The Texas Longhorns lost to the Oklahoma Sooners 34-27 in front of a packed Cotton Bowl. With the stadium split on the 50-yard line, half in maroon and half in burnt orange, the Sooners grabbed an early 7-0 lead and then held the Horns at bay for the four quarters.
On a painfully bright October afternoon in Fair Park the two teams got chippy during pregame warm-ups and those emotions carried over into the game. Although there were no egregious unsportsmanlike penalties in the contest, it was evident that emotions ran hot throughout the game.
OU did a better job harnessing those emotions and used them to propel the team to a level of play that Texas could not match. While many Texas fans will blame dropped passes and poor tackling to convince themselves that their team lost rather than got beat, the truth is that Oklahoma won the game because they were the better team.
Oklahoma won the game because they were the better team.
Tom Herman, Sam Cosmi and others on the Texas sideline talked earlier this week about being the more physical team and playing fast. Those two points are foundations of Herman’s program and Texas was, in fact, the tougher squad in their previous five games, including the loss to LSU. Not only did Lincoln Riley and his Sooners look and play faster than Texas, Oklahoma was the more physical team. By outperforming the Horns in two areas Texas emphasizes, OU controlled the game.
There were specific plays that the Longhorns and their fans will point to and claim they were the difference between winning and losing, but it was the Sooners’ level and style of play that were foundational in their victory. Texas receivers dropped multiple fastballs from Sam Ehlinger, but to claim those plays as the difference in the game is akin to blaming gun violence on the weapon.
Even with all the mistakes, Texas was extremely close to winning the game. The Longhorns spent most the game within one score of the Sooners which makes the poor tackling stand out like the difference in the game. UT was close, painfully so, to a consecutive regular season win over their arch rival.
In the loss, the brightest spot was the continued emergence of true freshman Roschon Johnson. Slated to be the team’s third string quarterback, Johnson cast aside the position he played in high school and his opportunity for a redshirt year in favor of a position switch to running back.
Johnson’s burst through the line for a 57-yard touchdown that tied the game was one of the highlights of the day for Texas, cementing his emergence as the team’s most reliable offensive weapon in the game. The freshman finished the day with 95 yards rushing, and 23 yards receiving.
One of the lone offensive bright spots in the game, Johnson consistently gained positive yards while the rest of UT’s offense sputtered against an overwhelming performance by OU’s front 7. But rather than dissect specifics about the RRS, this column, as it does after every Texas game, is about how the contest impacts the season.
Herman’s mantra of going 1-0 will be repeated ad nauseum this week. After a close, emotional loss to the team’s principal rival that phrase might serve as a comfortable distraction that gets the locker room to focus on playing Kansas in Austin next Saturday.
Dwelling on the fact that Oklahoma proved to be a more physical and faster team on Saturday is a recipe for losing to the Jayhawks. There’s no sense in reflecting on losing to OU when the team knows if it handles business for the rest of the season, a re-match with the Sooners is likely in the conference championship game.
While a big picture focus runs contrary to Herman’s efforts to keep the team focused, it doesn’t impede this column’s ability to do so. At 4-2 on the season, Texas has four wins over teams they should beat, and losses against two of the best teams in the country. After eight middling years and two coaching changes that is a reasonable record.
Although thrilling, the Sugar Bowl win over UGA skewed expectations for Texas. In order to consistently win the RRS, Texas needs to continue to upgrade the talent on the roster. Building depth and developing talent does not happen overnight and will determine if Texas is ready to be earnestly considered as a contender for the college football playoff.