Oklahoma Takes The Fifth

For 52 minutes, Texas' bend-but-don't-break defense gave its offense a chance to exploit its generally favorable field position in UT's 12-0 loss to No. 2 Oklahoma Saturday at the Cotton Bowl. But it could be easily argued that Texas' most recent setback to the Sooners -- its fifth straight -- was sealed during last year's historic loss.

Sooner RB Adrian Peterson, whose 225 yards on 32 carries ranks as the highest total by a true freshman in the series' history, was seen flashing the Hook 'Em sign during the first quarter of last year's 65-13 debacle. That, and OU's championship-level play under sixth year coach Bob Stoops, was enough to send the Texas-native north of the Red River. Peterson had 100+ yards at halftime while Texas RB Cedric Benson, the nation's leading rusher entering the contest, was held to 92 yards on 23 carries by game's end.

The shutout marked the first time Texas has been held scoreless since November 1980, snapping what was an NCAA-leading strong of 281 straight games. More important, the fifth straight loss to Oklahoma ties Mack Brown with Darrell Royal (1971-1975) and Ed Price (1952-56) as the most by any Longhorn coach in series history. It happened in front of a series-record 79,587 fans on hand for the 99th renewal of the Red River rivalry.

"They made the plays in critical positions inside the 30 (yard line) and we didn't," Brown said. "I thought that was the most critical (aspect of the game)."

Even with Peterson running wild, the defense held OU to a pair of Trey DiCarlo FGs entering the fourth quarter. That's when All-American WLB Derrick Johnson came up with one of those freakish plays that can launch a team not only toward an upset win but also toward one of those magical seasons-for-the-ages if the offense can take advantage of his stellar play and seismic shift in momentum. After Benson turned the ball over on the Texas 22, QB Jason White's second-down pass deflected at the LOS, richoted off the hands of a diving SS Michael Huff and into Johnson's grasp, who returned it 18 yards to the Texas 25. The Horns had a first down at their own 36 when QB Vince Young stepped off 36 yards on a zone read play to start the fourth quarter.

"I really felt like we'd win the ballgame throughout the game," Brown said. "I thought we'd make a play somewhere."

Instead, OU made another big play when Texas got within shouting distance of the Sooner goal line. With Texas facing 3rd-and-six at the OU 32, you're thinking this is four-down territory if, if, if!, it doesn't doesn't lose a chunk of yards on the next play. Typical of the day, OU blitzed its cornerbacks and threw VY for an eight-yard loss. The resut was Richmond McGee's seventh punt of the afternoon.

"I thought the difference in our offense and their defense is we couldn't convert on third down," Brown said. "That's what we were concerned about going in, that we didn't convert enough third downs to stay on the field."

For the record, Texas was 6-of-15 on third-down conversions while OU went 4-of-14.

"Our defense gave us a chance to win," Brown said. "Our team played tougher than last year. Our team played longer and harder than last year."

Part of the problem was that the Texas defense played hard for too long and surrendered the only TD drive of the game on OU's opening possession of the final frame. The bigger problem, of course, was Peterson. You knew coming in that Texas did not have the speed at DE to contain him and, on OU's game-clinching 11-play, 80-yard drive, Peterson carried four times for 51 yards. Kijuan Jones, who started at RB before the Peterson era, carried it in from the six to seal the deal.

"They made the plays when they were done inside the 30 that we didn't make," Brown said. "You can't turn it over against OU and you can't take a sack when you're inside field goal range and have a chance to win."

Texas still had an outside chance after Young hit SE Limas Sweed down the left sideline for 26 on third down from the UT 39. But, on another of those near-the-30 blunders, Young fumbled the ball (and the game) away under a heavy blitz on second down at the Sooner 35 with 4:58 remaining. It was Young's second fumble of the afternoon.

"Like I've always said, we can't turn the ball over," Young said. "It's a great offense but we've got to take care of the ball. We had plenty of times to get ourselves in the end zone. We've got to punch it in."

As expected, OU's game plan was predicated around shutting down Texas' ground game. Texas entered the contest as the nation's top-rated rushing team. The Sooner defense held Texas to 154 net yards rushing, less than half its average. Meanwhile, OU doubled-up Texas' efforts on the ground with 304 rushing yards.

"It was alsmost as if they gave up on our plays and just started filling the holes," Benson said. "It's pretty tough to run if there's always a guy in the hole on every play."

Stoops put seven and nine players in the box, forcing VY to try to beat OU with his arm. Young, who too often looked disparingly indecisive in his passing game, finished with just 86 yards on 8-of-23 passing.

"We weren't pleased with our passing game today and that was a concern going in," Brown said. "We had to make more plays in the passing game to have a chance to win."

Young was sacked three times, finishing with 82 yards on 16 carries. For White, it was a pedestrian outing: 14-of-26 for 113 yards, with two INTs and no TDs. A pressuring Texas D forced White to scramble early and often but he was not sacked all afternoon.

OU served up a steady diet of cornerback blitzes and also threw in "a lot of disquises" that Young said the offense had not seen this past week in practice.

"I believe we played hard," VY said. "I think we played a great game. We've got to score. We've got a great team but we've got to move on from this game."

On OU's opening drive, SS Michael Huff picked off a Jason White pass and returned the ball 14 yards to the Texas 45. On first and 10 from the OU 45, Young picked up 14 on the zone read, reaching the the OU 31. But safety Donte Nicholson dropped VY for a six-yard loss on third-and-10 to end the Longhorn drive.

P Richmond McGee's 33-yard punt pinned OU at its own four, but not for long. Freshman RB Adrian Peterson checked into the game and ran untouched around right end for 44 yards before Huff dragged him down near midfield. A defensive holding penalty spotted the Sooners a first down at the Texas 38. But on 3rd-and-8, Huff broke up a White pass intended for Clayton.

Texas took over on its on 20 following an OU punt and, including a 13-yard Benson run, moved the ball to the OU 40. The drive stalled when Cody threw VY for a five-yard loss on 2nd-and 3.

Following a McGee punt, OU took over on its own 15 with 96 seconds remaining in a scoreless first quarter. MLB Aaron Harris led a quartet of swarming Longhorns to drop Peterson for a five-yard loss on a 2nd-and-2 play from the 23.

The Horns took over on their own 44 to open the second quarter. FL Tony Jeffery picked up eight on the end-around but Texas went backwards on the next two snaps, losing yards on succesive Benson and Young carries.

Antonio Perkins returned a 41-yard McGee punt four yards to the OU 13. On 3rd-and-4 from the 19, a blitzing Derrick Johnson punched the ball out of White's mitts that FS Phillip Geiggar at the OU 37. VY leaned for the first down on 4th-and-inches at the OU 24 but, two plays later, LB Clint Ingram recovered a VY fumble after an 8-yard gain.

The Sooners drove the the Longhorn 38 where, on third down, White's pass intended for Clayton fell incomplete. The Horns took over on their own 20 after Blake Ferguson's punt carried into the end zone. Young's six-yard completion to Te Bo Scaife along the right sideline moved the chains on 3rd-and-four. Young found Benson in the left flat for 17 to advance the ball to the Texas 49. On the next snap, Young's deep ball to SE Limas Sweed was nearly picked off at the goal line and the Horns could not overcome the long yardage situation. McGee's 36 yard punt gave OU the ball at their own 12 with 6:22 remaining until intermission.

Peterson carried the ball 11 times for 72 yards, including 15- and 26-yards on his first two totes of the 15 play drive to move the Sooners to their own 41. Peterson picked up five on 3rd-and-three at the UT 34 while White moved the chains on 3rd-and-5 from the 24 when he hooked up with WR Travis Wilson for 9. Peterson's 11-yard carry spotted the ball the Texas four, but an illegal participation penalty would help keep the Sooners from crossing the Texas goal line. The defense held Peterson to a 2-yard gain on 1st-and-9. With no time outs and under heavy pressure, White looked to Clayton but scrambled for just a two-yard gain. Oklahoma settled for a 22-yard Tony Di Carlo FG to take a 3-0 lead into the locker room.

Both Peterson and Benson had 14 totes at halftime, with the freshman carrying for 126 yards at intermission and the Heisman candidate with 43. The defense, howver, had given Benson and company a chance.

"I thought we'd come and score in the second half and I thought we'd win," Brown said.

Except the offense went three-and-out in 14 seconds as Perkins returned a 43-yard McGee punt to the OU 44. Peterson gathered a quick 11 around right end before White found WR Brandon Jones for 12 on 3rd-and-6 from the UT 41. Peterson picked up 17 on a quick toss on 2nd-and-7 from the 26. Then, on 2nd-and-goal from the six, Brian Robison (tired of being picked on) dropped Peterson for a four-yard loss. His standup play, in essence, held OU to a 26 yard FG at the end of the 10-play, 48-yard drive.

"I really felt like we'd win the ballgame throughout the game," Brown said. "I thought we'd make a play somewhere."

The defense was still giving the offense a fighting chance as OU led, 6-0, with 5:58 eclipsed from the third quarter. From the Texas 20, Benson stepped-off 22 on the zone read but VY's third down pass fell incompete under a heavy blitz. Johnson, Huff and Harris were credited with a game-high 11 tackles apiece.

"I guess they just had a better game plan," Benson said. "They just made more plays than we did and came out with a victory."

Brown, of course, praised his team for their fight-to-the-finish but was not about to applaud the offensive game plan (that, for my money, still tried too often to go east-west against what is annually the fastest, most aggressive defense it will face).

"Obviously, I'm not pleased with the game plan because we didn't score any points," Brown said.

In addition to the five-game skid, there are a few other not-so-pleasing trends evident Saturday.

For starters, Young was no passing threat against the Sooners. What evidence do you see that OC Greg Davis has sufficiently developed VY to where his arm can at least be a threat against upper-echelon teams? He overthrew receivers, he bounced balls in the flat, he took three sacks. He still gives Texas the best chance to win, but Brown can no longer insist that the only thing keeping Texas from getting over the hump is the defense. Benson led all UT receivers with just 33 yards on three grabs. For the second year in a row, TE David Thomas did not have a reception.

Secondly, a defense that stressed stopping the run gave up 225 rushing yards to a freshman (albeit a sensational one), and one that emphasized pressuring the QB could not manufacture a single sack against a less-than-mobile QB (albeit a Heisman-winning one).

Third, and most disturbing, this may be the last year where the talent level between the two programs is relatively even. With the class Stoops inked last February, that gap widens by leaps and bounds. Evidence of that came in the form of one Adrian Peterson.

The only solace I took as I walked through a rabid OU section toward the post-game press conference was the sight of Co-Defensive Coordinator Greg Robinson raising the Hook'Em sign, looking squarely into the taunting Sooners, soaking up the hate and shouting, "We'll be back! We'll be back!"

Some day, Texas will be back. With or without this coaching staff intact, Texas will be back.

Texas faces Missouri next Saturday at DKR. Game time has not been set.

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