DALLAS — In the week leading up to the Red River Rivalry, all Oklahoma heard was how good its defense was. It led the Big 12 in nearly every major statistical defensive category, so it’s easy to see why it was being said.
However, the Sooners racked up those numbers against teams not named Texas. When the Longhorns took the field Saturday at the Cotton Bowl, from the opening kick-off, they punished Oklahoma in route to the 36-20 victory.
“They just outplayed us and outcoached us,” OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “We’ve played well, we played collectively well. We play bad, we played collectively bad today. I thought Texas played with an edge that we certainly didn’t play with that we needed to in this game. And they really took the game to us.”
The Sooners’ lack of fortitude was no more evident than on third downs. That’s the point in the game when good defenses rise up and get stops so their offense can get back on the field.
That didn’t happen for the Sooners. On the crucial money down, the Longhorns converted 13 of 20 tries into first downs. That was a deflating stat for the team.
“It’s a rivalry game,” Chuka Ndule said after collecting 15 tackles. “You go to expect the best. You have to come with your best. Hats off to them. They executed and were more physical and dominated the line of scrimmage. We should have done better. They outplayed us.”
However, Stoops gives just as much credit for the Longhorns’ third-down success to the coaching staff.
“They had a change of pace that really helped them,” Stoops said. “I thought their execution on third down was really good. Their execution was really much cleaner than ours on third down. That’s usually a strategic cat and mouse game that happens throughout the course of a week. And we really just couldn’t come up with any big plays on third down.”
While Texas quarterback Case McCoy came up with several big plays for the Longhorns, their offense against Oklahoma was built off the run. They grounded out 255 yards rushing with both Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown topping the century mark.
With 60 rush attempts, Texas was committed to running the ball and it set them up for success on third down.
What also won’t ever change is the importance of winning the battle of the big men. In their previous games, the Sooners could say their defensive line controlled the line of scrimmage. That was not the case against Texas.
“I just thought they owned the line of scrimmage,” Stoops said. “They were more physical than we were at the point of attack. Anytime that happens they are going to have success running the football. That led to our demise pretty much the whole day.”
Michael Kinney Follow me @eyeamtruth firstname.lastname@example.org