All week long, Longhorn players and coaches talked about the importance of big plays in the Red River Rivalry. They stressed how helpful it would be if Texas could score on defense or come up with a momentum shifting play on special teams.
Sure enough, before the 10-minute mark of the second quarter, there had already been a kick return touchdown and a pick-six. Unfortunately for the Longhorns, both had come from the Sooners.
Oklahoma’s sophomore running back Alex Ross returned a kickoff 91 yards, and sophomore defensive back Zack Sanchez took an interception 43 yards for a score, as the Sooners beat Texas, 31-26, at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas on Saturday.
“It’s heartbreaking for us,” senior receiver Jaxon Shipley said. “Winning last year was an unbelievable feeling, but to have to give the Golden Hat away this year is not a good feeling at all.”
Aside from the big plays, the Longhorns were plagued by penalties and another poor third-quarter performance.
Texas committed 11 penalties for a total of 85 yards in the game, and a couple of those flags proved to be very costly. Senior receiver John Harris was called for a holding penalty, which negated a 73-yard run by sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes, and sophomore safety Adrian Colbert took a costly kick catching interference penalty, which gave Oklahoma a short field and led to a Sooner field goal.
The patchwork offensive line had discipline issues as well, committing five false starts and one holding penalty, as the young, inexperienced group struggled to handle the raucous Cotton Bowl environment.
“It was just the noise,” head coach Charlie Strong said. “They weren’t getting the checks at the line.”
Once again, the Longhorns came out flat in the third quarter. The third frame has been Texas’ biggest weakness all season, and Saturday was no exception. Strong’s team wasn’t able to score in the third quarter for the fourth consecutive game and failed to get a first down on three of five possessions.
The inability to move the ball on offense prevented the defense from having time to rest, which caused them to wear down in the second half. Defensive coordinator Vance Bedford’s unit has now allowed 94 second-half points this season, compared to just 33 in first halves.
“In the first half, our offense held the football, so we were able to keep them off the field,” Strong said. “In the second half, we weren’t able to keep them off the field because our drives were stopping. We had our opportunities; we just didn’t make it happen.”
Despite the pick-six, Swoopes turned in the best performance of his young career against the Sooners, passing for 334 yards and two touchdowns while scrambling for 50 yards and another score. Senior running back Malcolm Brown led the rushing attack with 78 yards and Harris had 90 receiving yards and caught both passing touchdowns.
To see more photo from the game, check out the slideshow here -