Anything can happen in a rivalry game.
Despite being a two-touchdown underdog and facing questions about head coach Mack Brown's future, Texas (4-2, 3-0 Big 12) looked like a different team than we've seen this year in a 36-20 win over No. 12 Oklahoma (5-1, 2-1 Big 12) in the 2013 Red River Rivalry game.
Bleacher Report had the tweet as things went final in Dallas on Saturday afternoon:
ESPN The Magazine also added this gem:
Funnel cakes, corn dogs and fried EVERYTHING for all! TX earns the Golden Hat for the 1st time since 09. UT over OU, 36-20 #StoryOfTheSeason— ESPN The Magazine (@ESPNMag) October 12, 2013
Quarterback Case McCoy threw for 190 yards and two touchdowns while running backs Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown combined for 243 rushing yards as Texas took it to Oklahoma from the opening kickoff to the final whistle.
The Longhorns racked up 445 yards of total offense and converted a remarkable 13-of-20 third downs. The Sooners were just 2-of-13 on third down and finished with just 263 yards of total offense.
After not throwing an interception through five games, Blake Bell struggled under center for the Sooners. He completed less than 50 percent of his passes and hurled two crucial interceptions to cost Oklahoma on offense.
According to ESPN, the Longhorns made a big statement with the win:
Mack Brown and Texas are making a STATEMENT.— ESPN (@espn) October 12, 2013
Oklahoma had won the last three meetings between the two storied programs, but Texas proved that they are still a viable program that shouldn't be underestimated, especially in a rivalry game.
Texas and OU traded field goals on their opening drives, and the Longhorns were threatening again midway through the first quarter when one of the first turning points in the game went Oklahoma's way.
Eric Striker absolutely leveled McCoy as Texas was driving down the field, and was called for a personal foul penalty but did not get tagged for targeting although he hit McCoy in the helmet with his arms on the hit.
Though it looked as if Texas would use the extra 15 yards to build a lead, just the opposite happened. Joe Bergeron's fumble on the next play gave Oklahoma new life and the defensive stop they needed. With that the Sooners had a chance to take control of the game.
Unlike their performance in losses to BYU and Ole Miss, Texas responded to adversity with a haymaker of their own.
A zone blitz dialed up by Texas defensive coordinator Greg Robinson forced a bad throw from Bell, and defensive tackle Chris Whaley—a former high school running back—intercepted the pass and took it 31 yards for the first score of the game.
As noted by CBS Sports' Bruce Feldman, Whaley has some previous experience with the ball in his hands:
Heckuva run by Texas DT Chris Whaley. He looked like a guy who once ran for 2000 yds in HS as a RB.— Bruce Feldman (@BFeldmanCBS) October 12, 2013
Whaley's big-time play helped the Longhorns take a 10-3 lead, a score that would remain on the board at the Cotton Bowl at the end of the first quarter.
ESPN's Jake Trotter was quick to point out that Texas hasn't entered the second quarter of the Red River Rivalry with a lead in quite some time:
The last time Texas led OU after the first quarter -- 2006. #OUvsTEX— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) October 12, 2013
The Longhorns would build on that lead behind a strong up-tempo running game and a beautiful throw from McCoy.
Gray and Brown victimized the Oklahoma defense with solid runs throughout the second quarter, and the Texas offense used that to its advantage to set up the second touchdown of the game.
On a 3rd-and-11 from his own end of the field, McCoy saw man coverage on the outside and exploited it to find Marcus Johnson streaking down the sideline for a 59-yard touchdown.
Although he missed several wide-open throws and struggled with his accuracy, McCoy would finish with 143 yards at the end of the first half. By comparison, Bell was just 5-of-12 for 35 yards and an interception.
Texas would add a field goal to increase the lead to 17 points with just over three minutes to play in the first half, but a long kickoff return from Roy Finch set up a three-yard touchdown run from Damien Williams just five plays later.
Anthony Fera would then hit his third field goal of the half to give the Longhorns a 23-10 lead at the break.
As noted by Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman on Twitter, Texas' offense came to play in the first half:
Texas' 303 yards of offense at the half more than it had in entire OU games last two years; Texas had 373 yards in 2010. #statesman— kbohls (@kbohls) October 12, 2013
While the Longhorns relied on timely plays from McCoy and their two star running backs to turn the tide in the first half, it was the special teams unit that gave Texas an edge in the first part of the third quarter.
After Oklahoma cut the lead to 10 with a field goal, the Sooners got the ball back after Texas' first second-half drive. Though they failed to do anything, a punt to Texas wasn't the worst play in the world.
Except of course, it was.
Daje Johnson took the ball 85 yards for a touchdown on the play, giving Texas a 16-point lead in the process and momentum that it would never relinquish.
Who will win the Big 12?
McCoy later added a beautiful touchdown pass to Mike Davis, and the Longhorns were able to get the defensive stop they needed late in the game before running out the clock and celebrating their victory in front of students and alumni who made the trip from Austin.
Despite initial turmoil and two losses to non-conference opponents, Texas is suddenly in the driver's seat in the Big 12. At 3-0, the Longhorns control their own destiny and can only hope the Sooners give them some help by knocking off Baylor down the road.
Oklahoma had gotten off to a strong start in 2013, but Bell's inability to stretch the field and OU's defensive struggles in stopping the run proved to be too much for Bob Stoops' team to overcome.
It's been said before, but anything can happen in a rivalry game.
QB Blake Bell, Oklahoma: D
This tweet from ESPN's Robert Flores really says it all:
Blue Bell (esp Cookies N Cream) > Blake Bell #OUvsTEX— Robert Flores (@RoFloESPN) October 12, 2013
Bell struggled with his accuracy and pocket presence on Saturday, phases of his game that are still a work in progress after being a short-yardage runner for the first part of his collegiate career.
To Texas' credit, the defense made things tough and Robinson dialed up the blitz effectively all afternoon. But Bell, who had taken care of the ball well all season, coughed it up twice and looked lost under pressure in key moments.
Trevor Knight, anyone? Expect that question to be asked quite a bit in Norman this week.
QB Case McCoy, Texas: B+
McCoy hasn't had nearly the level of success as his older brother did at Texas, but as noted by ESPN's Tim MacMahon, he's been clutch in key moments for the Longhorns:
Case McCoy has his flaws, but he also has lifelong bragging rights over OU and A&M.— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) October 12, 2013
A late interception that was returned for a touchdown gave new life to Oklahoma late in the fourth quarter, but for the most part, McCoy was in control and had confidence to challenge OU's secondary down the field, while Bell did not.
He was also at his best on third down, a big reason why Texas dominated the time of possession battle by nearly 10 minutes.
LB Eric Striker, Oklahoma: A-
Oklahoma's defense missed Corey Nelson dearly on Saturday, but Eric Striker was a bright spot.
The pass-rushing specialist had the big hit that was mentioned above, and he victimized the Texas offensive line when defensive coordinator Mike Stoops unleashed him on the blitz.
Expect to see more of Striker in the weeks to come.
RBs Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown, Texas: A
Texas has been recruiting big-time running backs for years, but the committee approach has frustrated fans and left the situation in the backfield in flux on a week-to-week basis for the past couple of seasons.
Brown and Gray made a strong case to be the only two guys getting carries the rest of the way.
Each had at least 20 carries, ran for over 100 yards and showed outstanding vision in the pistol, the shotgun and under center. Simply put, the Longhorns don't win this game without Gray and Brown getting five-to-eight yards per carry on early downs.
The Sooners will travel to Lawrence next week for a battle with Big 12 basement dweller Kansas before returning home in two weeks for a showdown with No. 20 Texas Tech. After a bye week, Oklahoma will then head to Waco for a Thursday night game with No. 15 Baylor.
Texas will have a bye in Week 8 before returning to action on Oct. 26 in Fort Worth against TCU. A home game with Kansas and a road tilt with West Virginia also loom on the upcoming schedule.
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