Yes, the Horns lost to one of the top teams in the country, played 'em almost even, but that and a quarter'll get you a phone call. You may want hop on the phone and cancel those early December reservations for Dallas and the league title game. And that trip to Pasadena and the Rose Bowl in January? Well, who really wants to get on an airplane nowadays anyway? Plus, I hear southern California is just miserable that time of the year.
But wait, Texas may end up back in SoCal, about a 100 miles south in San Diego. The Holiday Bowl gets the No. 3 Big 12 team, and right now, that's about where the Horns currently reside in the league pecking order.
But fear not, Mack Brown, in his post-game comments, talked of progress, and really, who can argue the point? The Horns cut the Sooners' margin of victory from a whoppin' 49 points to a manageable 11 this year. Progress indeed.
Pardon the above sarcasm, but that type of progress I can live without. While the Sooners charge on headlong towards another national championship, Texas is again relegated to also-ran status vis a vis OU. As another writer who covers the Horns told me post-game, in auto racing vernacular, Bob Stoops' program took the lead over Mack Brown's program last year, and this year, with the OU head man at the wheel, the Sooners have now lapped the Brown-led Horns.
To stick with that theme, the Texas offense drove in circles today, missing opportunity after opportunity. Chris Simms, after playing his best game as a Longhorn last week against Texas Tech, had one of his worst against Oklahoma. Four picks. Multiple underthrows. Missed receivers. Etc. OU's QB -- check that, Oklahoma's back-up QB Jason White played circles around Simms, completing 16 of 23 passes for 108 yards (with no INTs) and ran for 38 more. His option work led to the Sooners' only offensive TD and his scrambling in the fourth quarter moved OU down the field on what turned out to be the deciding drive. The Sooners didn't score, but the drive ate up six-and-a-half minutes of the clock and, after a quick punt, resulted in the Horns taking over with just over two minutes left in the game at the three yard line, trailing 7-3. On UT's first offensive snap, the red-clad Roy Williams leaped over the UT line and hit Simms just as he threw for the orange-suited Roy Williams, the ball floating into the hands of Sooner MLB Teddy Lehman who strolled two yards into the end zone for the clincher.
The vaunted Simms-led offense gained just 225 yards on the Sooner D all day. As bad as Simms played, the Horns running game was worse, virtually nonexistent (53 yards on 20 carries) despite four weeks of warm-ups, games where the coaches forced the run to avoid just this type of fatal, one-dimensional scenario.
As it so often does, the first half set the tone.
Despite out-just-about-everything-ing OU before the break, the Horns headed to the Cotton Bowl locker room at the half trailing the Sooners 7-3. Texas won the first half yardage battle 155-83, held the ball for 19:51 to Oklahoma's 10:09, and generally out-played the guys in red. The Horns, though, couldn't execute when it counted the most -- in the red zone -- managing just three points on two trips inside the OU 20. Texas ran eight plays inside the 20 on those two possessions, with seven of them going for no yardage. Credit the Sooners with some solid defense but the Horns also simply failed to execute.
After the break, Texas didn't even remotely scare the end zone, its deepest penetration going to the OU 34 where Simms underthrew Sloan Thomas at the goalline. CB Antonio Perkins out-fought Thomas for the jump ball and came down with the INT.
Aside from the second quarter TD drive when White took over for the injured Nate Hybl, the Texas defense stymied OU. The Sooners, averaging 388 yards and 40 points per game, gained just 206 yards. Carl Reese said post-game that his defenders played hard and smart, "but they didn't match the opposing defense." Talking about White's option and scrambling performance, the defensive coordinator said, "Those are plays we needed to make, we didn't make them and that made the difference in the ballgame."
"I'm proud of the way the kids played," Reese added, "but our job is to create turnovers and we didn't do that." That the Horns were even in the game till the end, though, given the offense's four TOs, is a credit to Reese's unit.
Frankly, the outcome of the game didn't surprise me (although the score did), as those of you who read my pick know. The loss simply reinforces what I wrote in the final line of that pick: ". . . my instinct tells me that overall -- the combination of talent, coaching, motivation and attitude -- OU is still a better football team than UT."
The truly scary part of that now indisputable truth is that Oklahoma loses only three starters on each side of the ball next season. The Sooners are only going to get better. The rumor that Brown has petitioned the league office to drop the Sooners from the Longhorn schedule, though, is well founded but untrue.
Seriously, it may be unfair to judge Brown by the Stoops' standard, but sometimes, life ain't fair. Despite all the great things Brown has done in his three-plus years on the Forty Acres, the OU head coach's shadow stretches from Norman to Austin, and it's enveloped Brown. Rightfully so. The job Stoops has done is nothing short of phenomenal while the job Brown has done is simply solid. That painful dynamic was again on display in Dallas Saturday. The question now becomes, will it ever change?