Heisman Trophy contender Jalen Hurts accounted for four touchdowns Saturday to help lead the No. 6 Oklahoma Sooners to a 34-27 Red River Rivalry victory over fellow Heisman hopeful Sam Ehlinger and the No. 11 Texas Longhorns at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.
Oklahoma improved to 6-0 in mostly dominant fashion. The Sooners had outscored opponents 267-95 with at least 45 points in every game before Saturday. It's moved them firmly into the College Football Playoff conversation with a favorable second-half schedule.
Texas dropped to 4-2. The Longhorns also lost in Week 2 to the LSU Tigers. They would've had a strong argument as the nation's best one-loss team with a triumph but are now an extreme long shot to earn a CFP berth.
QB Jalen Hurts (OU): 16-of-28, 235 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT; 131 rushing yards, 1 TD
QB Sam Ehlinger (UT): 26-of-38, 210 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs; 2 rushing TDs
RB Roschon Johnson (UT): 8 carries, 95 yards, 1 TD
WR CeeDee Lamb (OU): 10 catches, 171 yards, 3 TDs
DB Brandon Jones (UT): 5 tackles, 1 INT
Oklahoma defense: 9 sacks (8 players with at least 1)
Hurts', Ehlinger's Limitations on Display in Rivalry Game
Both Hurts and Ehlinger earned their place in the early Heisman conversation with strong starts to the campaign, and it wouldn't be a shock if either standout quarterback wins college football's top individual honor at season's end.
That said, Saturday's hard-fought contest showed each has room for improvement.
Oklahoma had an opportunity to pull away in the first half. It scored a touchdown on the opening drive with a one-yard throw from Hurts to CeeDee Lamb and then forced Texas into a three-and-out.
A Hurts fumbled ended the Sooners' second drive, however, and, after the Longhorns punted again, the senior signal-caller threw an interception at the goal line.
So OU could have been ahead 21-0 early in the second quarter, but instead the game remained close.
The Oklahoma defense quickly established that it wanted to force Ehlinger to beat it deep while the Sooners focused on containing the Horns in the running game and their short passing attack.
Though the former 4-star prospect throws an accurate deep ball, his windup is a bit slow when he's throwing down the field, and the ball doesn't have a lot of zip. It gave the Sooners defensive backs, who were often in man coverage, a chance to prevent those potential game-breaking plays.
Expect more teams to replicate the OU game plan of playing with one high safety or both safeties playing tighter to the first-down marker until Ehlinger shows he can consistently beat them over the top.
Defenses Steal Spotlight in Expected Shootout
It took the entire first half for the teams to combine for 13 points, as Texas kicker Cameron Dicker nailed a 49-yard field goal to make it 10-3 OU at halftime.
The Longhorns tallied just 83 yards before the break, while the Sooners moved the ball well (260 yards) but suffered from Hurts' pair of turnovers.
It wasn't purely an issue of poor offensive execution, though. Both defenses and their coordinators deserve credit for creating schemes to keep the usually high-powered offenses at bay.
The Oklahoma front seven was a constant presence in the Texas backfield, which forced Ehlinger to tuck and run on numerous occasions. On the flip side, the Longhorns secondary kept the normally explosive OU playmakers in front of them to force the Sooners to sustain long drives.
It wasn't until UT started losing the field-position battle in the second half that Oklahoma created some separation.
Each side is likely to have a couple of defensive clunkers during the rest of the season—it is Big 12 football, after all—but Saturday showed the units are capable of coming up big when necessary.
That's particularly notable for the Sooners as they attempt to earn a place in the CFP.
The Sooners return home to Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium for a Big 12 clash with the West Virginia Mountaineers next Saturday at 12 p.m. ET on Fox.
Texas battles the Kansas Jayhawks in conference action at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium at Joe Jamail Field next Saturday at 7 p.m. ET on the Longhorn Network.