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Sooners burst back on national title scene

Oklahoma dominates Texas again to re-emerge on the national title scene.

DALLAS — The records fell and the Texas fans clogged the isles and the exit ramps. 


And that was in the first half.

Drama at the Cotton Bowl? Hardly. For Texas, Saturday was good right up until kickoff. For the Sooners, it was great 'till the final gun.

Want excitement in Dallas between Texas and Oklahoma? You're probably better off listening to a time-share seminar. The last two seasons these two have met have been as one-sided — and interesting — as a Facebook political rant.

For now, all you need to know is this: Through three quarters, Texas had run all of three plays on OU's side of the field, and all three resulted in a turnover.

The 95-yard run by Damien Williams, the 73-yard touchdown pass to fullback Trey Millard, 677 yards of offense, the two Texas first downs in the first half. All are crushing and telling statistics that are cases in this point:

OU re-established itself as a Big 12 contender with last week's rout of Texas Tech but used Saturday's 63-21 embarrassment of Texas to re-emerge on the national title scene, too.
 
The Sooners improved to 4-1 (2-1 in the Big 12). Texas fell to 3-2 and 1-2.

"Absolutely dominated the game," said offensive lineman Gabe Ikard. "I'd say with the rankings, we'll see how it shakes out. If you lose, you're probably out of the picture. We'll be in the mix. That stuff will take care of itself."

While OU players and coaches will cling to the "one game at a time" approach to answering questions, winning the past two weeks affords them the right to say it. A loss Saturday against Texas and the Sooners couldn't even lean on that kind of cliche. Now they can.
 
Alabama, Oregon, South Carolina and beyond all have games against other top-10 teams. A one-loss Sooner team, which will certainly climb close to the top 10 this week, is involved again. A two-loss situation essentially eliminates anyone from this conference title as well as the national title picture.

And after the first three games of the year, it was hard to think OU would be playing meaningful games late in October. The Sooners struggled in their first trimester, even losing at home to Kansas State. 

Since then, it's hard to imagine Oklahoma could play better. The Sooners undid a previously unbeaten and untested Texas Tech team in Lubbock, winning 41-20. And then the Sooners made Texas look fraudulent on defense and worse on offense – all in the same game.

Armageddon is always a play away each week in college football, where teams go from trashy to title-worthy in the matter of a SportsCenter highlight. Now, after a pair of quality wins, the Sooners certainly will be back among the elite. And why not? They started the week ranked No. 13, but no one's hotter.

"This was only our fifth game," coach Bob Stoops said. "Everyone wants to summarize what you are or not in the third game. We have a long season to play. Who knows what we'll do. We'll see. We're 4-1. We beat Texas and Texas Tech. that's it. We have a long road travel."

While it's probably a bit early to start making travel plans to South Beach for the national title game, ask yourself, who in the last two weeks has played better on both offense and defense than the Sooners? And they've done it against ranked teams and can also take some joy in absolutely crushing Texas for a second year in a row.

"Right now we're taking it one at a time," said Demontre Hurst. "Go out and play our hardest. At the end of the year, hopefully we can be in that title run. We know the situation we're in. With two losses, you can't see yourselves as Big 12 champion. It was great to get these two wins."

Inside the Big 12, West Virginia has its impressive offense, but defensively they have questions. Kansas State has its defense, but a limited offense. Texas has a pair of losses, defending Big 12 champ Oklahoma State has been non-existent defensively and still has to play at Oklahoma, vs. Kansas State and against West Virginia.

Saturday, quarterback Landry Jones threw for 321 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Specialty quarterback Blake Bell ran for four, first half touchdowns and oft-talked about, yet seldom-used fullback Trey Millard, a Swiss Army knife of a player, had 45 yards rushing and 119 yards receiving. Williams had 167 yards rushing, and Kenny Stills passed 2,000 yards receiving for his career. Even Jalen Saunders, who played for the first time this season after being cleared by the NCAA, had a pair of catches.

On defense, only the second team struggled for Oklahoma. Texas scored no touchdowns when it mattered and turned it over three times. Quarterback David Ash was miserable. He was 13-for-29 passing and threw a pair of interceptions. It took more than a quarter for Texas to get a first down. By the end of three quarters, OU had four individuals who had more total yards than Texas had as a team. 

"We didn't play well as a team," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "It's just unacceptable for Texas to lose like that to Oklahoma. It is what it is. I don't know how to define it. This was the best defense we played. I'm very disappointed."

Any statistics Texas folks want to console themselves with came after everyone was paying attention. The Longhorns scored 13 points and gained 174 yards in the fourth quarter and that might be the most important step going forward for the Sooners

The Big 12 is loaded with offense, but defense is at a premium. Hard to find in abundance, yet the Sooners might have figured something out. In the past two weeks, they have given up 41 points total, yet 20 of those points have come in the fourth quarter when both games were decided. In the two wins, OU has forced six turnovers while coming up with just one in the first three games.

"Oklahoma may be as good as anyone in the league," Brown said.

The next thing we'll find out is if OU's as good as anyone in the country.

"We're building," Stoops said. "I hope it will continue. I think it will."