DALLAS — In a rivalry well-known not just for its mutual dislike, but also for its national relevance, 2012 represented a rare outlier. Both Oklahoma and Texas entered Saturday’s contest with a loss for just the third time since 2000, and both teams trotted through the Cotton Bowl tunnel with their fair share of questions.
But only one team found answers — at least positive ones — in Oklahoma’s 63-21 romp at the State Fair of Texas. The Sooners found their mojo, finally looking like the team that some considered a top-five squad before the season. But perhaps more surprisingly, the Sooners’ awakening occurred against a less-than-able dance partner in the Longhorns.
By the time Texas rubbed the sleep out of its eyes from the 11 a.m. kickoff, the ‘Horns trailed 36-2 at halftime, the victim of mistakes, missed tackling and an Oklahoma team that, for the second consecutive year, simply outclassed, outran, out-hit, out-coached and outworked the Longhorns.
“I don’t think we came out with the same intensity and swagger as those guys,” said Texas cornerback Quandre Diggs. “You’ve just got to learn. We should know now. The last two years they came out and just beat us really bad.”
Longhorns coach Mack Brown has been a fan of stating that Texas can beat anybody or lose to anybody on a given day, depending on how his Longhorns show up. And if the Longhorns’ last two results are any indication, it’s not coach-speak. Texas was a play away from beating top-five West Virginia last week, then fielded a team this week that never looked competitive despite everything it had to play for.
Longhorns players talked this week about how this year was different from last year’s squad that was thumped, 55-17, in this same game, while also mentioning that they had to win to keep themselves in the Big 12 title hunt. Reasons to be fired up Saturday: huge rivalry game? Check. Season on the line? Check. Revenge? Check.
Yet the Texas came out flatter than fried beer, while Oklahoma again displayed that special nastiness that the Sooners reserve for their Red River foes.
“Most of our guys are from Texas,” said Oklahoma offensive lineman Gabe Ikard. “Some of them didn’t even get recruited by Texas and have a chip on their shoulder about the whole situation. It’s just one of those games that you get excited for.
“They fought hard, but we just had more energy and executed really well,” Ikard said.
That was especially apparent in the first half, when, to quote safety Kenny Vaccaro, Oklahoma “ran the ball down our throats.” The Sooners led 6-2 after scoring a touchdown and having a blocked extra point returned when Longhorns punter Alex King pinned them down at the 5. But Oklahoma’s Damien Williams broke the game open with a 95-yard touchdown, fully running into the clear after an outstanding all-out-effort block from wide receiver Kenny Stills. Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz called it the turning point of the half and potentially the game.
“If you can’t stop the run, you open up the whole playbook for the offense,” Vaccaro said. “It’s disappointing, but it is what it is.”
Another Sooners highlight, and Longhorns lowlight came in the second quarter, when Oklahoma fullback Trey Millard simultaneously hurdled safety Mykkele Thompson and stiff-armed safety Adrian Phillips to the ground on a 73-yard catch-and-run that set Oklahoma up 27-2.
“When you miss tackles, big plays happen, plain and simple,” Diggs said.
By halftime, the Sooners already had 407 yards of total offense, while Texas was held to 65 yards. Brown said afterward that the defense tired, while he said the offense “wasn’t on the field enough to quit.”
The Longhorns made the first play of the second half, with cornerback Carrington Byndom picking off Landry Jones and returning it 28 yards for a touchdown. But, in a microcosm of the Longhorns’ struggles, kicker Anthony Fera missed the extra point off the upright. Texas didn’t score its first offensive points until after the Sooners led 56-8 in the fourth quarter, when backup quarterback Case McCoy — starter David Ash left the game with a wrist injury — connected with Mike Davis for a 44-yard score. McCoy led the Longhorns to one more scoring drive at the end of the game, hitting John Harris for a 19-yard touchdown with no time remaining.
“We started slow, but no excuses,” Diggs said. “Those guys came ready to play. They were the better team today, and it just wasn’t our day.”
And so, on a day when the Sooners found their answers, the Longhorns are left with one elephant-sized question left: What’s next? The Longhorns have had gaping holes on defense the last several weeks — allowing an average of 571 yards and 49 points over their last three games — and the situation isn’t going to get any better with an explosive Baylor offense coming to Austin in a week.
Meanwhile, the offense struggled to get anything going for the first time this season, finishing with 289 yards.
“We played under our standards,” said Texas running back Johnathan Gray, after playing in his first Red River contest. “We didn’t play Texas football. We didn’t play like we wanted to play. We’ve got to go back to the drawing board.”
“It’s just unacceptable for Texas to lose like that to Oklahoma, much less anybody, especially two years in a row,” Brown said. “I’m disappointed for our coaches, fans and players. That’s not who we are.”