But perhaps the best example that the Longhorns are missing the little bit needed to be an elite team came on Saturday, when the Oklahoma Sooners exploited that small gap to claim a 28-20 victory at the Cotton Bowl.
The Longhorns were ready to set up Garrett Gilbert's final chance. Just two plays earlier, Texas narrowly missed a game-changing fumble when Emmanuel Acho stripped Landry Jones at the OU 9. The ball sat there, hovered for seemingly minutes as Jones crawled toward it, stretching. Texas linebacker Jared Norton swooped in and dove. He recovered the fumble … about three inches and harmlessly out of bounds.
"When you have a close game like this, it comes down to inches," a red-eyed Mack Brown said afterward. "And we just didn't get the inches."
Texas still earned the stop, and now had 1:08, along with a timeout, to charge toward the tying touchdown. The offense never reached the field. Aaron Williams tried to gather the punt at the UT 41, but he fumbled it, allowing Oklahoma long-snapper James Winchester to fall on the loose ball.
"(Williams) was devastated," Brown said. "But one player didn't lose the game."
The Sooners ran out the remainder of the clock in the victory formation.
"We made plays," said receiver James Kirkendoll. "We just didn't make enough of them."
The win puts Oklahoma (5-0, 1-0) in the driver's seat for the Big 12 South crown, while Texas (3-2, 1-1) heads back to the drawing board with two weeks until their next game, a matchup with likely North leader Nebraska.
Here's how they got there.
Texas earned a stop on the first drive, only to see Oklahoma given life by a defensive holding call on a third-down play. The Sooners grabbed the first down, then drove down to score on an 18-yard DeMarco Murray run.
The Sooners scored on their second drive without any help. Oklahoma's interior line of Gabe Ikard, Ben Habern and Brian Lepak mauled the Longhorns as the Sooners pounded the ball down the field, averaging better than six yards per carry. This touchdown came courtesy of a 16-yard touchdown snag by Kenny Stills.
D.J. Monroe had Texas's response. The little sophomore shot like a bullet through a perfectly blocked toss sweep, accelerating past the Sooner secondary for a 60-yard touchdown run.
The Sooners seemingly went ahead 21-7 on a brilliant 31-yard catch-and-stretch by Broyles, but an illegal shift nullified the play. It didn't matter. The Sooners continued their offensive play by stretching out the drive, ending with a two-yard pass from Landry Jones to tight end James Hanna on third down. The Sooners took the two-touchdown advantage into the halftime break.
Texas cut into that lead on the Longhorns' first drive of the second half. Facing a fourth and three at the UT 45, Ryan Roberson ran a fake punt three yards for the first down. On the next play, Texas quarterback Garrett Gilbert hit James Kirkendoll for a 44-yard gain to the OU 8. Texas couldn't get it into the end zone, however, and settled for a field goal.
For the second time in the game, a Longhorn penalty allowed the Sooners to grab points. Jackson Jeffcoat committed a personal foul after the Longhorns forced an incomplete pass on a third-and-20. The automatic first down allowed DeMarco Murray to tip-toe into the end zone three plays later.
But Texas wasn't finished. The Longhorns drove 75 yards in nine plays, making the game 28-17 with just under 10 minutes left in the game. The Longhorns added a field goal with 1:39 left, setting up the game's final sequence.
All of the players and coaches made available to the media talked about how proud they were, and how much fight the team showed through adversity. But that fight wasn't enough for the Longhorns to overcome a collage of missed inches and mental mistakes.
"We obviously made too many mistakes and too many penalties."
Oklahoma -- DeMarco Murray 18 run (Jimmy Stevens kick), 10:51 1Q
OU -- Kenny Stills 16 pass from Landry Jones (Stevens kick), 5:29 1Q
Texas -- D.J. Monroe 60 run (Justin Tucker kick), 3:46 1Q
OU -- James Hanna 2 pass from Jones (Stevens kick), 7:19 2Q
UT -- Justin Tucker 22 FG, 9:35 3Q
OU -- Murray 20 run (Stevens kick), 12:54 4Q
UT -- Johnson 5 run (Tucker kick), 9:52 4Q
UT -- Tucker 21 FG, 1:39 4Q
* Penalties thrice allowed the Sooners to convert third down plays that they missed the first time around. Kheeston Randall was flagged for holding on a play in the first quarter. The Sooners went on to get a touchdown on the drive.
A foul in the third quarter hurt even more. Trailing 21-10, defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat blind-sided quarterback Landry Jones, forcing a fumble that the Longhorns recovered on the OU 19. But Eddie Jones lined up offsides on the play, nullifying the turnover. Oklahoma rushed for a first down on the next play. The Sooners eventually punted, but Texas lost 48 yards in field position, along with a likely scoring opportunity.
Jeffcoat earned his own penalty in the fourth quarter after Texas stopped the Sooners on a third-and-20. He was slapped with a personal foul following the play, giving Oklahoma an automatic first down and new life. The Sooners scored the game-clinching touchdown on a DeMarco Murray touchdown run.
* The Sooners' up-tempo approach allowed Oklahoma to keep the ball for nearly two-thirds of the first half. But more importantly, that advantage led to the Sooners running 57 first-half plays to Texas's 27. Most of that advantage came in the first quarter, with Oklahoma getting off 34 plays, while Texas had just eight.
* The Texas run defense tightened up after a rough start. The Sooners rushed for 79 yards on 17 carries in the first quarter (4.6 yards per carry), but were held to 30 yards on their next 17 rushes (1.8). Overall, after that first quarter, Oklahoma averaged 1.3 yards per carry. When removing sacks and team rushes, Oklahoma rushed for 174 yards on 45 carries, or 3.9 yards per carry for the game.