In a pair of firsts this season, the Texas defense surrendered first quarter points and the Longhorn offense failed to score. (The Horns had outscored the opposition 45-0 in the first period during non-conference play.)
Texas opened on its own 20 with QB Chris Simms' nine yard pitch-and-catch completion to SE Sloan Thomas. Simms three-yard keeper moved the chains. SE Roy Williams checked into the game with Texas facing second-and-10 from its own 32, but a shovel pass to RB Cedric Benson lost two yards. Needing 12, Simms threw underneath on a five-yard completion to TE David Thomas. P Brian Bradford's boot carried 34 yards against the wind.
Opening on its own 40, Cowboy RB Seymore Shaw carried for five followed by WR Rashaun Woods' 11-yard reception from QB Josh Fields. Shaw then toted the rock 14 yards up the middle, giving the visitors a first down at the Longhorn 30. Fields' completion to Woods on an eight yard slant on third-and-10 set up Luke Phillips for a 39-yard field goal at the 9:56 mark.
On Texas' next possession, Benson netted 20 yards on three carries sandwiched around Thomas' 10-yard grab on a screen pass. Three plays later, Thomas made a diving, 13-yard catch, spotting the Horns with a first down at the OSU 38. But the 12-play, 60-yard drive stalled, resulting in a Dusty Mangum 37-yard field goal attempt that carried wide left.
CB Nathan Vasher returned for the first time since the North Carolina game when OSU took over on its own 20 with 3:57 remaining. Five plays later, the UT D forced a 45-yard Cole Farden punt. (Texas' special teams nearly came up with a big play as Tony Jeffery got his hand on the ball following a high snap from center.) True freshman Selvin Young checked in at running back, but the Texas offense went three-and-out after Simms was thrown for an 8-yard loss on third-and-eight from the Texas 22.
"They jumped out early like I figured they would in the ballgame," Mack Brown said. "They took it down, got three points, and then our defense took them out of the ballgame until the start of the fourth quarter."
The defense held OSU to 139 yards rushing and 134 passing.
With P Brian Bradford opening the second quarter punting from his own goal line, Cowboy PR Terrance Davis-Bryant returned the 44-yard boot 33 yards back to the Texas 27. The Texas defense turned up the pressure and MLB Reed Boyd, on a delayed blitzed, threw Fields for a nine-yard loss on third-and-13.
After failing to convert on third-and-one from its own 29, Texas reached into its bag of tricks and moved the chains with a fake punt when the ball was snapped to up-man (and special teams standout) Beau Trahan, who carried for four. But two Benson carries netted just two yards, followed by an incompletion, setting up a 41-yard Bradford punt. The defense forced a three-and-out, and Texas took back over on its own 23 lined up in five-wide set.
"We felt like we needed a momentum change so we went to five-wides," Greg Davis said. "It's hard to get to us (in a five-wide) because we can get the ball out quickly. Chris did a great job, but unfortunately we didn't finish every one of those drives. We had a chance to put some points up in the first half, but we didn't finish those droves."
Going without a huddle, Simms hit B.J. Johnson for nine followed by an 18-yard and an 11-yard completion to Thomas. After Simms found Johnson open for 13, OSU called its last time-out of the half. From the 26, Simms found Williams two plays later on an 18-yard flag route. On first-and-goal from the eight, Texas stayed with five-wides until two incompletions and a delay-of-game penalty pushed the Horns back to the 13.
Mangum connected on a 27-yard FG, knotting the game, 3-3, with 5:52 remaining in the half.
Again, the defense forced a three-and-out. Farden's punt carried 34 yards and Vasher, still a little gimpy, returned the ball two yards (his longest return of the day).
Texas opened its next drive near midfield, again in the five-wide set. A pair of 14-yard gains (a Thomas reception and a Simms quarterback draw) gave Texas a first down at the OSU 27. A pair of Williams' grabs netted 14 yards, but the drive ended in Mangum's second miss of the day from just 24 yards out.
The defense registered its third consecutive three-and-out, as Texas took over on its own 41 with 61 ticks on the clock until halftime.
UT stayed in its five-wide alignment, generating a four-play, 59-yard scoring drive in which Johnson accounted for 56 of those yards on four catches, including a nine-yard touchdown grab. The drive took all of 36 seconds and gave Texas a 10-3 halftime lead, despite doubling the Cowboys' number of offensive plays (49 to 25).
"I wanted that one," Johnson said. "I hadn't been in the end zone all year, and I'd been struggling. I just dug down inside of myself and got it in there."
The defense picked up in the second half where it left off in the first, forcing yet another three-and-out and OSU's sixth punt of the afternoon. But disaster nearly struck on Texas' first possession of the half when freshman LB Lawrence Pinson collected his first career interception on a tipped pass intended for Williams. The play set up OSU on the Texas 19 yard line.
But on second down from the 17, OSU reached into its toy box and came up empty. RB Greg Jones lofted a wobbly option pass intended for Fields that WLB Derrick Johnson picked off (his first of the season) and returned 12 yards to the Texas 28.
Simms' three-step drop under a heavy blitz quickly resulted in an eight-yard gain. But Texas did nothing with the momentum change. After both teams exchanged possessions, the UT O opened, again, in the five-wide set on its own 20 with 7:23 remaining in the third quarter. On what was the offensive play of the day, Simms pump-faked a quick out to Williams before hitting Thomas in stride for a 55 yard gain, giving the Horns a first down at the Cowboy 25. Thomas' 21 yard grab on third down overcame a delay of game penalty and an eight-yard loss on a lateral pass play to Williams. From the 13, Benson carried the ball three times, reaching the one yard line, where Simms carried it over on the ninth play of the 80-yard drive. Texas led 17-3 with 4:57 remaining in the quarter.
Back-to-back 15-yard penalties against Texas (unsportsmanlike conduct against safety Michael Huff, pass interference against LB Lee Jackson) gave the Cowboys a first down at the Texas 45. (It was OSU's first first-down of the second half.) From there, RB Tatum Bell tightroped the Texas sideline and ran it in for the score, as Mack Brown screamed at the officials that Bell had stepped out of bounds (which replays showed he did not). The PAT was blocked after a bad snap, but the 20-point underdog visitors trailed by just 17-9 going into the fourth quarter despite being 0-for-8 in third down conversions.
On Texas' second possession of the fourth quarter, Mangum failed to connect on a 47-yard attempt. The defense did its job once again by forcing a three-and-out. Needing a sustained scoring drive, Texas took over on its own 22 with 8:50 remaining. But the Horns also went three-and-out, milking just 48 seconds off the clock.
But Bradford launched a 71-yard punt that Michael Ungar and Edorian McCullough downed at the Texas one yard line.
With the charged Texas crowd sensing a defensive score, OSU responded with back-to-back 25-yard plays: a Woods' reception and a Shaw carry. Suddenly, OSU was on UT end of the field, where Shaw carried for another nine yards (he finished with 99 yards on 21 carries).
But on third-and-23, Fields found Lewis in double coverage on the Texas goal line for the score. The two-point conversion attempt failed but, with 4:04, the unthinkable was suddenly believable.
Texas led 17-15 and, after taking over on its own 18, did not move the ball a single yard.
A 41-yard Bradford punt spotted the Cowboys at their own 41, needing about 30 yards to set up a game-winning field goal.
Fields' sideline pass to Woods, good for nine yards, sustained the drive on third down, giving OSU a fresh set of downs at the Texas 49 with about 2:30 remaining.
After a one-yard Shaw plunge, Babers registered what is so far the Horns' defensive play of the year.
Fields' slant pass was thrown slightly behind Woods and into Babers waiting arms (those waiting arms had a previous history of not hanging on to the pigskin). The Texas senior corner returned the pick 10 yards to midfield setting up the offense where Benson carried three times to ensure the game-clinching first down.
"Those were two good defenses against the run today," Brown said. "We were able to get 145 yards rushing, but we had to work to get it."
With the win, Texas ran its home win streak to 16 games, tying the third-best mark in school history (1945-48), and improved to 24-2 at home under Brown. The home win streak is currently the fifth-longest active stint in the country. Texas is 1-0 in Big 12 play, and has won 31 of its last 34 conference openers. The program is 5-0 for the first time since 1983.