The Red River Rivalry is often one of the best games of the year and this game turned out to be no different, but for the final time in the Big 12, the No. 12 Oklahoma Sooners came away with the Golden Hat with a win over the No. 3 Texas Longhorns at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.
Jeff Lebby and the Oklahoma offense was able to move the ball relatively at-will for most of the game, with Dillon Gabriel’s feet being one of the biggest difference makers for the Sooners. However, on the final drive of the game, Gabriel relied on his arm and casually drove the Sooners down the field to score.
1. The defense is fallible
The unit that has been the strength of the team for the whole year was picked apart on pivotal drives and pivotal plays by Oklahoma quarterback Dillon Gabriel.
On the decisive drive of the game, Gabriel operated the Sooners’ offense like a machine, going 4-of-4 passing for 58 yards and the game-winning touchdown. He also threw a smart pass to draw a pass interference call on Texas to put the Sooners in positive field position and put the Longhorns’ defense even more on its heels.
It wasn’t just his arm, but his ability to avoid Texas defenders both on called runs and on broken plays, racking up a career-high 113 yards and a touchdown, averaging 8.1 yards per carry. For most of the game, Gabiel was the leading rusher and if not for Jonathon Brooks’s 29-yard touchdown run he would have finished the game as the leader.
2. The red-zone woes have yet to be solved
Going into the game, Texas was No. 108 in the country in offensive red-zone touchdown percentage.
On one of the most decisive drives of the game, Texas took the ball down to the Oklahoma one-yard line after a 28-yard reception from Jordan Whittington took the ball to the one-yard line. The Longhorns had four chances to get one yard and were unable to punch the ball in, in spite of putting their big formation in. Texas got a second chance at life after Oklahoma missed a field goal and failed to extend its lead.
On the game, Texas was 1-3 in the red zone, with an interception and a turnover on downs that marred the performance, and the only score coming on the foot of Bert Auburn.
3. Texas can’t always survive the slow starts
It was nothing short of a disastrous first quarter for the Longhorns Texas was unable to overcome what has become a trend for them.
Texas turned the ball over two times in the first quarter of the game, including the opening drive in which the Sooners essentially stole the opening possession of the game after electing to kick the ball. Oklahoma finished the game with 12 drives to Texas’s 11, in a game that turned into a matchup of whoever had the ball last would win. Truly, the Sooners got two extra possessions, with the Longhorns’ final drive turning into a scramble to set up for a last-second Hail Mary.
Texas managed to get things going late and Ewers shrugged off the terrible start to operate the offense well in the second half, but ultimately it was too little, too late for Texas.
The Longhorns will be favored in every game for the remainder of the year, with a well-timed bye week following the rivalry game. Texas will need to rebound quick and put the week off to good use if they want to reach the presumptive rematch in Arlington at the end of the season.