Nobody is going to feel good after this one. This game had fans running the full gambit on the emotional spectrum right out of the gates. We knew very early that this game was going to be nothing like the 2022 version. The No. 12 Oklahoma Sooners came out aggressive, they looked confident, and they looked much more prepared.
The No. 3 Texas Longhorns were caught flat footed early in this matchup, but they were eventually able to collect themselves and get back into the ball game. This game had a little bit of everything on Saturday afternoon and that is what we have come to expect when these two teams get together in the Cotton Bowl.
This game was another classic that will go down in the history books of the rivalry. Texas fans will hate coming out on the losing end of it no doubt, but when the chips were down one team made more plays than the other.
Let’s chat about how things went down in the Cotton Bowl.
The Texas defense couldn’t get it done
There is no real way to sugarcoat this one. The Texas defense turned in their roughest outing of the year. Their calling card coming in was being able to win the line of scrimmage and create turnovers. On Saturday, they did not force any turnovers and they were unable to consistently pressure Dillion Gabriel. On top of that, they allowed Gabriel to go over 100 yards on the ground, which basically came on scrambles and quarterback draws. I had the Texas defensive line as a big reason why the Longhorns would be able to win this game and we did not get the performance we have been accustomed to seeing this year.
The Texas defense produced one sack and just five tackles for loss on the afternoon and the biggest kick in the gut came when they allowed Gabriel and the Sooners offense to go down in score at the end of the game when they had no timeouts left. They had a chance to win the game and send the Longhorn faithful home happy after a hard-fought comeback, but did not finish the job when provided the opportunity.
Texas lost the turnover battle
We don’t have to spend a bunch of time here. Turning the ball over three times is a sure-fire way to put yourself behind the eight ball. The fact that Texas was almost able to overcome this kind of turnover margin deserves a hat tip, because good teams will bury you when you give them those kinds of opportunities.
The first turnover of the game came on a double slant call where quarterback Quinn Ewers double- clutched before making a bad decision to throw it late. The second turnover came in the red zone where tight end Ja’Tavion Sanders initially had the ball in his hands, but a big hit sent it flying into the air and into the arms of an Oklahoma defender. The third came when Ewers was trying to scramble for a first down and he forgot that he wasn’t built like Tim Tebow or Cam Newton and took a big hit that jarred the ball loose.
You can technically say Texas turned it over four times, because they also got stuffed four times at the 1-yard line and lost it on downs. I am still trying to figure out why Steve Sarkisian waited until fourth down to give Ewers a shot at it instead of banging his head against the wall with three straight run calls, but that’s a conversation for another day.
Texas could have folded early, but they didn’t
I have to give Texas some credit because at the end of the day it wasn’t all bad out there on Saturday in Dallas. After the Kansas game, I talked about how this team responds when things go left and get hit with adversity. They got a heavy dose of that today against the Sooners and instead of shrinking in the moment they did exactly what they’ve done all year: They punched back and got themselves back in the game.
This team ate some stiff punches that were handed out by Oklahoma, but they never stopped fighting. Even when they got down double digits in the second half they kept their composure and kept clawing and fighting their way back into the game and just took things a series at a time. Even in a losing effort, that is an encouraging sign. This team may have come up short on Saturday, but one thing you can never say about them is that they quit on the field. It is always going to be a 60-minute ball game with them and that is something you can build upon moving forward.
Quinn Ewers circled the wagons after a rough start
Oklahoma was dialed into Ewers early and was able to force two early interceptions (one I don’t fault him on, but they still count on the stat sheet). They were then able to get him to put the ball on the ground early in the second half. Those things happened and obviously you can’t remove them from the context of the game.
But what also happened was the way Ewers ultimately responded. If I am being honest, I think this was the most mentally-resilient Ewers was in a game since he arrived at Texas. He turned the ball over and was sacked five times today in the Cotton Bowl, but he kept picking himself up and kept getting back to work. He was able to put those plays in the rearview and keep chipping away at the Sooner defense. He ended the game going 31-of-37 passing for 346 yards and had a touchdown pass to tight end Gunnar Helm. Ewers completed 83.8 percent of his passes today, which is a career-high for him. After the fumble, he was pretty dialed in and was spreading the ball all around as he helped lead the comeback charge and get Texas back in the game.
I am sure folks will be tough on 3 after today, but down the home-stretch he was playing winning football and putting the Texas offense in positions to help win the game. I would have put the ball in his hands on the goal line and not waited until fourth down to try a quick screen. I probably would have opted to keep him out there on the last scoring possession instead of settling for three as well. Hindsight is 20/20, but I didn’t have the warm fuzzies putting Auburn out there and I also wasn’t thrilled with the idea of leaving that much time on the clock for the Oklahoma offense.
These teams will meet again
Don’t have to say too much here. This game was THAT close from going the other way and the Golden Hat would still be sitting in Austin right now as I type this. When you look around the conference, it is very clear that these are the two best teams. I would be shocked if we don’t get part two of the Red River Rivalry in Jerry World for the Big 12 Championship game.
Texas won’t see a team as talented as Oklahoma or Alabama on the back half of their schedule. If they are able to take care of business they will get another chance to right the wrongs of Saturday.
BONUS: Jonathon Brooks eclipses the century mark AGAIN
Another week, another 100-yard performance for RB1. I love watching this kid tote the pill and he is having himself a hell of a season thus far. He has been one of the best backs in the country through five weeks and I hope we continue to see more of the same moving forward.
Run the damn ball.
Texas heads into the bye week 5-1. This one will sting for awhile and with this week off you have a little longer to linger in your feels. Come this time next week though it is back to business as usual.
Time to get healthy and get ready to run the table on the back half of the schedule. Texas still has everything in front of them. Go be 1-0 every single week and see what happens.
Texas wide receiver Xavier Worthy is +20000 to win the Heisman Trophy, according to DraftKings.
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.