OU fights off Texas in final minutes
Knocked flat on his back, Landry Jones took a swipe at the ball he’d just fumbled and did his best to keep it — and the Red River Rivalry — from getting away.
Linebacker Jared Norton came rushing in with a chance to put No. 21 Texas in prime position for a tying touchdown, only to see the ball roll out of bounds. In control from the beginning, No. 8 Oklahoma was just happy to survive with a 28-20 win over its main rival Saturday.
”It was pretty lucky on our part to get that ball out of bounds and not have a big turnover right there,” said Jones, who threw for 236 yards and two touchdowns.
In a game in which they benefited from one untimely Texas mistake after another, the Sooners (5-0, 1-0 Big 12) caught another break two plays later when Aaron Williams muffed a punt that would have given the Longhorns (3-2, 1-1) one last chance for a tying drive in the final 62 seconds.
It was the second straight week Oklahoma nearly let a two-touchdown lead slip away but benefited from a dropped punt in the fourth quarter. Cincinnati’s D.J. Woods was the culprit in the Sooners’ 31-29 win last week.
”There’s so many times in this game where we had opportunities to win,” Texas coach Mack Brown said, ”and we didn’t take advantage of the opportunities we had.”
When it was all over, Oklahoma defensive captain Travis Lewis trotted around the south end zone of the Cotton Bowl with the Golden Hat Trophy tilted atop his head, getting the crimson-clad fans left from the record-tying crowd of 96,009 riled up. The Sooners had lost to Texas the past two years, and four of the last five.
”This has been a long time coming, and I’ve been on the losing end of this for two years,” Lewis said. ”So there’s a lot of built-up frustration coming out running around the field. I’m going to enjoy every minute of this.”
The Longhorns dropped back-to-back games for the first time since 2007, following a surprising 34-12 loss at home to UCLA last week, and are in danger of falling out of the AP Top 25 for the first time in 10 years. Their 162 consecutive weeks in the rankings are the longest active streak in the country. Ohio State is a distant second at 89 in a row.
Garrett Gilbert completed 27 of 41 passes for 265 yards with no touchdowns, and he didn’t get much help in his rivalry debut as Texas’ starting quarterback. Before the late chances were squandered, the Longhorns’ defense spent the early part of the game giving Oklahoma more opportunities.
Three of Oklahoma’s four scoring drives were extended by Texas penalties on third down, and the Longhorns also had a fumble recovery in the red zone erased after a flag. When James Winchester recovered Williams’ muffed punt, it was a fitting finish to the Horns’ comedy of errors.
”Aaron was obviously devastated, and I told him that I made mistakes throughout the day and our entire football team did or we wouldn’t be behind by eight. … He did not lose the game,” Brown said.
”We could have gotten the fumble. We could not have been offsides when we got the other fumble. We could have scored instead of field goals. There’s countless things that we could have done. It’s not one kid’s fault when you lose.”
Everyone certainly chipped in for the Longhorns. Following John Gold’s shanked punt, Chykie Brown was flagged for pass interference on third down to keep alive a 48-yard Oklahoma drive that culminated with James Hanna’s 2-yard TD catch from Jones that made it 21-7.
By then, Oklahoma had three touchdowns and Texas had two first downs.
Eddie Jones celebrated after coming up with Landry Jones’ first fumble inside the 20, only to find out he’d been called for lining up offside on the play. After an incomplete pass on third-and-29, Jackson Jeffcoat drew a personal foul for shoving an Oklahoma player down.
Two plays later, DeMarco Murray tiptoed along the sideline for five steps before somersaulting into the end zone for a 20-yard touchdown to make it 28-10. It was the second score on a hurry-up play for Murray, who had a 19-yard TD in the first quarter when Texas didn’t get lined up in time and finished with 115 yards on 25 carries.
”That’s the game of football,” Eddie Jones said. ”Penalties are going to happen. You can’t stop them. Whatever the referees want to call, they’re going to call. You just have to line up as players and play.”
Even after all the mistakes, Texas still had a chance against an Oklahoma team that had been outscored 41-10 in the fourth quarter. Cody Johnson caught a 34-yard pass and then scored on a 5-yard run to make it 28-17, and Gilbert threw a 44-yard pass to Malcolm Williams before Texas settled for Ryan Tucker’s short field goal for the second time after earning a first-and-goal in the second half.
Oklahoma ended up with its fourth win this season by eight points or less.
”I can’t see 5-0 as a bad thing,” Lewis said. ”I’ll take a win by three, by one or by 20. It doesn’t matter. That’s the great thing about this year. We are winning those games.”