OU Game Turning Point

<B>turning point</B> - <I>n.</I> The point at which a very significant change occurs; a decisive moment.

Of all the swings in momentum so far this season, this was the biggest because it a) ultimately ended in defeat and b) could be the difference between another berth in the Holiday or Cotton Bowl versus a crack at the national title.

The shift wasn’t one play as has been the case in previous games. It was actually a couple of plays–one that put the Longhorns in position to win and one that didn’t happen but then did happen and eventually cost Texas a shot at victory.

The first occurred with just under two minutes to play in the third quarter. Leading 6-0, Oklahoma lined up at the Texas 14-yard line facing a second and 13 and staring at a chance to put the game away–especially with the way its defense had played. OU quarterback Jason White dropped back to pass. From the 23-yard line, White, who had more than enough time to find an open receiver, fired a rocket over the middle to receiver Brandon Jones. Texas middle linebacker Aaron Harris was draped all over Jones. The ball deflected up in the air and toward the end zone. Longhorn safety Michael Huff dove at the five-yard line and got his hands under the ball, knocking it up in the air. Derrick Johnson grabbed the ball out of the air at the Texas 8 and scrambled to the 25.

Disaster averted. Texas still trailed by only 6 and was one big play and PAT away from taking the lead.

The Texas offense took possession and took off down the field. Seven plays and 43 yards later including a 23-yard scramble on the zone read play by Vincent Young, Texas set up at the Oklahoma 32. With 13:42 remaining in the game and still only down 6-0, the Longhorns faced a critical third and 6 from the Oklahoma 32 and within questionable field goal range considering Texas kicker Dusty Mangum’s accuracy of late.

A touchdown was the desired result, but a field goal would have cut the lead by half and put Texas on the board, potentially giving an otherwise unimpressive offensive unit some confidence. From the shotgun formation, Young took the snap. Tight end David Thomas ran free down the middle of the field and was wide open past the first down marker.

But wait. The play was blown dead before it ever got started. Was there a penalty? Nope, there wasn’t any yellow laundry on the Cotton Bowl field. Did Oklahoma call a timeout because they didn’t like what they saw? That’s a negative. Quite the contrary in fact as it was the Texas offensive coaching staff that called the timeout from the sideline. That’s right, the first year coaches are allowed to call timeouts from the sideline and the Texas coaching staff decided to exercise this newly given right and in the process negated a golden opportunity on what appeared to be a sure first down that would have kept the drive alive.

A critical mistake based on the result of the next play. Following the timeout Young dropped back to pass again. Just as Oklahoma had done on the previous play that never really happened, OU cornerback Antonio Perkins left Texas receiver Nate Jones and blitzed. Young, not able to find an open receiver, spun to his right away from the approaching Perkins, who was easily picked up by fullback Will Matthews. That’s where Oklahoma’s Chijioke Onyenegecha, who came on a delayed blitz, was waiting and brought Young down for an 8-yard loss on the 40 and very much out of Mangum’s range.

Texas had to punt. Game over, at least in theory. The Sooners made it fact on their next possession as they drove 80 yards and 11 plays for a touchdown and a 12-0 score following the missed two-point attempt, slamming the door shut on Texas a for fifth straight year.

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