DALLAS — Oklahoma turned the 99th edition of the Red River Shootout into a bit of a history lesson on Saturday, rewriting a few verses and establishing a couple of new ones in the latest chapter of college football's grandest rivalry.
Of course, none were more important than the final score, which fell in the second-ranked Sooners' favor for the fifth straight time. The 12-0 victory was OU's first shutout of Texas since 1972 and marked the first time the Longhorns' failed to score in 281 games, dating back to Nov. 22, 1980.
The largest crowd (79,587) in the series' illustrious history watched as Oklahoma's defense dominated one side of the ball, while freshman running back Adrian Peterson continued to show flashes of brilliance on the other. In fact, Peterson ran for 225 yards to become the first OU player to top the 100-yard mark in his first five games.
The Sooner defense forced three crucial turnovers and held Texas to 240 total yards, while limiting the Horns' 1-2 punch of Cedric Benson and Vince Young well below their season averages in yards.
"Coming in, I thought people didn't recognize or give our guys enough credit," said OU coach Bob Stoops, whose team improved to 5-0 overall and 2-0 in Big 12 action. "I felt all along that we were on the verge of really playing well defensively. Our defensive coaches did a great job."
Let's take a look at just how great as we sift through the grades the Sooners earned inside our weekly report card:
RUNNING GAME — (A+)
Look familiar? For the third straight game, Oklahoma's running game proved to be the dominating force thanks to another sensational performance from freshman Adrian Peterson.
The elusive phenom from Palestine, Texas, gave the rain-splattered Cotton Bowl crowd a glimpse of what was to come when he ripped off a 44-yard run on his first carry of the day. And that was only the beginning. Peterson had rolled up 126 yards by the intermission and finished with a whopping 225 yards, bringing back memories of past greats like Billy Sims, Mike Gaddis and De'Mond Parker.
In the end, Peterson's legs were the difference.
"I was looking forward to the game. Getting to come to Texas and play against Texas — it was a really great experience. I just went out there and ran the ball hard," said Peterson in the understatement of the day.
While OU failed to take advantage of Peterson's big effort at times, the Sooners did manage to ride him just enough, as they battled poor field position much of the day.
What may have been the key drive of the day opened with 15-yard Peterson. One carry later, he broke off 27-yard run to help position his team for the go-ahead field goal — a 22-yard boot by Trey DiCarlo — with nine seconds left in the opening half.
Peterson also carried six times for 31 yards in OU's second scoring drive in the third quarter. DiCarlo's second field goal put the Sooners on top 6-0 after three. Later, he six times to help position OU for its lone touchdown of the game, via a 6-yard run by Kejuan Jones.
"I liked the attitude that we ran the football with. The offensive line really blocked well," said Stoops afterward. "Adrian had a great day running the ball. We expected to be able to run the football and it wasn't just Adrian. I think our offensive line and the way they played are all a part of running the ball.
"We're improving with it. Adrian again came up with some great big plays and broke some tackles. Kejuan came in and complemented Adrian well and made a difference."
The Sooners ran for 319 yards and averaged 5.8 yards per attempt, including 7.0 yards each time Peterson got a touch.
"The last two weeks, the run game has really come together. You can feel the whole unit coming together," said offensive coordinator Chuck Long. "And of course it's great to have a weapon like Adrian back there."
PASSING GAME — (C)
It was a mostly forgettable day for Jason White and the OU passing attack. While the defending Heisman Trophy winner did manage to throw for 113 yards, he was picked off twice, both times killing drives in Texas territory.
The Longhorn secondary turned in a solid effort while limiting Mark Clayton to three catches for 19 yards. Derrick Johnson and Michael Huff were seemingly all over the field for Texas, giving White fits.
Although Bob Stoops credited White with managing the team well, he simply never found a rhythm throwing the ball. The sixth-year senior made some questionable decisions that were topped by an ill-advised throw to Clayton on a failed two-point conversion attempt.
"(We) put in a great game plan for us this week and we executed it today, especially the run game," said White. "The passing game wasn't there and we turned to the run. My hat goes off to the offensive line, I thought they did a great job. Adrian and Kejuan both ran hard."
SPECIAL TEAMS — (B)
DiCarlo was strong on his kickoffs all day and he was a perfect 2-for-2 on field goals, which capped a pair of OU scoring drives.
Punter Blake Ferguson had a couple of nice kicks, but he continued to struggle with his distance on occasion — kicking too deep when a pooch kick is needed and not deep enough when a boomer would work best. He did, however, pin Texas inside its 10 late in the game, helping thwart any last-minute comeback hopes.
The coverage teams did their jobs, while the return teams didn't get a whole lot of work. Antonio Perkins had three punt returns for 19 yards, before he suffered a knee injury late.
Mark Bradley made a mistake by hesitating momentarily in the end zone before deciding to return the game's opening kickoff. He was tackled at the OU 16 and thus began a trend that saw the Sooners struggle with field position much of the opening half.
RUN DEFENSE — (A)
Lynn McGruder was an animal in the trenches. Jonathan Jackson and Carl
Pendleton were relentless. OU's linebacking crew of Lance Mitchell, Rufus Alexander, Clint Ingram and Gayron Allen was magnificent.
Texas was, at best, befuddled.
Mack Brown's Longhorns entered the game with the nation's leading rusher — Cedric Benson — averaging over 186 yards per game. Add him to the mix that includes quarterback Vincent Young, and Texas figured to own one of the most explosive attacks in the land.
On Saturday, it was more like a fizzle.
The Sooners took control up front and never really allowed Young to find a comfort zone either running or throwing the ball. Benson carried the ball 23 times for a season-low 92 yards, Young completed just 8 of 23 passes for 86 yards. OU found a way to limit his improvisational skills, as he ran 16 times for only 54 yards.
Sparse figures by Texas standards.
Numbers that added to the Horns' woes included Young getting sacked three times and his coughing up two critical fumbles. Benson also lost a fumble.
"Fundamentals, tackling, being in your gaps, covering, blitzing, being in the right spots — today it was working on all cylinders," said Brent Venables, OU's co-defensive coordinator. "Collectively, we hadn't been as consistent as we need to be and today was a starting point. Hopefully we can build on this."
The shutout was just a little icing on the celebration cake.
"We never really thought about getting a shutout. We were focused on stopping the run, penetrating and disrupting their game plan, said McGruder, who finished with a pair of tackles for losses. "Getting the shutout is a bonus."
Alexander had a career-high 10 tackles and he forced a fumble that Ingram covered at the OU 14. Ingram turned in the best game of his career, as he fell on a pair of fumbles and forced a third.
"The turnovers were big — they were huge," said Alexander. "If you can force mistakes like that, it just kills a team."
PASS DEFENSE — (A)
"We showed a little more pressure than we have in the past. It still gets down to taking on blocks, tackling, recognizing the plays and being where you should be. I thought the guys did a great job inside tackling and being where they should be," said Stoops, looking back at his defense's effort.
When Benson and/or Young wasn't looking for daylight on the ground, Young was letting it fly via the sky, or at least trying to. It wasn't that the airways were that crowded, Young just didn't have much time or space to throw.
"There were a lot of chances to win the ball game," said Brown, whose team fell to 4-1 and has not beaten OU since 1999. "(OU) has a lot of great players and they're well coached. I thought that these were two heavyweight teams that fought for three hours and 15 minutes.
"In the end, Oklahoma just made more plays than we did. That was the difference."
Defensive end Dan Cody may have recorded just one QB sack all day, but he was in Young's back pocket almost the entire game. The Sooners' plan of attack kept the Horns' offense off-balance and resulted in another key win.
"We looked at this as an opportunity to step up and prove to ourselves and our ability to make plays, said Cody. "Our performance was good for us for a couple of reasons: Of course, winning the game, and two, giving more confidence to our defense."
Donté Nicholson and Brodney Pool, along with Jo-Kay Onyenegecha, also helped the Sooners keep the UT passing attack in check.
"Our corners played well. Really, the whole secondary did. They just responded and made plays," said Bo Pelini, the other half of OU's defensive braintrust. "It was a team effort. We felt sound in everything we did, and our players handed it well."
Next up: A trip to K-State, which was a surprise loser vs. Kansas.
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