UT, STRONG GET DESPERATELY NEEDED WIN VS OU

Just when everyone thought Texas was on the verge of coming apart, the previously 1-4 Longhorns finally put together a complete game - free of any Benny Hill special teams bloopers - and physically pounded No. 10 Oklahoma in a signature win the program, Charlie Strong and every UT fan desperately needed.

The number that blows you away from Texas' 24-17 victory over No. 10 Oklahoma is the Longhorns' 313 yards rushing.

That doesn't happen unless players minds are made up, fed up.

"Everyone just came into this game with an edge," said Texas redshirt freshman QB Jerrod Heard,who finished with 21 carries for 115 yards (5.5 ypc) - none bigger than a 14-yard run on third-and-10 with 2:50 left to allow Texas to run out the clock four plays later by taking a knee at the Oklahoma 3. 

"Honestly, everyone was pissed off after last week's (50-7) loss (at TCU). Inside, everyone was saying and thinking, 'That will never happen again.'"

As soon as a scoreboard reading ... TEXAS 24 ... OKLAHOMA 17 ... hit all zeroes on the clock, Longhorns players took one more look, just to make sure they had indeed finally finished off a win - after three straight weeks of inventing ways to lose - and scattered in all directions to celebrate.

Heard and Johnathan Gray ran over to Texas fans sitting in the front row and started high-fiving all of them as he ran along the Cotton Bowl stadium wall.

"Oh yeah, I loved it," said Gray, who got a cherished win over the Sooners as a senior. "Oklahoma came out talking. I think they thought we were just going to lay down and we didn’t do that. We had pride and we came out and fought. Our guys worked their tails off, and we came out with a win. You gotta celebrate with your fans through the thick and thin." 

Several players ran over to coach Charlie Strong and yelled, "We did this for you, Coach!"

"Doing this for Coach Strong is one of the biggest reasons I'm so happy," said freshman LB Malik Jefferson, who had two sacks vs OU. "He gets too much for what he hasn’t done.

"But what he has done is bring in a recruiting class that is going to play for him every week. Everybody is ready to be on board. We are ready for this thing to be turned around, and I am really proud of everybody who came out and put their hearts on the field."

Heard said if fans will continue to be patient, they'll see more of what they saw on Saturday at the Cotton Bowl.

"When it’s a new program that’s building like this, starting with a new coach and just new players and young guys all over the field, it takes time," Heard said. "But when it clicks together it’s also dangerous, because we have great guys on the team."

Strong put on the Golden Hat Trophy and celebrated with interim athletic director Mike Perrin.

"I think they didn't want me to get fired," Strong joked. "So they stepped up and played well."

Texas fans, growing impatient with embarrassing losses, could finally take a sigh of relief and savor the Longhorns' second win over OU in three years.

"We needed this win," Strong said. "You can tell your players they're a good team, but it doesn't really sink in until they win a game like this."

Strong said last Monday this would be the week his team would restore its confidence and begin to turn things around. No one believed him, because only minutes later, some of his players were going at each other on Twitter.

So, just when everyone wondered if this team was coming apart, after Are-You-Kidding-Me? losses involving a missed extra point against Cal, a dropped punt snap against Oklahoma State and a snap over the punter's head for a safety at TCU, the Longhorns played their most complete game.

And finally finished.

Against a quality opponent. A Top 10 opponent. Against OKLAHOMA. In the greatest rivalry game in college football.

Finally.

And they did it as a team.

"It was really big for us," Jefferson said. "It shows you how good we can be if we just put our minds to it. We were tired of people talking and tired of people doubting us. Now, the challenge is to keep pushing. We know how to win. It's about pushing forward and getting better."

The 2-4 Longhorns now go into a bye week with a bunch of new-found confidence before facing Kansas State at DKR on Oct. 24.

But let's go over the body of work Texas put on display against the Sooners - because it was impressive.

The defense held OU's talented RB tandem of Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon to a combined 16 carries for 60 yards and limited the Sooners to 1.8 ypc as a team. 

And the Are-You-Sitting-Down? stat of the game bears repeating. A lot. The Texas offense - without right tackle Kent Perkins (knee) and speed sweep sensation Daje Johnson (head injury) - ran for 313 yards.

Again, no typo - 313 YARDS.

Both D'Onta Foreman, who electrified the Cotton Bowl with an 81-yard run on a sprint draw - added to the game plan this week - on the last play of the third quarter, joined Heard in rushing for more than 100 yards (117).

"We just wanted to gas them," said Foreman, who has gone over 100 yards rushing in back-to-back games (112 vs TCU). "I told the coaches, 'Let's just keep running at them and running at them.'"

The offensive line was on a mission.

"We were blowing guys up," said Sed Flowers, who Jay Norvell said has been "playing on one leg for the past three weeks."

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said, "Give Texas credit. They ran through some of our tackles and out-leveraged us at different points on defense. When we had the ball, they got pressure to us really all day, whether they were blitzing or not, and we weren't able to run the football very effectively. So all in all, they kicked us, and there's not much else to say about it."

The defense set the tone from the first possession, overcoming a pass interference penalty on John Bonney to get OU off the field after a 17-yard drive. 

And then the Longhorns began applying constant pressure on OU QB Baker Mayfield, who came out of the tunnel pre-game with Horns down and then found himself down ... on the ground ... underneath 6 sacks by Malik Jefferson (2), Poona Ford (1.5), Hassan Ridgeway, Paul Boyette and Naashon Hughes (.5).

"They would just bring a different guy here and there, and early on it got to us," Mayfield said. "Later, we made an adjustment to it, and, at that point, it was a little bit too late." 

It was a clean game by the Texas offense - no turnovers.

And no more Yakety-Sax plays on special teams. None. Nick Rose's 27-yard field goal and extra points went through the uprights. Michael Dickson caught all six punt snaps and booted them - shank-free - for a 41.7-yard average. And Kyle Ashby delivered the snaps to teammates' hands - not over their heads.

Maybe Jay Norvell learned from last week's failed game plan at TCU (coming out passing on six of the Horns' first 8 plays) - that this team has to run the ball and use play-action in the passing game. Give Norvell credit for a great game plan Saturday, including the sprint draw he added (that Foreman took 81 yards), using the two-back set out of the shotgun with a lot of speed sweep motion.

After being fired by Stoops last year as co-offensive coordinator with Josh Heupel, Norvell called Saturday's victory "satisfying."

"I’m happy for Coach Strong," Norvell said. "I really am. I feel so fortunate to work for Charlie. He’s been through a lot this season, and college football needs more guys like Charlie Strong. It really does.

"He’s humble. He cares about his players. He’s for the kids, and that’s really special. I’m happy for the players, and I’m really happy for Coach Strong."

Norvell also added a run fake, pull-up pass to the Swoopes-There-It-Is package used on third-and-goal from the 2 in the fourth quarter. Tyrone Swoopes faked the run, then pulled up and threw a little Tim Tebow-style jump pass for a 2-yard TD to TE Caleb Bluiett for what turned out to be the game-winning points with 13:52 left to play, giving Texas a 24-10 lead.

The complete effort gave Charlie Strong the signature win he'd been lacking.

"I've been coaching a long time, and I know what I can do, and it's all about relationships with players," Strong said. "I know I can coach, so I don't worry about what anyone else says."

Still, Strong said after the game he's been having trouble sleeping and even woke up at 3:30 Saturday morning in Dallas and went for a five-mile run, trying to think of every last thing that would help ensure a win.

"We love Coach Strong," said Texas DE Naashon Hughes. "We love him as a coach and as a mentor. For us to go out there and work hard and show what Coach Strong has been instilling in us since the first day of practice - it feels good."

From the truly bizarre stat barrel: Texas is now 6-2 against OU when the Sooners are ranked and the Longhorns are unranked.

And let me repeat that Texas ran 58 times for 313 yards against Oklahoma on Saturday.

It doesn't get any better than that for the Longhorns.

Total physical domination.

As so many Texas players have said in the past - there is nothing like beating Oklahoma.

"I got kind of emotional," said DT Paul Boyette, who had two tackles for loss, including one of Texas' six sacks. "I teared up a little bit. We put in so much effort, so much blood, sweat and tears into this game. And it's Oklahoma, so it feels amazing coming out with the Golden Hat."

Coaches are long longer hoisted onto players shoulders and carried around. Charlie Strong was body surfed by his players out of the Cotton Bowl.

Strong's players took him body surfing after a win over a ranked West Virginia team in Austin last year. But that didn't feel like a signature surf. This time, it did.

"It was just fun - exciting," Strong said. "A really exciting win for us."


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