Grounded Again: OU 35, Texas 24

Here's the only team stat that matters in Texas' 35-24 loss to Oklahoma Saturday because it's the one that has dogged the Horns all year and could devastate a season that now teeters on the brink: 53 yards on 35 carries. That's an average of 1.5 yards per attempt, sports fans.

Here's another telling stat derivative of the first: Texas' only first down in the second half (when the game still mattered) occurred on its first possession of the third quarter, leading 14-11. Texas could not move the chains again for first down yardage until 1:53 remaining and with OU in full control, 35-17. On the day, Texas converted just 3-of-13 third downs.

RB Cedric Benson (54 yards on 22 carries) was never a factor while Texas-killer OU RB Quentin Griffin exploded for 248 yards on 32 totes).

Never mind that Simms tossed three interceptions in another big game (12-of-26 for 156 yards, two rushing touchdowns). His performance was more than offset by OU QB Nate Hybl's four-pick, 12-of-29 for 131 showing. The bottom line: without a running game, the outcome fell squarely on Simms' shoulders.

SE Roy Williams had only two grabs for 68 yards, and no Texas receiver scored a touchdown.

"It's a horrible disappointment," Simms said. "It's one game in a long season. We need to keep our heads up. We have a lot of tough games ahead of us. I felt we were in control for most of the game and it just slipped away."

Safety Cedric Griffin led Texas with 10 tackles while OU linebacker Lance Mitchell maintained his torrid team-leading pace with his 15 stops to lead all tacklers.

And a factor that will never show up on a stat sheet: despite it's reputation for having a finesse offense, OU is (and has been) just flat-out more physical than Texas.

"Oklahoma wore us down," head coach Mack Brown said. "OU stepped up and made more plays. We have to go look at film and correct mistakes."

True, there were killer penalties (UT was flagged seven times for 68 yards and is the Big 12's most penalized teams) that kept OU drives alive. The Sooners were also flagged seven times (51 yards), but its stellar special teams play shortened the field considerably starting with Antwone Savage's 81-yard kickoff return late in the second quarter.

"It was another huge play in the game," OU head coach Bob Stoops said. "This game is usually defined by big plays."

On its first possession, Texas opened on its own 42 with both Benson and FB Ivan Williams in the backfield. The Horns picked up a first-down with an 8-yard screen pass completion to true freshman WR Robert Timmons but a holding penalty would stall the drive.

For the second straight week, true freshman CB Edorian McCullough downed a Brian Bradford punt (54 yards) on the 1-yard line and, in as many weeks, it appeared as if the defense would give up a 99-yard scoring march after Griffin darted 45-yards on a draw play to the Texas 32. (The senior totaled 117 yards on 9 carries in the first quarter alone).

But on the next play, FS Dakarai Pearson came up with the first of two interceptions on the day and his fourth pick of the season, intercepting Hybl at the UT 9 and returning it 35 yards.

It was Hybl's first freebie of the season, and first interception after 149 completions.

A chop block on return pushed Texas back to its own 29.

After Simms hit SE Sloan Thomas for seven, and a pair of Benson carries netted 13 yards, Simms found Williams streaking down the sideline on a 44-yard completion, setting up Texas at the OU 2-yard line.

From a three tight-end set, Simms sneaked it across from the one, and Texas led 7-0 at the 4:49 mark, capping an eight-play, 71-yard drive.

OU responded with a 10-play, 68-yard drive resulting in a Trey DiCarlo 29-yard field goal. Griffin would generate more rushing yards on that single drive (62 yards, 9 carries) than the entire UT ground game would produce all day.

On his next series, Simms went for the long ball to FL B.J. Johnson, but CB Andre Woolfolk's interception (both career interceptions have come against Texas) set up the Sooners with a first down at the Texas 37. But the defense came up big, forcing a three-and-out with CB Nathan Vasher ending the drive by throwing Hybl for a 2-yard loss.

Neither team would score until just under two minutes remaining in the half. With OU at the Texas 33, CB Rod Babers intercepted a Hybl first down pass and returned it 73 yards for the score. Texas led 14-3 with 1:43 remaining in the half.

How important would a Richmond McGee touchback have been at this moment? That's when Savage returned the kickoff 81yards to the Texas 16, marking the longest kick return against Texas in the series (the previous mark was set in 1998, only OU did not score four years ago).

With just 10 seconds remaining until halftime, Hybl found TE Trent Smith alone in the end zone for the score, followed by a two-point conversion completion to Curtis Fagan. Suddenly, it's 14-11, Texas.

And although OU trails at half time for the first time since 1999, the momentum is all the Sooners' going into the locker room.

In the third quarter, WLB Derrick Johnson, showing blitz before dropping back into zone coverage, intercepted a Hybl pass and returned it 19 yards to the OU 21. Texas netted two yards on two pitches to Benson followed by an incompletion and had to settle for a 36-yard Dusty Mangum field goal. Two possessions later, OU answered with a 37-yard DiCarlo field goal. The seven-play, 11-yard drive that started at the Texas 31 after PR Antonio Perkins (60 return yards on 5 attempts) carried a 35-yard Bradford punt 14 yards toward the Texas goal line.

Pearson's second pick of the day, positioning Texas at the OU 48, was negated when B.J. Johnson was absolutely leveled as the ball arrived, setting up LB Teddy Lehman for the interception on the deflection. Lehman returned it to the Texas 38, and the Horns led 17-14 at the end of three.

If any proof is needed that the football gods were on OU's sideline, (they call it Sooner Magic north of the Red River), it came 90 seconds into the fourth quarter. That's when MLB Reed Boyd forced WR Will Peoples to fumble a four-yard reception at the Texas 2-yard line that Griffin picked up and ran in for the go-ahead score. Texas trailed for the first time, 21-17.

At this point, the Horns had mustered just 27 yards of total offense in second half, and responded to OU's scoring drive with a three-and-out. The Sooners marched 64 yards on eight plays (Griffin carried on five of them), scoring on a two-yard Kejuan Jones rush.

After the Sooner D forced another three-and-out, Griffin scored on a 17-yard run to make it 35-17. With the game squarely in the Sooners control, Simms would get his second (but meaningless) one-yard scoring plunge of the day on the heels of his 31-yard completion to Johnson.

Stoops has now posted three straight wins against the Horns and is 9-1 against Top 10 teams. Brown is 7-11 against ranked foes.

"I'm not one to say we have their number," Stoops said. "You will never hear me say that. I have great respect for their staff and their team, so you'll never hear me say that. We have great confidence when we play this game that we will win. Our players feel they're every bit as talented as their players, although ours aren't written about as much."

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