UT outlasts OU in showdown
QB Sam Ehlinger runs for three scores and passes for two more as Texas beats archrival Oklahoma 48-45 at the Cotton Bowl.
DALLAS — The old, classic “OU sucks!” chant had just shaken a historic stadium.
Kyler Murray’s eyes filled with the beginnings of tears, then Oklahoma’s once-undefeated quarterback paused time as he tried to find the right words to capture defeat.
Tom Herman — drenched in sweat, filled with mounting pride — was asked about the College Football Playoff. Texas is ba … Wait. Let’s not get too crazy. No. 19 Longhorns 48, No. 7 Sooners 45 was an all-timer on a gloomy, then glorious Saturday before 92,300 in burnt orange and crimson at the Cotton Bowl. A record 93 combined points in the 113th version of the Red River Showdown. Texas sophomore QB Sam Ehlinger totaling 386 yards and five touchdowns, while Murray’s name was attached to 396 yards and five TDs in a shootout that became a blowout, then ended on a 40yard field goal by a freshman with nine seconds remaining.
“What a college football game, huh?” said Herman, whose tough, spirited squad led 45-24 with less than nine minutes left, then survived a 21-point barrage by OU in less than six breathless minutes.
‘One of the epic ones’
If Texas is back, the Longhorns dominate the fourth and silence the Sooners.
If Texas is back, a somewhat surprising 5-1 start becomes the CFP.
If Texas is really, truly, finally back, the Longhorns end up in the national championship game and the Herman dream that began in November 2016 comes true.
“It’s irrelevant to us, I think, is probably the best way to put it,” said Herman, when asked the question that never goes away. “We’re not so concerned about where people think Texas is. … The people in that locker room, the coaches and players, are the people whose opinions who matter the most to us.”
UT was sometimes brilliant and ultimately enough Saturday in the middle of the State Fair. For a program that might finally be living up to its national name again, three Top 25 victories in less than a month speak to the second-year impact the former University of Houston leader is having in Austin.
The Longhorns were better, stronger and more inspired during a game they lost from 2010-17. Herman’s team was 2-of-2 on critical fourth-down calls, forced two huge Murray turnovers and ran 75 offensive plays for 27 first downs and 501 yards.
“That was one of the epic ones there,” Sooners coach Lincoln Riley said. “That’s one people will keep talking about for years and years and years. It was a really special atmosphere.”
All those numbers were almost erased by three late Oklahoma TDs, which included a thrilling 67-yard, left-sideline sprint by Murray that became a one-play, 11-second scoring drive. But a sweat-covered Herman said the “grit” word for a reason after his biggest win in burnt orange. Texas had it Saturday. The 6-3, 230-pound Ehlinger powering for 72 yards on 12 rushes, slowly but constantly blasting through a weak OU line and countering Murray’s safetyfirst slides. Freshman Keaontay Ingram adding 86 yards on the ground, while Texas controlled the clock for 21:37 of the second half ’s 30 minutes. Junior Lil’Jordan Humphrey refusing to relent on third-and-21 at OU’s 46, eventually ending up with a 19-yard gain that captured the Longhorns’ heart.
“That to me was the play of the game, the play of the game,” said Herman, who added extra emphasis to his repeated words and personally thanked Humphrey on stage.
It was 34-29 Maryland on Sept. 1 and the same ol’ Longhorns all over again. For all the talk since Herman traded Houston for Austin, the Longhorns had to fight for 7-6 during his first season and one of the sport’s most-energizing coaches was a flat .500 at the start of his new job. Since then, Texas has rolled off five consecutive victories and should be in the top 15 when the new rankings are released.
Full speed ahead
Do the Longhorns hold off Murray, Riley and No. 7 Oklahoma without first beating up USC and TCU, then winning in Manhattan. Kan.?
Herman, king of underdogs and public inspiration, went a level deeper again.
“We all understood that that (Maryland) game was not going to define our season,” he said. “But how we respond to that game would. … Thus far, we’ve responded tremendously. We really have.”
Saturday’s proof: An Ehlingerled nine-play, 52-yard, gamewinning drive that ended with just nine seconds to go.
“There was zero negativity. There was zero bad body language. There was zero hanging of heads,” said Herman, who then revealed that UT has started its recent Tuesday practices with a similar two-minute offensive drill.
Cameron Dicker was true from 40 yards. Cue the “OU sucks!” chants. “True freshman deep snapper, snapping to a true freshman holder, with a true freshman kicker kicking it through the uprights … in this game,” Herman said.
Texas isn’t back. But the Longhorns are building.
“It’s a feeling I can’t even explain,” defensive back P.J. Locke said. “We’ve been through so much. … To finally get the win and go out with a bang my senior year, I cannot thank these guys enough.”
Murray, so darn fast and often untouchable, was almost brought to tears.
The burnt orange faithful, after waiting and waiting, left the Cotton Bowl believing again.
Seeing the end zone ahead brings a smile to Sam Ehlinger’s face Saturday. The UT quarterback ran for three touchdowns and passed for two more against Oklahoma.
UT’s Tre Watson, left, and Collin Johnson are jumping for joy after Watson scored on a 28-yard reception in the second quarter at the Cotton Bowl