"We told them this game may define who, and what, you are," said Co-Defensive Coordinator Gene Chizik. "We weren't really sure. We had some great games, and we had a not-so-good game. But we felt like today could define who, and what, we are."
For now, Texas is in control of its own destiny in its quest to repeat as Big 12 champ and the win keeps Texas in the mix for the national championship. Just as important, Texas coaches talk of what they know about the 2006 Longhorns that they might not have known following the Ohio State loss. Brown told his team at halftime, after OU responded to an early Texas TD with 10 unanswered points, that "we can do the same thing we did at Ohio State and get beat by a really good football team. Or, we can answer."
Texas coaches learned to trust RS-freshman Colt McCoy (just enough) with a vertical passing attack in a big game. McCoy finished with 11-of-18 passing for 108 yards, including two TDs and no INT. His O-line gave him excellent protection; he was sacked just once. On the other side of the ball, the Texas defense stated its case as one of the finest to wear the Burnt Orange, pitching a shutout in the second half and limiting uber-RB Adrian Peterson to 109 net yards on 25 carries. Peterson had just 28 net yards in the tide-turning second half. The defense also recorded eight TFLs, including two sacks, with the front four generating most of the pressure on QB Paul Thompson.
For the record, LG Kasey Studdard carried the Golden Hat Trophy out of the Cotton Bowl, presented annually to the winning team in this series. But give a piece of that hardware to McCoy (who added his name to the lore of Texas freshmen QBs to have engineered a W against Oklahoma) and to Aaron Ross (who is having the kind of year that most expected from FS Michael Griffin).
It was Ross' three-yard fumble return for TD, after officials ruled that Thompson's swing screen to Adrian Peterson was a backwards pass, that sealed the deal and launched the Grapes of Wrath exodus from the Sooner denizens in the south end zone. Ross also came up with two INTs and broke up a pass to an open WR Malcom Kelly in the first quarter.
"Aaron Ross is in that All-American category today," head coach Mack Brown said,
From a Burnt Orange perspective, the sweetest sound inside the Cotton Bowl wasn't the concessionairy vendors or even Smokey the Cannon; it was the game official who -- not once but twice -- informed the sellout crowd, "Upon further review, the play stands as called." Two tide-turning Texas defensive plays prompted official reviews: SLB Robert Killebrew's 24-yard fumble return from the Texas 15 and, of course, Ross' fumble return for TD. There wasn't a Sooner in sight who made an effort to retrieve the errant toss.
"Looking at the play, I was thinking it was a forward pass," Peterson said, "but they saw it differently."
The difference in the ballgame was OU's five turnovers and eleven penalties, OU coach Bob Stoops said. After all, the Sooners had 13 more offensive plays and outgained Texas 333 to 232. But Brown believes the biggest difference was how Texas responded early in the second half after OU dominated the second quarter and took a 10-7 lead into the locker room.
"About 91 percent of the time, the team that gives up a score just before the half usually loses the game," Brown said. "We played as good of a second half as I've ever seen us play."
Texas drew first-blood in the ballgame, going with no-huddle and operating against OU's nickel package. RB Jamaal Charles' 18-yard run offset a holding penality the previous play against SE Limas Sweed. Two plays later, McCoy concerted a key 3rd-and-10 when he scrambled out of a cornerback blitz and hooked up with WR Quan Cosby for 16. On 3rd-and-three from the 15, RB Selvin Young found a seam up the middle on a stretch play and ran untouched into the promised land. It capped a nine play, 62-yard drive, giving Texas a 7-0 lead with 7:47 remaining in the opening frame.
Peterson returned Greg Johnson's KO 59 yards to the Texas 38, but a personal foul against Rufus Alexander meant the Sooners would operate from their own 47. True freshman Kenneth Deon Beasley has replaced CB Brandon Foster when Texas goes with a fifth DB, but Thompson found WR Juaquin Iglesia for 15 to move the chains on 3rd-and-9 from the Texas 37. But DE Brian Robison snuffed out the drive with his 13-yard sack on 3rd-and-15.
The offense went three-and-out, but the defense came up with two big plays after the Sooners began their third series on the Longhorn 48. Stoops dialed-up the deep ball to WR Malcolm Kelly on first-down, but Ross went up to deflect the play-action pass. Next play, FS Marcus Griffin forced a Peterson fumble that twin brother Michael recovered at the Texas 37. It was the last play of the first quarter, putting the exclamation point on what was a nearly ideal opening frame for the Horns.
After the defense forced a Sooner punt from the end zone, the offense took over on the Sooner but quickly went in reverse. C Lyle Sendlein was whistled for holding while McCoy was thrown for a 15-yard loss.
The Sooners capitalized. Thompson went up top on first down, hooking up with TE Jermai Gresham for 41 yards to the Texas 34. Two plays later, Peterson cashed in from 29 yards out. That knotted the affair with 7:41 remaining after OU moved the ball 75 yards in three plays.
The offense managed its fourth straight three-and-out and, with 5:34 remaining, OU had time to tack a few more on. Thompson converted a key 3rd-and-nine from the Texas 21 when he found Iglesias for 20. It was a horrible series for Michael Griffin, guilty of a missed tackle on a reverse before he was sucked-in on play-action. That left Iglesias wide open for a 27-yard completion to the Texas 23. But on 3rd-and-two from the 15, Peterson was self-tackled (he stumbled and fell) for a one-yard loss. OU settled for a 35-yard FG but took a 10-7 lead into the locker room.
Oklahoma outgained Texas 144-1 in the second quarter. Young had six rushing yards in the second quarter while Charles, who averaged 5.6 ypg in the opening frame, never touched the ball in the second period. But Chizik made very few adjustments at intermission ("There were a couple of new things that they ran at us that our kids saw at the end of the second quarter") but, for the most part, simply challenged his unit to be the more physical bunch.
"We told them that Adrian is only going to get stronger as the game goes on and you've got to match it," Chizik reported. "We told them there wasn't going to be anything fancy in the second half, so we're going to line up and play base defense. And they're either going to be better than you, or they're not. We let our guys play, and they played with great heart, with great character and they played physical."
After the defense forced a three-and-out, McCoy found Pittman for 17 to the OU 35. Two plays later, stepped out of the blitz and looked downfield for Sweed who was in single-coverage against D.J. Wolfe. The junior's focus last summer was gaining leverage with his height and getting separation on DBs. Just 2:47 into the second half, Sweed made it pay off. His 33-yard reception down the left sideline gave Texas all the points it would need, 14-10, and capped a three-play, 52-yard drive.
Offensively, the "only thing we talked about at halftime was that OU is way-too-good for us not to make some explosive plays in the passing game," Brown said. "We can't just line up and throw underneath; we had to get the ball deep."
Oklahoma converted a couple of third-and-longs on their second possession (in fact, the Sooners moved the chains on 8-of-16 third down plays), but NT Roy Miller's seven-yard QB sack was a drive killer. Now, McCoy looked like a free-wheeling veteran of the OU game, scrambling for 12 yards on first down, but you could tell he was looking for FL Jordan Shipley from the snap. The two hooked up for 10 yards two plays later before Charles, MIA since the first quarter, stepped off 16 around right end behind Studdard's clearing block. RB Selvin Young hurdled a would-be tackler and darted down the left sideline for 15 yards, setting up 1st-and-goal from the five.
If you're looking for McCoy's finest moment, it's arguably came on 3rd-and-goal from the seven. Desperate to keep it a single-score ballgame, OU brought the house with maximum blitz. McCoy stepped into the pressure and looked to Shipley on the wheel route in the right corner of the north end zone. Shipley made the grab against NB Nic Harris, making it a 21-10 ballgame with 2:46 remaining in the third.
"Jordan ran a great route and I saw one-on-one coverage," McCoy said. "I gave it a shot and he made a great catch."
Here, the game was as good as won with the kind of effort Chizik was getting from his defense.
"They had the same plays in the second half as they did in the first half," Stoops said. "The difference is they executed them and we didn't defend them."
The biggest difference, however, is that this is a Texas team knows something about itself that it may not have known before kickoff. It knows its post-VY offense can make big plays when it needs to, and that it's defense is as good as billed. In short, it knows it's capable of playing championship-level football.