DALLAS — It took Texas’ biggest rival to finally bring out the best in the Longhorns.
After enduring a season full of criticism and coming off one the worst performances in recent history, Texas put together the most impressive showing of the Charlie Strong era, and in the process, upset No. 10 Oklahoma 24-17 in the 110th episode of the Red River Showdown.
Following the signature victory, which occurred one week after suffering an embarrassing 50-7 loss to then-No. 4 TCU, Longhorns cornerback Duke Thomas admitted the turnaround was sparked in part by frustration.
“We were definitely fed up,” the former Copperas Cove standout said. “There were a lot of things being said outside the program, but we knew what we had. We just continued to build on each other, pulling each other in, and going into this week, we knew we had to get it done. We worked on that this week during practice and went out there and executed.”
Texas never trailed, building a 14-0 advantage in the first quarter before holding off a rally by the Sooners, who pulled within a touchdown late in the game but had their comeback attempt stopped when Naashon Hughes, of Harker Heights, and Poona Ford combined for a critical, momentum-killing sack.
Trailing 24-17 with less than four minutes remaining in the game, Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield was brought down by the duo for a 17-yard loss on third down, forcing the Sooners to punt away their possession.
“That felt amazing,” said Hughes, a sophomore defensive end. “It basically summed up how hard we’ve been working, and to get that last sack was tremendous.”
Then, Texas’ offense made sure Oklahoma did not get another scoring opportunity.
Longhorns freshman quarterback Jerrod Heard converted a pair of third downs with impressive runs, securing the outcome on a 5-yard carry to the Oklahoma 3-yard line, setting up first-and-goal with 15 seconds remaining.
With no timeouts, the Sooners could do nothing but watch as Texas celebrated, drenching Strong with water before players lifted their second-year coach into the air like a fan crowd-surfing at a rock concert.
“We heard all week about how the pride has been lost and how we don’t play hard,” Strong said. “I don’t have an answer for last week ... but this week, we wanted to come out and impose our will and play physically, which we did.”
Texas (2-4, 1-2 Big 12) scored twice within three minutes of the opening quarter as Heard found Marcus Johnson for a 24-yard touchdown before forcing a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, which led to a 3-yard touchdown run by Tyrone Swoopes with 5:37 remaining in the period.
The Sooners were unable to get anything going offensively in the first half, finishing with just 85 total yards after converting just one of seven third-down attempts, but that changed in the third quarter.
After Nick Rose extended the Longhorns’ lead to 17-3 with a 27-yard field goal, Oklahoma used a 87-yard drive to reach the end zone for the first time, scoring on Mayfield’s 2-yard pass to Dimitri Flowers with 5:16 left in the quarter.
The squads exchanged punts over the ensuing pair of series with Oklahoma (4-1, 1-1) pinning Texas at its own 11-yard line early in the fourth quarter, but sophomore running back D’Onta Foreman broke free for an 81-yard outburst, setting up a 2-yard touchdown pass from Swoopes to tight end Caleb Bluiett.
Oklahoma responded with a 15-play, 75-yard scoring drive highlighted by Mayfield’s 9-yard carry on fourth-and-8. Moments later, running back Samaje Perine recorded a 1-yard touchdown run to pull the Sooners within seven points with eight minutes remaining, but they would not get any closer.
Heard led the Longhorns’ run-heavy offense with 168 total yards, including 115 yards on 21 carries, while Foreman finished with 117 rushing yards and Johnathan Gray added 79 yards.
Defensively, Hughes recorded a team-high nine tackles, including four solo, and Thomas broke up a pass to go with three tackles in Texas’ first win over a top-10 opponent since 2010.
To Heard, the outcome was the result of a total team effort.
“I think everyone played with an edge today,” he said. “We found the edge that we needed, and we wanted to come out with a victory today. So, we did everything we could to get it, we all worked together, and it turned out great.”