It was a horrible half for Texas. The Longhorn defenders were playing touch football in a game of tackle. The mental mistakes were apparent as Texas over-ran ball carriers and receivers on play after play. Defensive coordinator Greg Robinson's "flying to the football" philosophy is a great concept if defenders take correct angles and break down in a hitting position when they get close to the ball. That takes discipline and the Texas defense had lost all touch with reality.
Derrick Johnson had a well-deserved article about his play in Sports Illustrated last week. The Texas defense had confused the Texas Tech Red Raider offense two weekends ago, drawing praise from many quarters. And the D's play at Colorado had been spectacular.
The problem with all that: Texas Tech and Colorado don't measure up to Oklahoma State. The football team visiting DKR Saturday had played Oklahoma to within a field goal, even a closer score than Texas managed.
The breakdown began on the very first play with Robert Jones' 53-yard spring on the opening kick. The Texas kickoff coverage team performed like a group of rodeo clowns, allowing three long returns on the night.
Early on, the defense didn't perform any better. With visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads, the Longhorn defense came on the field for OSU's opening offensive possession. They were expected to not only stop the Cowboys, but do it with style. After all, they were really special, or so they had been told by the media for going on two weeks.
Oklahoma State, though, used a two tight end option, counter and play action pass offense to take the Texas defense apart for close to 30 minutes. Greg Robinson couldn't stop the flood of mistakes, missed tackles and destruction taking place in front of him.
The Longhorn offense answered the first Cowboy score with an eight-play drive highlighted by a well-executed swing pass to freshman Ramonce Taylor, who sprinted 44 yards past the Texas bench. But for the next 20 minutes, the Longhorn offense hunkered down into a "this-can't-be-happening-to-us" mode.
When the Cowboys made it 35-7 with just over a minute left in the first half, a friend of mine got a call on his cell phone from one of my golfing buddies who is a big Sooner fan. The message he conveyed to me from two seats removed was, "I guess against anything from Oklahoma, the Longhorns fold" and "Now there's another coach from Oklahoma that has Brown's number."
My reply is not fit for print in a respectable publication.
But even as the words left my mouth, the Longhorn offense under the direction of Greg Davis began its comeback. All of us that closely follow the Longhorns were sure by this point that quarterback Vince Young couldn't dropback pass and we had questions about the wide receivers for Texas, but UT's sophomore QB completed 7-of-8 passes (using tight end Bo Scaife as his primary target) to lead the Horns on a nine-play, 80-yard touchdown drive in 1:18 to cut the Cowboy advantage to 35-14 heading into the lockerroom.
Now you know that the Cowboys had spent last week preparing to defense the Texas running game. After all, Young can't dropback and win! They would have to adjust at halftime to Young's sudden brilliance in the well-protected Texas pocket.
After the second half kick, Young quickly completed two more passes to Scaife on the Horns' first two plays, and then it was back to the run for the remainder of the drive as the seventh consecutive rush put Texas into the end zone again, trimming the OSU lead to 14, 35-21.
The Texas crowd of over 83,000 came to life with Vince Young's passes to Bo Scaife and Cedric Benson's bruising runs on the drive and from then on Orangebloods stayed on their feet not to clap but to scream for the Longhorn defense. OSU quarterback Donovan Woods had trouble with the noise and a grass-stained, sweat-and-blood-soaked Texas defense. It was like two-a-days again. Whatever coach Robinson said to the Horns at the half brought them back to what they really are -- fast, spirited heavy-hitters.
Tim Crowder led the upfront charge and Aaron Harris and Derrick Johnson helped supply the punch for a brilliant second half shutout starting with a huge three-and-out on the Cowboys' first third quarter possession.
Greg Davis then used underneath passes and a well-conceived stop-and-go route to 6-5 Texas receiver Limas Sweed, covered by 5-7 cornerback Daniel McLemore, for a 37-yard completion that put the Horns in position to trim the score to make it 35-28 on the second drive of the second half.
Four more touchdowns later punctuated 30 minutes of superb playcalling and execution by the Texas offense. No Longhorn offensive coordinator had ever done it better than Davis for those seven straight TD marches starting with the drive just before halftime.
Mack Brown, though, gets credit for keeping the ship above the water line. When he told his team in the lockerroom that they would win 42-35 and when he predicted a Texas victory in the after-halftime interview on TBS, he showed great belief in his players, his staff and himself.
By the way, I got a chance to talk to my Oklahoma friend when the scoreboard read 35-35. I let him know he had mistaken the Texas A&M Aggies for the Texas Longhorns -- same first names but different traditions. These Longhorns don't quit.
The Horns will maul Kansas. Texas 48, Kansas 10.
Pat Culpepper played for The University from 1960-62 and graduated from UT with a B.A. degree with honors in history. He coached college football for 12 years as an assistant at Texas, Colorado, Tulane, Baylor and Memphis State and was head coach at Northern Illinois from 1976-79. He also spent 16 years as a high school coach in Texas at Midland, Lufkin, Galveston Ball, Westfield and his hometown of Cleburne. He was selected to the Longhorn Hall of Honor in 1991. His commentary appears regularly in the Inside Texas magazine and at InsideTexas.com.