It's impossible to separate discussion of Saturday's 36-20 victory over Oklahoma from the broader context in which it took place, but the storyline of the actual contest on the field is straightforward and simple: Texas thoroughly whipped OU up and down the field, on both sides of the football, from start to finish.
Running to victory. From its opening drive that set the tone for the game, to its final drive to run out the clock, Texas rammed the ball down the throats of the Sooner defense: 82 total plays run, 60 rushes, 277 yards gained, just 11 yards lost. Joe Bergeron cost Texas points with his fumble deep in OU territory, but the other two-thirds of Cerberus came to play. We asked Jonathan Gray to carry the football 29 times, and he delivered a workmanlike performance that was both more difficult an assignment and more impressive a performance than it appeared. The kid loves football and has an incredible drive to succeed, which is responsible for his outperforming a lot of players with more raw talent. And he's only going to get better as he continues to add more strength.
As for Malcolm Brown... holy hell did he ever play a great, great game. Along with Trey Hopkins, Brown gets my vote for MVP on Saturday. He carried it 23 times for 120 yards, and was a huge reason that Texas successfully converted 13 of 20 on 3rd down: called on to rush the ball five times on 3rd down and 4 or fewer yards to go, Brown converted all five. Straight money.
Big Game McClutcherson. The limitations of Case McCoy are well known, but so are his virtues: he knows where the football needs to go and he can deliver it on time and on target in the underneath passing game. Major Applewhite did a terrific job on Saturday putting McCoy in a position to succeed, utilizing his strengths to convert some 3rd downs, giving him a handful of well-timed opportunities to take a shot down the field, and nothing more. McCoy was asked to play well in an important role -- and with a couple exceptions he did -- but he was not asked to try to win the game for the team, and he didn't force anything trying to do so.
McCoy's three notable misses on the day -- missing De La Torre on 4th down, overthrowing Sanders for an easy touchdown, and the pick six -- were overshadowed by his superior work extending drives with key 3rd down throws (6 conversions with 7+ yards needed for a first down) and the two beautiful TD strikes to Mike Davis and my boy Marcus Johnson.
Also on the list of McCoy virtues: he's a gamer when it counts the most. He was already a Longhorn Legend for his heroic scramble to dispatch A&M in the series finale. And after today, he'll also long be remembered for his role halting OU's three-year winning streak with today's improbable, but desperately needed, curb stomping of the Sooners.
Daje can play. We missed him a little, yes? Along with the ridiculous speed, that kid is tough as nails, with freaky balance. He's fun to watch, and his swagger is infectious. For lots of reasons, we're a different, much better team when he's on the field.
Winning the trenches. Looking back through the Texas-OU series during the Brown and Stoops era, only one other time has Texas whipped Oklahoma up front for four quarters like it did today. No one will confuse this group of Longhorns for the '05 national champions, but their victory in the Cotton Bowl was every bit as much an ass kicking, and no less gratifying. Trey Hopkins just played such a strong football game, and the interior of the Texas line as a whole was superior in imposing its will on OU's overmatched front.
As great as it was to see the offense execute at the level it did today, the game was won by the Texas defense, and it's hard to overstate the excellence of the job done up front by Cedric Reed, Jackson Jeffcoat, Malcom Brown and Chris Whaley... I mean, when he wasn't too gassed from this:
I'm thinking this play will get old to watch right around the time that the Robison-Rod Wright Bomar'd! touchdowndoes. Which is to say: never.
Defensive dominance. The last time we saw Greg Robinson on the sidelines of the Red River Rivalry, his Longhorns defense did its part to end an OU streak of dominance only to have Greg Davis get shut out. Fast forward a decade and GERG's unit did it again, and this time Applewhite and the offense did their part to translate it into a victory.
The Texas defense limited an OU rushing attack that had been looking nigh unstoppable to a mere 130 yards on 33 carries, and they were absolutely brilliant on 3rd down, allowing the Sooners to convert just 2 of 13 3rd down plays. Just as importantly, until a lone mishap late in the game Texas shut out Oklahoma's receivers from the yards after catch on which they thrive, demonstrating physicality and sound fundamentals that had been conspicuously missing from Texas' tackling the last 2+ seasons. Quandre Diggs was spectacular as a roving weapon, Adrian Phillips played his best game as a Longhorn and was critical in defending the run, and Duke Thomas was asked to play press coverage without help over the top and he stepped up and played like a veteran.
Schematically, Robinson's game plan was a smart allocation of risk and deployment of resources: dropping the former tailback Whaley into coverage on the zone blitz was a terrific call; the use of Duke Thomas in coverage and Adrian Phillips at the line of scrimmage reflected a keen understanding of how to optimally utilize both players; and the role Robinson crafted for Diggs allowed him to thrive in performance commensurate with his talent. If we were handing out grades, Robinson earned an A+ for his performance on Saturday.
No quit. After Texas rallied from back-to-back losses to defeat Kansas State, I wrote:
[A]fter having their toughness and basic competency challenged both locally and nationally, this Texas team responded by playing hard for four quarters. They played with pride, and while the fans may be ready for Mack Brown to move on, it was good to see that the kids haven't quit on their coach.
They still haven't quit on their coach, and whatever else this team is or isn't, they are fighters. And today, finally, they were the team that took the fight to OU, rather than the other way around. Mack Brown's future wasn't decided by today's game, but in the future we'll look back at Saturday's victory as Mack Brown at his best. We outplayed and outcoached OU, and beat them with an ass whipping in the trenches.
It was a great day for Mack Brown, and an absolutely awful day for Bob Stoops. Punched in the mouth, his team wilted. The Sooners came into this game unprepared for resistance, and when Texas came out of the gates swinging a mean punch, they looked lost, as if to say, "You said this wouldn't happen, coach. What do we do?"
After the last two years, it's perhaps understandable Stoops and Co. thought they just needed to show up and Texas would take care of the rest and fold, but it cost them badly today. Oklahoma's game plan was... well, there didn't seem to be much of one, frankly. "Show up and Texas will fold" really did seem like the plan. And when they got a fight with an aggressive and fearless opponent instead, the game was over as soon as it started.
Kudos to Mack Brown, his staff, and especially to the kids who delivered Longhorns fans the two things we covet and cherish more than anything else in the world: a win in the Cotton Bowl, and Sooner tears.