At the close of the first half, the OU offense had mustered a mere 29 yards of total offense along with a single first down. Nothing about that stat line screams, "lead." However, Bob Stoops and company held an early 17-13 advantage over their counterpart in the Cotton Bowl largely due to defense and special teams.
On the first drive on the game, the Longhorns offense hummed along like a well oiled machine. Gashing the opposing secondary, Tyrone Swoopes led the team on a thirteen play, 64-yard drive enroute to a career high of 334 yards through the air. When it mattered most, Texas simply could not advance the ball stalling out in the redzone. The drive resulted in a field goal.
The ensuing kickoff showcased Oklahoma's Alex Ross and the speed many have talked about. Avoiding arm tackles, Ross turned on the jets to return the kick 91 yards for the first touchdown of the game. The score left Trevor Knight and the offense on the sideline until the 6:05 mark of the first quarter.
I was a little bit frustrated. You have to remember that a little bit of that, the rhythm of it, you lose offensive possessions when you get a pick for a touchdown. The offense loses a possession. You return a kick for a touchdown and the offense loses a possession. That contributed a little bit to being off rhythm. I'm not complaining about the touchdowns, but it does throw you off a little bit. It can throw you off a little bit. - Bob Stoops
Finally, hoping to see Knight rebound after possibly the worst performance of his career, offensive coordinator, Josh Heupel, refused to involve the receivers while targeting the backs. It hindsight, Oklahoma looked nearly one dimensional. Fortunately, penalties on the Texas side helped to put the offense in field goal range to extend the lead by seven points.
Riding a bit of momentum after the first offensive score, the defense got back to work as Zack Sanchez came up with an interception and returned it 43 yards. Now up 17-3, Oklahoma looked to be in control of the game without an effective offense.
Make no mistake, Jaxon Shipley and the Longhorns continued to make a push with the hopes of closing the gap. The exploitation of Jordan Evans and Ahmad Thomas in blown coverages kept the hope alive throughout the duration of the game. Consistently moving the ball in the second quarter, UT continued to struggle in the redzone. This time, an expected snap ricocheted off Swoopes face mask falling back into Texas hands. Yet, the Longhorns scored 10 unanswered points to close the half down 17-13.
In the second half, Heupel finally decided to involve the receivers. Play-action calls made an appearance to keep the opposing defense guessing. At one point, Knight completed four consecutive passes on a single drive to three different receivers. The hurry up no huddle was once again resurrected in a time of need as Sterling Shepard crossed the goal line on a 24-yard completion.
On the other side of the ball, Eric Striker forced the quarterback out of the pocket more often while the defense played with a "bend not break" mentality. The attitude proved to be good enough as the defense gave up 187 total yards in the second half and just 13 points. Gone from the action were the large yardage plays and welcomed were the multiple punts.
However, the biggest play of the game may have come on 3rd & 4 for Oklahoma late in the 4th quarter.
Unable to convert a third down up to this point of the game, expectations had not changed. A failed two point conversion from Texas left the score at 31-26 with the Longhorns hoping to get the ball back. On the verge of yet another three and out, Samaje Perine came up with a 9-yard reception to all but seal the game.
I mean when you go 1-for-11 on third downs you are not going to have a very efficient offense during the day. We were going third-and-long early. We were not running it very efficiently on first and second downs. We were more efficient during the second half, but obviously want to be more efficient all the time. We did not play the way we are capable of or want to. - Josh Heupel
To summarize the game, the Longhorns simply became their own worst enemy. From dropped passes to miscues and penalties, the struggles were too much to overcome. On the other side of things, Oklahoma did enough to not lose the game. The defense and the special teams provided enough of a scoring margin to help the Sooners escape from a rather ugly game.