Sooners comeback bid foiled as defense falters

 

By Michael Kinney

As bad as the Oklahoma defense performed throughout the day Saturday, in order to have a chance to beat rival Texas and keep their season undefeated, they needed just one last stop in the fourth quarter to give their potent offense a chance to win the game.

Unfortunately for the Sooners, that stop never came as the Longhorns kicked a game-winning field goal with nine seconds left to beat the Sooners 48-45 at the Cotton Bowl.

“We have to get better in a lot of areas,” Lincoln Riley said. “But we’ve got some fight in that room. We have some guys who are incredibly disappointed right now. They will be ready when we get back on the field here at TCU Congratulations to Texas. They played a very good football game. It was one of the epic ones there. It will be one people will be talking about for years and years and years. It was really a special atmosphere like it always is. It lived up to the billing like it always does.”

The Sooners entered the fourth quarter trailing the Longhorns 45-24. The game looked like it was done.

But then OU seemed to flip a switch in the final 10 minutes of the game.

First quarterback Kyler Murray hit Lee Morris for a 19-yard touchdown with 8:28 left on the clock. The defense came up with a stop to give the ball back to the offense with 5:11 left.

On the first play of the drive, Murray sprinted 67 yards down the left sideline and into the endzone to close the gap to 45-38.

For a third consecutive series, the defense came up with a huge stop and forced Longhorns to punt. The Sooners took over on their own 43yard line. It took only three plays for Trey Sermon to score and tie the game at 45-45.

“It was a tale of two games for us,” OU coach Lincoln Riley said. “First part we were inconsistent offensively. Didn’t get any stops defensively. We were kind of just average on special teams. Then at the end of the game I was very proud of our team’s fight there at the end. To get it back there to tie the game, have a great chance to win the football game.”

Texas ended the day with 501 total yards. Sam Ehlinger threw for 324 yards.

UT came into the game averaging only 396 yards per outing. Their 48 points were 20 more than their season average as well.

The Longhorns had their best offensive performance of the season against an Oklahoma defense that was supposed to be a strength this season.

“Our players got a little bit disjointed. We all did,” defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “[Texas was] reading what we were doing. We were trying to audible back out of it and I think our players got in between two calls at times. I thought [Texas] played more physical than we did today, and some of it is just who we have there in certain positions. That’s an area we obviously need to get better in – just our physicality across the board.”

Murray suffered his first loss as a starting quarterback in college with his defeat at Texas Despite throwing for 304 yards and two TDs on `19-of-26 passing and leading the Sooners in rushing with 116, he put the loss on his shoulders with his two turnovers.

“Obviously, I’m not used to losing,” Murray said. “It hurts. Disappointed. It’s just tough because I feel I turned the ball over today and you give them the advantage when you turn the ball over. I feel like if I didn’t turn the ball over we had a better shot at winning the game. Obviously, we didn’t play as well as we wanted to. We knew coming into this game it was going to be a four-quarter game. We’re better than that. I know we’re better than that. It’s just tough.”

Marquise Brown snagged nine catches for 132 Yards and two touchdowns on the day. Lamb added six receptions for 75 yards.

Curtis Bolton led the Sooners with 13 tackles. Kenneth Murray, who leads the Big 12 in tackles, ended with 10. Kahil Haughton added nine tackles.

For Texas, Lil Jordan Humprey tallied nine catches for 133 yards while Collin Johnson tacked on 6 receptions for 81 yards.

Keaontay Ingram led the Longhorns ground game with 13 carries for 87 yards.

Oklahoma took the first lead of the game when Kyler Murray and Brown hooked up for a 4-yard TD pass on the game’s opening drive.

However, UT outscored the Sooners 24-10 the rest of the first half.

The Longhorns kept finding ways to putting the Oklahoma defense in positions it didn’t want to be in. On their second touchdown of the first half, quarterback Sam Ehlinger hit tailback Tre Watson on a wheel route out of the backfield on a 28- yard touchdown catch. He was being defended by defensive end/linebacker Mark Jackson, who was trailing him the entire way.

On the ensuing drive, the Longhorns went on an eight play, 75-yard scoring drive as they rammed the ball down the Sooner’s throat with the run game. They were physically moving the defensive line off the line of scrimmage and back into the linebacker’s laps.

“At the end of the day if we may not get the call, it’s still our jobs as players to get down and run the defense at the end of the day,” Neville Gallimore said. “Whether we get the call or not, get lined up, that’s the biggest thing for us. We just need to do a better job at that. It’s the little things.”

The Longhorns came out of halftime like they started the game. They pulled out an 11-play drive that covered 75 yards. Ehlinger’s 5-yard touchdown run put Texas up 31-17.

But the Sooner’s struck back with a 77-yard scoring strike from Murry to Brown. It’s the longest reception by a Sooner in the series.

After Oklahoma forced a three and out on the next series, they got the back with a chance to tie the game. However, Murray fumbled while trying to evade pressure up the middle and the Longhorns recovered.

“Coach Riley, he is preaching to me all the time about ball security in the pocket. And then it ended up in a big game,” Kyler Murray said. “I don’t know how many times he’s told me that. That one defiantly hurts.”

The Longhorns took advantage of the turnover and scored twice more I the third to take a

45-24 advantage heading into the fourth quarter.

“We all as a group are supposed to be on the same page,” cornerback Tre Brown said. “We got on different pages and you could see the frustration out of us. But we’re a team, we’re brothers and we picked that up very late. Should have been doing that the whole time. Second half it came together, but we should have been doing that the whole game. We knew what was coming, but we didn’t execute like we should and everything was just coming to us late. We knew it was right there, but we didn’t make the play. It’s on all of us.”

Story ran in the Yukon Review

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider

Sooners outlast hungry Longhorns

By Michael Kinney

DALLAS – After most of 92,000 fans had cleared out of the Cotton Bowl Saturday, the Oklahoma Sooners were still on the field celebrating. The coronation of gold cowboy hat and the group photo in front of the scoreboard had to be taken after the Sooners 45-40 victory over Texas.

However, the one celebration that stood out from the rest involved quarterback Baker Mayfield. The junior signal caller grabbed a giant OU flag right as the band started to play the Sooners fight song. He raced around the field, did a few spins as his teammates chased him then as the song ended, he slammed the end the flag pole into the ground.

“It’s special to me. I grew up in Austin so I know what this rivalry is all about,” Mayfield said. “I’ve been waiting a long time to finally get a win against these guys. It felt good to go out and celebrate with the team.”

It was a fitting end to an afternoon that saw Mayfield and his Sooners (3-2, 2-0) scratch and claw their way to hard fought win over a team that needed the victory just as much as they did.

“I didn’t know what it was going to be like, but I knew of the rivalry and what it was like,” Junior Emmanuel Beal said. “I knew I would have to play my best game. We knew we were going to have to play our best game of the season to come out with a victory.”

But the win didn’t come easy.

Texas (2-3, 0-2) scored midway through the fourth quarter to cut Oklahoma’s lead down to eight points. The Sooners responded with a clutch Austin Siebert field goal with 2:36 left in the game to put the Sooners up 45-34.

The Longhorns took over on their own 20 yard line with 2:30 left on the clock. They were down to the Sooners 20 with 1:51 left. The very next play D’Onta Foreman scored and OU’s lead was down to 45-40 after a missed the 2-point conversion.

Texas went for the onside kick, but the Sooners recovered it.

Texas forced OU to punt and took over with 17seconds left. After two failed attempts to get the ball down field, the Longhorns were only left with the hope of a miraculous play to come from several laterals that the Sooners stopped defended.

“We just had to stay calm, we knew that it was going to be a dog fight coming into it because it always is, no matter their record or our record is,” Sophomore Orlando Brown said. “We just have to come out, be motivated and be consistent. We had some unnecessary turnovers throughout the game, but we showed our resilience and we just did what we do best.”

The Sooners started the game off like they had in past contests. The offense drove down the field, but stalled just outside the redzone and Siebert missed a field goal attempt.

Mayfield threw back to back interceptions on the Sooners next two possessions. It would have amounted to an horrendous start, but the OU defense held the Longhorns to a field goal.

Oklahoma finally got on the board after recovering a Texas fumble deep in the Longhorn’s territory. Samaje Perine scored on a 2-yard plunge to put the Sooners up 7-3 with 1:42 left in the first quarter.

However, the Longhorns quickly retook a 10-7 advantage to start the second quarter.

Much of the first half was filled with mistakes, turnovers and penalties by both teams. There was no rhythm or momentum to the game.

Oklahoma overcame that late in the first half when Mayfield slung a pass down down the field to a wide open Dede Westbrook. With his defender falling down he was able to stroll into the endzone for a 71 yard TD to give OU a 14-10 advantage.

Despite the reputation Oklahoma’s Jordan Thomas carries as a shut down corner, UT quarterback Shane Buechele kept testing him on deep passes down the sideline. But Thomas rose the occasion almost every time to prevent the completion.

However, at the start of the third quarter, Buechele went at him on back to back possessions and connected for touchdowns.

Not to be outdone, after Mayfield hooked up with Westmoore alum Dahu Green down the left sideline, the QB scored on a short run to put Oklahoma back in front in the sea-saw affair.

On their next possession, it was Mayfield to Westbrook again. Their third TD of the afternoon gave the Sooners a 35-27 advantage.

An interception by Midwest City native Will Sunderland gave the Sooners the ball back late in the third quarter. It led to a time consuming drive in which the OU offensive line pounded open holes and all the way down the field. Perine scored from 2-yards out and Oklahoma went up by 15.

“That turnover was big, too. Will has done some good things,” Defensive coordinator said. “ We have to make the game where Will can be a factor because he’s a very talented player. That’s part Will, that’s part us getting him in position where he can really use his ability to play. It was a little reminiscent of Zack Sanchez’s interception against Tennessee. That’s the first thing I thought of. It really put us in a good position.”

Perine led all rushers with 214 yards while Mayfield threw for 390 yards and three TD’s. Westbrook had a record setting performance with 232 yards and three scores.

“Dede was huge. He had some big ones. We thought we had some good matchups there,” Offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley said. “It’s been good the last two weeks to get him healthy. He’s a big part of what we’re doing. Bake had some really nice throws to him, protected by our o-line. When you do what we did running and throwing the ball, there’s a lot of people playing well and Dede did a great job of finishing those off.”

OU will look to move to 3-0 in Big 12 Conference play Saturday when they host Kansas State. Kick-off is set for 11 .m. at Memorial Stadium.

Coaches feeling the pressure heading into Red River Rivalry

By Michael Kinney

The Red River Rivalry has always been a major showdown. No matter the rankings, whenever Texas and Oklahoma enter the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, the game takes on epic proportions.

However, the last couple of years, the annual contest has taken on the burden of job security for the head coaches involved. Last year’s win by the Longhorns is believed to have saved the job of UT head coach Charlie Strong.

As both the No. 20 Sooners (2-2) and the Longhorns (2-2) enter Saturday’s contest, Strong is once again fighting to keep his job. After deflating losses to California and Oklahoma State in which his defense allowed a combined 99 points, many believe this will be his last Red River Rivalry.

However, Strong is not the only one hearing the call to be replaced. Despite leading OU to the Final Four last season, Bob Stoops, for the first time, is seriously hearing calls for his job.

Appearing on FS1’s ‘Speak For Yourself’, Sooner legend Brian Bosworth put a face to the behind the scene whispers Thursday when he said it may be time for OU to move on from the Stoops era.

“That’s kind of a conversation that’s quietly been had over the last five, seven years,” Stoops said. “I’ve heard that from a lot of the alumni. You look at the great traditional programs; the tenure of a coach that has had the great success that Bob has had has been remarkable. Especially as long as he’s been there.But it’s not only what you do during the season that matters. It’s how you finish the season in bowl games. And what we’re doing over the course of these seven to eight years is we’re getting embarrassed in the bowl games.

“It weighs heavily on the alumni, and it weighs heavily on the tradition, and it weighs heavily on us as players, because it’s just unacceptable going out there; I understand getting beat, but I don’t understand getting embarrassed,” he continued. “That just means the players are packing up the bags at the first sign of the avalanche starting to happen.”

While Bosworth can easily be dismissed as a disgruntled alumni, the fear that the game is passing by Stoops is the focus of talk radio, local TV and recruiting websites everyday.

That is what makes this year’s Red River Rivalry so important. The state of Texas is still fertile recruiting ground for the Sooners. It’s 2017 class already contains several commits.

With Oklahoma reaching out to states around the nation, they can’t be seen as falling behind the likes of Alabama, Ohio State, Michigan and Clemson. But if they fall behind rival Texas, that disrupts the foundation of their recruiting, which is every team’s lifeblood.

A win over Texas doesn’t guarantee anything. But it does settle down the outside noise and keep the Sooners on path to win another Big 12 Conference title.

A loss only intensifies the heat surrounding the team and keeps the questions coming about the program coming.

“I appreciate everything that Bob’s done, he’s had a great run,” Bosworth said. “He’s put up more wins than any other coach there. But the game passes much faster sometimes than the coach that’s currently coaching can keep up with, if he’s not making the strategic changes on his staff to bring in the types of players that are going to keep him at that top level of winning the conference championship. But more importantly how are you going to compete once you get into the bowl games and you’re playing the teams that are competing consistently for the national championships? The Alabama’s, the Ohio State’s. Those guys are doing something each and every year to rebuild the programs. They’re losing great players and yet they’re still coming out the following year to build the momentum throughout the season.”

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