ARLINGTON, Texas — The definition of an opportunity is “a set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something.”
Texas enjoyed plenty of them through in a 39-27 Big 12 Championship loss to Oklahoma, but the opportunities were there, nevertheless.
What didn’t Texas do?
Capitalize, or “take the chance to gain advantage from.”
Examples of such can be found as early as Texas’ first defensive stand and second offensive series of the afternoon. Defensively, a Brandon Jones pass deflection fell into the arms of Caden Sterns in the end zone, making for what should have been a Texas interception. However, a Kris Boyd facemask penalty prior to the pass gift-wrapped Oklahoma with another opportunity, which led to a field goal moments later.
Once Texas did get the ball back, a false start on the first play forced the drive to stall and prevented the Longhorns from building a quick early cushion of any sort, whether it be 10-3 or 14-3.
The same situation arose two drives later. After building its lead to 14-6 early in the second quarter, Texas forced a quick three-and-out from the Sooners, but did nothing with the opportunity, punting the ball pack away following only four plays later.
Not only did Oklahoma, in turn, capitalize on its opportunity after Texas failed to do so, cashing in with an 87-yard touchdown drive, but in attempting — and failing — to answer, Texas’ drive began with a delay of game and ended with a punt minutes later after a Collin Johnson offensive pass interference call essentially killed the drive.
Once again, while Texas did not, Oklahoma capitalized on its opportunity and did so in a matter of 41 seconds to amass as much momentum as the Sooners had seen throughout the entire first half. With only 59 ticks remaining before the break, Oklahoma rapidly marched 80 yards in five plays, eating away only 41 seconds from the clock and cashing in with another touchdown to take a 20-14 edge into intermission.
“I don’t know. I would have to look at the film to tell you,” Texas head coach Tom Herman said when asked why Texas was unable to produce any first-half points after its 14-6 start. “I feel like we weren’t running the ball like we thought we’d be able to. That was certainly an issue. When you’re playing one-handed a bit, things can happen.”
Was Texas expected to score on each and every one of its first-half drives, as it did in the Red River Showdown? Not exactly, but squandering three opportunities to build a cushion — potentially a commanding one — certainly isn’t ideal in a game that came down to the fourth quarter.
Unfortunately for Texas, the fourth quarter is when more missed opportunities crept up.
After Oklahoma opened the second have with yet another touchdown strike, this one to cap a 21-0 Sooners stretch, Texas began to roar back, largely controlling the third quarter.
Texas needed only seven plays to get back into the scoring column for the first time since early in the second quarter, and after forcing a Sooners’ three-and-out, a methodical, 11-play drive ended with Texas’ second touchdown in as many tries to tie the game at 27 — Cameron Dicker’s extra point attempt was blocked, though that ultimately mattered very little at the end.
As one could expect, the high-powered Sooners once again found some success of their own, marching down the field and finishing with a field goal to recapture the lead, 30-27 with 12:37 remaining. Unable to respond, Texas punted the ball away on its next position, making for a paramount defensive series with the Longhorns trailing and at risk of facing a double-digit fourth-quarter deficit.
The end result?
Another seemingly momentum-shifting opportunity, as CeeDee Lamb broke free for 56 yards only to fumble at the end following a jarring hit from Gary Johnson.
Suddenly, the situation switched from Oklahoma owning a potential 1st and Goal from the eight-yard line to Texas taking control for a possible game-tying or lead-capturing drive. Two plays later, however, it was Oklahoma adding points to the board, as Tre Brown ran unscathed on a cornerback blitz to notch a safety on Sam Ehlinger.
Tre Brown on the corner blitz for the safety. What a call. pic.twitter.com/vmBi7XsuqA— Max Olson (@max_olson) December 1, 2018
“Absolutely not,” Ehlinger said when asked if he saw the blitz coming on the momentum-turning safety. “Unfortunately we didn’t pick it up on our slide and it was my fault for not seeing him and looking the other way.”
Though the lead was only five with 8:27 to play, an already-gassed Texas defense was gashed with Oklahoma orchestrating a methodical, 11-play, 65-yard touchdown drive of its own, which chewed up 6:27 from the clock, leaving the Longhorns will relatively little time to mount any comeback attempt.
Even then, though, when the outcome was seemingly all but decided with exactly two minutes remaining, Lil’Jordan Humphrey returned the kickoff all the way to the house for a would-be touchdown, but it mattered not, as a Josh Thompson holding penalty negated what would have brought Texas back within five points with 1:45 to play.
Texas did manage to march down the field, but the drive ended with an Ehlinger interception and less than one minute on the clock.
As those final seconds ticked away and the Longhorns left the field, one wouldn’t have to search far and wide to find the missed opportunities Texas left on the field. And Texas certainly had opportunities, but far too many times, it couldn’t capitalize. The same could be said for prior losses to Maryland, Oklahoma State, and West Virginia, but this time around in the program’s latest loss to Oklahoma, squandered opportunities cost Texas a conference title.
“The games that we’ve lost, we’ve hurt ourselves,” Ehlinger said after the game. “It’s very enlightening to know that we’re going in the right direction. We can fix those things.”