And Oklahoma State had everything going its way for an upset.
At Eskimo Joes before the game in Stillwater, from 12:30 until leaving for the stadium at 5:45 p.m., the Texas fans were excited about Florida's play against Georgia and how many points the Longhorns would score against the Cowboys. And compared to the crowd that followed the Longhorns to Ohio State or Missouri, this Texas group of fans seemed much smaller in number than any other out of town game.
"I'll just watch it on TV" seemed to be the feeling, but at 1:21 left in the first quarter, it was Oklahoma State 21, Texas 9. I imagined the thousands of Longhorn fans that had stayed home to get ready for Halloween's reaction to what the magical box was showing them.
The Longhorn defense was being taken apart by the bounce-out running of Cowboy tailback Mike Hamilton and a fourth-and-one slick play action 49-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Al Pena to D'Juan Woods.
Yes, the Cowboys were using junk formations that for some reason got the Texas linebackers mixed up and Hamilton would take a straight handoff and bounce outside where absolutely no Longhorn was in position to contain. But it looked easy.
On the game's opening series by Oklahoma State, no drive, only four plays. Fourth and one from the Longhorn 49 yard line, the Cowboys are in a two tight end power I formation and the Longhorns give up a "cake for a cookie."
That analogy is what defensive coordinator Mike Campbell, who served 20 years as Darrell Royal's top assistant, used to say about gambling on short yardage. The "cookie" would be stopping the fourth down try, and the "cake" is what happened when Texas committed its secondary to stop the short yardage effort. Nobody was in coverage, nobody backpedaled to check a fake and it was the perfect call for rookie head coach Mike Gundy.
Talk about a crowd getting excited! The thrill of being in the stands the night ol' Bevo got branded would be one Oklahoma State fans would tell their grandchildren.
The Longhorn offense was stalled for the first time all season on its opening drive when Ramonce Taylor dropped a sure first down and possible touchdown-type reception over the middle on third down.
As the Texas defense tried to figure out what was happening, Vince Young connected with David Thomas for a 20-yard touchdown pass. Now, here is how teams get upset. On the extra point try, Oklahoma State's Xavier Lawson-Kennedy breaks through Texas' alternate offensive linemen and blocks David Pino's attempt. So, you have 48,000-plus Cowboy fans back in the game emotionally. Extra Point and field goal protection failures will get you beat as quickly as bad offensive and defensive execution. The Texas staff gives these alternates their chance, it's up to them to perform.
At halftime, it is Oklahoma State 28, Texas 12. I wish I had a dollar for every Texas fan that was upset that they hadn't driven to Stillwater. "I thought we were going to blow them out" was now forgotten by those present and those absent.
To be sure, the Texas fans in the corners of Boone-Pickens Stadium were not giving up, but every one of them knew the third quarter first possession was HUGE for Texas.
The clock showed 14:14 when Vince Young started to his right, faked a pass which made Cowboy defensive back Donovan Woods break his individual vertical leap record, then took off 80 yards right past the Oklahoma State bench.
After halftime, the Texas defense knew where to align its safeties and linebackers to stop the bounce outs and began to shift linemen after the OSU quarterback called plays in the Cowboys' no huddle offense. Rod Wright and Tim Crowder kept the pressure on the OSU attack and the Texas secondary was excellent against the pass.
Several weeks ago, I suggested Ramonce Taylor was the answer at running back for the injured Jamaal Charles. At a desperate time, the Longhorns needed someone to step up and take the pressure off of Vince Young. Someone to be a threat again in the running game besides the Texas quarterback. Finally, in the fourth quarter after the Longhorns had taken the lead for the first time 34-28 when Vince Young passed to Neale Tweedie, Ramonce got his chance.
With 9:26 left to play, Taylor popped outside on a zone run and out-ran what seemed to be the entire Oklahoma State defense 57 yards for a touchdown.
To make a point, Ramonce did it again from 12 yards out with 3:39 left to play
A tough win doesn't tell half of this story as the Longhorns suffered a laundry list of injuries and cramps -- Brian Carter, Crowder, Jonathan Scott, Charles, Selvin Young, Brian Robison, Robert Killebrew and even Michael Griffin was looking to me hobbled by game's end.
Don't believe anybody will feel sorry for Texas. Baylor is a well-coached, aggressive, dangerous football team. The Bears missed an extra point two weekends in ago in Norman or there would have been no overtime vs. the Sooners. I believe they will come after the Longhorns with a strong running game and a gambling defense. This could be another come-from-behind win for Texas. The bull is loose on the five undefeated teams at the table. The Longhorns stay another week, 31-17.
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.