DALLAS — After five games, Texas finally lived up to its preseason expectations.
Following one of the most disappointing starts under head coach Mack Brown, the Longhorns unexpectedly excelled in all three phases of the game and potentially saved what was believed to be a lost season by beating their most bitter rival on a national stage.
While Texas’ 36-20 victory over No. 12 Oklahoma at the Cotton Bowl does little to erase glaring faults within the program, it certainly gives the Longhorns promise for the future as the upset propels them to the top of the Big 12 standings.
“We’re not in the grave,” Texas head coach Mack Brown said. “We’re crawling out.”
Texas quarterback Case McCoy came up big in what he coined a “legacy game” earlier in the week, completing 13 of 21 passes for 190 yards and two perfectly placed touchdown passes, including a 38-yard strike to a streaking Mike Davis to build a three-possession lead entering the fourth quarter.
“We sit back and let (people) bash us and bash our coaches,” said McCoy, who received the start over injured former Belton quarterback David Ash. “There comes a time when you put a chip on your shoulder.”
DT WHALEY SCORES THE FIRST TD
Texas (4-2, 3-0) finished with 445 yards while limiting the Sooners to 263 yards — almost 200 below their average — and picked off two Blake Bell passes with 6-foot-3, 295-pound defensive tackle Chris Whaley rumbling 31 yards for the team’s first touchdown late in the opening quarter.
“I didn’t dream about getting a pick-six, but I did dream about making a big play,” Whaley said, “and it came true. It actually did surprise me when the ball hit me in the hands, but when I was running, all I was thinking about was scoring.”
For Texas, it was only the beginning of a one-sided drubbing that caused Sooner fans to head for the exits in third quarter and ended the Longhorns’ three-game losing streak in the border war.
Texas struck first as the teams exchanged field goals on their opening drives before Quandre Diggs’ hit on Bell resulted in Whaley’s touchdown, giving the Longhorns a 10-3 lead with 2:29 remaining in the first quarter.
Early in the second quarter, McCoy delivered a highlight score, hitting Marcus Johnson in stride down the Oklahoma sideline for his only reception.
Plenty of other Longhorns continued to step up, though.
Texas running backs Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown each finished with more than 100 rushing yards, marking the first time the Longhorns had two 100-yard rushers in the same game against Oklahoma. Senior kicker Anthony Fera made all three of his field goal attempts, including a career-long 50-yarder to put Texas up 20-3 with 3:22 remaining in the first half, and defensively, the Longhorns produced four sacks and seven tackles for a loss to round out an all-around dominant showing.
“I think in all competitive arenas, there is a very fine edge between what somebody’s listening to and what their mindset is when you have to go compete,” Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops said. “I’m not going to say we were (overconfident), but at the end of the day, they played a lot better than we did.”
A big kickoff return by Nick Hodgson set up Oklahoma running back Damien Williams’ short touchdown run, trimming the Longhorns’ advantage to 10 points, 20-10, but Texas quickly maneuvered its way down the field and with time expiring in the half, Fera nailed a 43-yard field goal to give the Longhorns a 23-10 lead.
Momentum began swinging in the Sooners’ direction after halftime as Michael Hunnicutt connected on a 37-yard field goal to complete their first drive, but it completely reversed direction back into the Longhorns’ favor when Daje Johnson took a punt return 85 yards for a touchdown. It was Johnson’s first game of the season fielding punts.
COVE EX GETS BIG PICK
With the Sooners (5-1, 2-1) driving in an attempt to cut the score to a one-possession game, former Copperas Cove standout Duke Thomas, who finished with five tackles and a breakup, intercepted a pass, setting up McCoy’s touchdown to Davis, increasing the Longhorns’ advantage to 36-13 with 21 seconds left in the third quarter and virtually locking up the Longhorns’ stunning win.
“You shouldn’t leave this school without beating Oklahoma,” Brown said of his seniors. “This thing goes in streaks, and I guess we’ve won five of the last nine now for you that’s counting.”