Big Dicker Energy: True freshman drills game-winner

Alex Briseño

The third quarter of the highly anticipated Red River Rivalry had just concluded, but the crimson half of the Cotton Bowl had already decided they had seen enough.

The Longhorn faithful erupted while the Oklahoma side headed for the exits once Texas gained a firm grip on the game with a 21-point lead. This wasn’t how the game was supposed to unfold.

After a week of buildup predicting a close matchup, the annual shootout wasn’t so after three quarters. Freshman kicker Cameron Dicker, who knew he might have to kick in a high risk, high reward situation, simply ran onto the field to add extra points after Texas continued to score in what slowly became a blowout.

“Once we went up three touchdowns, I was like, ‘Oh, OK. We’ll be good,’” Dicker said.

Then, the fourth quarter started. Kyler Murray and the Sooner offense cut into the Longhorn lead with a touchdown. Murray followed it up with a 67-yard touchdown run to make it a one-score ballgame before going on a three-play, 57-yard drive to tie it, 45-45, with 2:38 remaining.

“Everybody knew we had plenty of time on the clock,” head coach Tom Herman said. “And we had done a two-minute drill to start every Tuesday practice the past three weeks needing a field goal. Every time, our offense has gone down and put our kicker in a position to kick it, and he’s made it every time.”

The Sooner fans who stuck around erupted while the burnt orange half of the stadium sat in stunned silence. But Tom Herman wasn’t worried, and despite all eyes shifting toward the freshman kicker, neither was Dicker.

“When they started coming back, I was like, ‘OK, I’ll kick the game winner,’” Dicker said. “I knew I was going to, I felt that and I was ready to go.”

Quarterback Sam Ehlinger, who threw 24-for-35 with 314 yards along with two passing and three rushing touchdowns, led a nine-play drive into Oklahoma territory as the clock continued ticking.

After driving 52 yards, Texas faced a decision: Go for a touchdown or get in position to set up Dicker the kicker — a true freshman — to kick a field goal and possibly put the Longhorns ahead in the final seconds of the game.

“I have full confidence in him,” Ehlinger said. “We had done that situation for the past three weeks at the beginning of practice and he hasn’t missed yet.”

Texas called a timeout with 14 seconds left in the game, forcing the sellout crowd of 92,300 fans decked in burnt orange and crimson to wait just a few more moments for the biggest play of the game.

Dicker ran onto the field with Ryan Bujcevski, Texas’ true freshman punter and snap holder, and true freshman long snapper Justin Mader, all pivotal pieces in the biggest moment of Texas’ 2018 season.

As Dicker awaited the snap, the rest of his team looked on from the sideline. Some linked arms, others prayed and a few even decided they couldn’t bear to look for themselves.

“I was sitting next to (Texas safety, Class of 2017) DeShon Elliott, and I ask, ‘How do you want to approach this?’” senior defensive end Breckyn Hager said. “He (DeShon) said, “I don’t know bro.” I said, ‘Let’s look up.’ So we’re looking up. We’re not going to watch it. As we’re looking up I was like, ‘God told me we were going to win this game, so why would he miss it?’ That’s when I was like, ‘Oh wait, he went to Lake Travis, and I’m from Westlake.’”

Hager‘s joke ties back to Dicker’s high school days back at Lake Travis, the archrival of Westlake High, where Sam Ehlinger and Breckyn Hager attended school. While all three Longhorns are Austin natives, the Lake Travis-Westlake rivalry is commonly regarded as the biggest in the state.

With high school rivalries and cheesy jokes aside, Ehlinger looked on from the sideline, Hager looked up and Mader delivered a perfect snap to Bujcevski, who placed the ball for Dicker.

It was a no-doubter. Dicker nailed the 40-yard field goal to give the Longhorns a 48-45 lead with nine seconds left in the game.

“It felt good right when it left my foot, and looking up, it was going through. I don't even think I watched it go all the way through. I just turned around and went to Ryan (Bujcevski), our holder, and celebrated with him.”

Soon after the kick, the clock hit triple zeros, and the Longhorns received the Golden Hat from Governor Greg Abbott. Herman and Texas’ student section embraced Dicker after he made the biggest kick of his career.

“We’ve always had confidence in our kicker,” Herman said. “I know he missed two of his last three heading into this game, but I don’t know that there’s a kicker on this planet that hasn’t missed, but he corrected the technical mistakes that he made … Our confidence in our kicker is sky high right now.”

Dicker’s game-winning kick improves the Longhorns’ record to 5–1, with signature wins over three ranked opponents in the last four weeks. Dicker’s kick also helps Texas jump to the top of the Big 12 standings and, for what it’s worth, also earned him respect from Hager, a Westlake alumnus and Texas defensive end.

“Now I can finally say, Lake Travis, y’all are alright.”