Fourth-quarter safety ends Longhorns’ chance at conference title

Alex Briseño

When asked if he saw Oklahoma cornerback Tre Brown sprinting toward him as he looked for open receivers from his own end zone, all Sam Ehlinger said was, “Absolutely not.”

Ehlinger took the snap and faked a handoff, but what he didn’t see was Brown darting toward him in an attempt to make a game-changing play.

Brown flew past the Longhorn offensive line, untouched and unnoticed, before driving Ehlinger to the ground in his own end zone for the biggest safety of the Sooners’ 2018 season.

The safety gave Oklahoma a 32-27 lead en route to the 39-27 victory over Texas, and it came from a play Oklahoma only called once — all season.

“This entire season, sitting down with the coaches and watching film, they’ve run corner chop once,” tight end Andrew Beck said. “One play.”

That one play came almost immediately after Texas forced its one and only turnover of the game. Texas still faced a 30-27 lead, but even players admitted they thought that was enough to ride the momentum and return to Austin with the Big 12 title.

“We had an opportunity,” Ehlinger said. “Our defense did a great job of getting the ball back to us, and then offensively we didn’t take care of our side of the bargain.”

“That’s on us. That’s on me,” an emotional Ehlinger added. “I will make it my mission to never let this team or this school feel this disappointment again.”

But the disappointment isn’t just restricted to Ehlinger or the offense’s production. A large part of it is in regard to the number following “penalty yards” on the stat sheet: 128.

Aside from numerous costly 15-yard pass interference calls throughout the game, the lethal penalty came with less than two minutes left in the game. Immediately after the Sooners took a 39-27 lead, Lil’Jordan Humphrey knew he had to try and make something happen on the ensuing kickoff.

The majority of the 83,114 fans in attendance at AT&T Stadium, which was enough to set the record for highest attendance for any conference championship, went into a frenzy as Humphrey returned the kickoff 92 yards to make it a one possession game.

But a bright yellow flag ended Texas’ hopes of a comeback before they even got started, negating the touchdown and any wishes the Longhorns had at clinching their first conference title since 2009.

“We shot ourselves in the foot and you can't do that,” Humphrey said. “… I was really praying it was on them but it wasn’t.”

As the clock hit zero, Oklahoma players stormed the field and threw the ‘Horns Down’ hand gesture while Murray grabbed an OU flag and took a lap around AT&T Stadium.

Murray, who threw for 379 yards and three touchdowns, improved to 6–0 all time at AT&T Stadium. More importantly, the win sets up the Sooners to secure the fourth spot in the College Football Playoff and puts Murray as a frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy.

“I don’t want to compare it to anybody else because the guy has done a lot of special things,” head coach Lincoln Riley said. “He’s been the most dynamic player in the country. The things he does, moving, the things he does throwing the football, how good he is mentally, I mean you saw it today. You saw it today.”

“Don’t let that get to your head,” Riley told Murray.

Across the hallway, Humphrey talked to the media about where the Texas program is in comparison to where it has been in recent memory.

“I want to say we’re right where we want to be, but we aren’t yet,” Humphrey said. “That’s Big 12 Champions, but that’s not where we are right now. We still have a lot of work to do but we’re getting there.”

For now, the Longhorns are forced to cope with coming within one win of a conference championship while mentally preparing for bowl season against No. 5 Georgia.