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October 13, 2013

Horn-swoggled: Texas stuns heavily-favored Sooners in Red River Rivalry romp

DALLAS — The game lasted nearly three and a half hours Saturday, but there was a 30-second scenario that defined Oklahoma’s afternoon at the Cotton Bowl.

Down 16 with a little less than 6 minutes remaining and facing third-and-goal from the 9-yard line, quarterback Blake Bell threw a slant to Jaz Reynolds that was dropped. OU followed it up with a delay of game penalty and Bell being sacked on fourth down.

“Overall, we just didn’t execute,” Bell said. Most of the 12th-ranked Sooners’ 36-20 loss to Texas played out that way. The Longhorns (4-2, 3-0 Big 12) made the big plays in what will be remembered as one of the more memorable upsets in the 108 Red River Rivalry games. Texas entered wounded by two early season losses and had the embattled coach to go along with a three-game losing streak to the Sooners.

Most were hard-pressed for rationale for how OU — a two-touchdown favorite — could lose this one.  However, the Sooners (5-1, 2-1) found a way. Quarterback Blake Bell threw for just 133 yards to go along with two interceptions in one the least effective passing days OU has had in Dallas in years.  

More puzzling: Bell had just three true rushing attempts on the day. Texas’ season was on the brink because it had struggled to stop the run — especially quarterbacks who could run. Opposing quarterbacks had averaged 104.5 rushing yards in the five games leading up to Saturday.  

OU coach Bob Stoops didn’t really have an answer for that one and offensive coordinator Josh Heupel struggled for one as well.

“That’s just the way Coach Heupel and all of our offensive coaches wanted to go into the football game,” Stoops said. “Again, there were just some things we don’t feel so comfortable with in some areas with Blake.”  

One place Bell looked very uncomfortable was the pocket. He was sacked four times and both his interceptions came with pressure in his face.  “When you’re throwing the ball off your back foot because you have pressure in your face, the ball’s gonna sail on you,” Bell said. “I just have to step into it and take a shot.”  

One way to alleviate the pressure is to run the ball. OU didn’t seem to have of much of an interest in doing it early. After it fell behind in the third quarter, it wasn’t really an option.  

Texas’ playbook was open in ways it hadn’t been in years. Quarterback Case McCoy only threw for 191 yards, but two went for game-changing touchdowns. He hit Marcus Johnson for a 59-yard touchdown to put the Longhorns up 17-3 midway through the second quarter. He followed with a 38-yard touchdown connection with Mike Davis late in the third quarter.  

In between, Texas ran the ball and the Sooners struggled to do anything to stop it. Johnathan Gray finished with 123 yards and Malcolm Brown added 120.  

“They just beat us up front. They got us physically. It starts up front. We’ve got to get a better push. That’s what stops the run game. We couldn’t make them one-dimensional. They kept running it,” OU linebacker Eric Striker said. “That’s the whole thing of a defense, make them one-dimensional and make them throw the ball.”  

Texas’ defense put the Sooners in that situation late in the game. Early at least, OU got away from running the ball on its own.  

Late in the first half, Roy Finch returned a kickoff 73 yards, leaving just another 27 yards to the end zone. OU ran five straight time and finally got in on Damien Williams’ 3-yard touchdown run.  At that point, OU had run 28 offensive plays with only 16 being rushes. Bell didn’t have a single carry.  

“We had some quarterback run game in. They were reading it, they  were squeezing it, so we were giving the ball out on the perimeter,” Heupel said. “We had a couple inside plays, but we didn’t have much success with it.”  

Little OU did Saturday had much success. The defense was a mess, too. Texas rolled up 445 yards and converted 13 of 20 third downs. Even when OU got Texas in a third-and-long situation — especially in the first half  — the Longhorns made the play.  

“They just outplayed us. Their attitude and effort was stronger than our attitude and our effort throughout the course of today,” OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “That’s really what’s going to happen in a game like this. We’ve got to get our edge back and play better.”  

OU might have had a chance to do that in the third quarter, but Texas’ Daje Johnson ripped off an 85-yard punt return, and Davis caught the touchdown pass late in the quarter to a 23-point lead. For the first time since 2009, the OU half of the Cotton Bowl began to empty before the game was over.

There was little left to see except Geneo Grissom’s 54-yard interception return and the final bit of offensive incompetence on the Sooners’ final possession.

“All together, it was a bad, bad game on our part,” center Gabe Ikard said.

Just when you think the Red River Rivalry looks like a sure thing, a game like Saturday’s occurs.

John Shinn writes for the Norman Transcript.

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