Longhorn Lookback: Texas looks to prevent late game collapse

Payne Williams, Senior Sports Reporter

Texas faces Oklahoma on Saturday, marking the two rivals’ 118th meeting and the first of the century where both teams enter unranked. The Red River Rivalry hasn’t featured both the Longhorns and Sooners unranked since the 1998 matchup, which Texas won 34-3 — but who’s counting?

Despite the teams’ familiarity with each other, both programs have endured heavy turnover among players and coaches since last October’s game. The 2021 Red River Shootout lived up to its name and simultaneously featured a historic crash and burn from Steve Sarkisian’s squad.

The No. 22 Longhorns roared out of the gates in last year’s Red River Rivalry game, scoring two touchdowns before many fans even found their seats. Behind a Xavier Worthy opening touchdown plus a blocked punt and subsequent Bijan Robinson score, the Longhorns found themselves up 14-0 within the first two minutes.

After a woeful start from the Sooners’ then-starting quarterback Spencer Rattler, former Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley put backup quarterback Caleb Williams in the game. Williamsnow at USC under Rileytook his first snap 66 yards on the ground for a Sooner touchdown.

The quarterback switch seemed to ignite some life into the desperate Oklahoma offense, but it didn’t seem to matter to Texas. 

The Longhorns’ air attack kept them comfortably ahead for much of the game, and the first half wasn’t an exception. Then-true freshman Xavier Worthy tacked nearly 150 yards receiving in the first 30 minutes with his opening score. Former Longhorn receiver Joshua Moore also caught a pair of touchdowns in the first half.

The Longhorns entered halftime with a comfortable 38-20 lead.

Texas didn’t jump into the second half with the same tempo they had in the first, but the Longhorns still held on to a 41-30 lead over the Sooners as they entered the final 15 minutes of the game.

The fourth quarter of 2021’s Red River Rivalry game featured one of the steepest momentum shifts ever seen in the Cotton Bowl. The Oklahoma offense became unstoppable and the Sooner defense anchored down.

Soon after the fourth quarter began, Williams tied the game with a 52-yard touchdown pass to Marvin Mims, one of few returning Sooners in 2022. While the scoreboard said the game was even, Longhorn fans knew something would need to change if their team stood a chance.

However, on the subsequent kickoff, Xavier Worthy fumbled the return, and the Sooner special teams recovered. Oklahoma running back Kennedy Brooks, who is now in the NFL, went on to score on the next play which gave the Sooners their first lead of the day at 48-41.

The Longhorns ended up tying the game, but the momentum had far escaped them by then. The game was iced by a 33-yard Brooks rushing touchdown.

Oklahoma, behind Williams and Riley, scored 25 points to close the game while the Sooner defense held the previously electric Texas offense to just seven points. 

If the Longhorns want to avoid a debacle like last season, Sarkisian’s “all gas, no brakes” motto will need to prove true against a Sooner team that is largely new to the rivalry game.