DALLAS – So this is what Oklahoma looks like with a defense. In the annual showdown in the Cotton Bowl between old, bitter rivals, the No. 5-ranked Sooners stuffed No. 11 Texas, winning 34-27. Oklahoma’s defense was the difference in a game in which the Sooners were essentially dominant.
Texas was averaging 41.8 points and 484 yards. The Sooners held Texas to 310 yards – including an even 100 rushing – and sacked Sam Ehlinger nine times. It was more than enough to overcome an uneven offensive performance.
Oklahoma piled up yards but made several critical mistakes, too, preventing a rout from developing. Credit the Sooners, though, for responding each time Texas drew close. It’s just possible Oklahoma is, in the words of those College Football Playoff selection committee chairmen, something like a “complete” team.
Here are three takeaways from Oklahoma’s victory against Texas:
– Remember how we wondered what Oklahoma could be with an average defense? Well, what about with a good defense? During a soft early schedule, the Sooners had shown signs of defensive improvement. But Texas presented a significant upgrade.
It’s worth recalling Texas’ production against another highly ranked opponent. A month earlier, the ‘Horns lost to LSU – but put up 38 points and piled up 530 yards.
Not against Oklahoma’s defense, which dominated most of the way.
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Until Roschon Johnson broke free up the middle for 57 yards midway through the third quarter (then followed with a 4-yard touchdown run to tie it at 10), Texas had 21 rushing yards on 22 carries. Even accounting for five sacks at that point, there was no room to run.
– Jalen Hurts grabs the headlines, and he was good but not great Saturday. Meanwhile, Oklahoma receiver CeeDee Lamb is the Sooners’ best offensive player. The junior receiver was virtually unstoppable. After his catch-and-run for a 27-yard fourth-quarter touchdown, he had 10 catches, 171 yards and three scores.
On two of the TD catches, his skills after the catch were evident. He made three Texas defenders miss on a 51-yard TD catch off the flea-flicker. On the third score, he caught the ball crossing the middle, then tightroped the sidelines into the end zone.
– After a pregame skirmish – it really wasn’t quite that, more like a heated conversation – referee Mike Defee issued every player on both teams an unsportsmanlike conduct foul – putting every player on the knife’s edge a half-hour before the game even started, since a second unsportsmanlike foul results in ejection.
At the coin toss, Defee told the team captains that “unfortunately” the unsportsmanlike fouls had been issued, and said:
“This is the greatest rivalry in college football. I expect the game to be hard-fought and well-played. We’re going to play this game with sportsmanship – is that clear?”
During that pregame melee, several Oklahoma players were seen flashing the “horns down” symbol, which has generated controversy in the Big 12 over whether Texas opponents would be flagged for doing it.