooners to settle for a 31-yard field goal by Austin Seibert to regain the lead at 30-27.

That is the point in the game, with 12:38 remaining in the game, when things took a sudden, decisive turn. Murray completed a 56-yard pass to CeeDee Lamb, but Texas linebacker Gary Johnson forced Lamb to cough up the ball, trying for additional yards, at the Longhorn eight, thus squandering a golden scoring opportunity that would have put the Sooners ahead by 10.

Two plays later, however, OU cornerback Tre Brown came crashing off the left side and sacked Ehlinger in the end zone for a safety. That put the Sooners up by five, 32-27, and on the receiving end of a free kick by Texas.

Murray completed successive drive-saving, third-down passing plays for first downs, and with exactly two minutes remaining in the game Murray connected with tight end Grant Calcaterra, who made an amazing one-handed catch in the corner of the end zone, and just like that it was a 12-point game, with the Sooners leading 39-27.

That’s the way the game ended, as Tre Norwood intercepted an Ehlinger pass at the goal line with 51 clicks left in the game, giving the ball to OU on the turnover. Murray took a couple of knees ending the game.

The win avenged the Sooners’ earlier loss to Texas this season and put them into a holding pattern to see if the victory is good enough to earn they a spot in the College Football Playoff and a probable national semifinal game back in the Cotton Bowl Classic iat AT&T Stadium.

Murray led Oklahoma, completing 25 of 34 passes for 379 yards and three touchdowns, none more critical than the 18-yard strike to Calterra with time running down in the game.

Lamb was Murray’s favorite target on the day, hauling in eight catches for 167 yards and a touchdown. Marquise “Hollywood” Brown had five receptions for 54 yards before leaving the game with an apparent foot injury at the end of the third quarter. Brown was later seen in street clothes and on crutches in the final quarter.

Ehlinger had a terrific game, as well, despite playing with a sore throwing shoulder. The Texas sophomore quarterback completed 23 of 36 passes for 349 yards and a touchdown. In the first game this season between the Sooners and Longhorns, the Longhorns’ tall wide receivers had a field down playing pitch and catch with Ehlinger. Collin Johnson was the big-play artist for the Horns in the Big 12 Championship, snaring a game-high eight catches for 177 yards and a touchdown.

Texas was plagued by penalties, several of which sustained Sooner scoring drives on important second- and third-down plays.

For a good part of the game, the Texas offense had outgained the explosive Sooners, but OU finished with over 500 yards of total offense for the ninth straight game. The Texas offense ended with 437 yards (349 through the air).

Although the Oklahoma defense gave up a lot of yards in this game, as it has all season, the OU defenders got several big stops, the biggest of which was the sack of Ehlinger for a safety midway through the final quarter.