Turnovers loom large even amid epic rally
DALLAS — Kyler Murray’s brilliance nearly overshadowed two critical plays that kept No. 7 Oklahoma from knocking off No. 19 Texas on Saturday in the Cotton Bowl.
But in the cold reality of the postgame after the Sooners’ 48-45 loss to the Longhorns, all Murray could focus on were those two plays.
“Obviously not used to losing. It hurts. Disappointed,” Murray said in the postgame press conference, before pausing and looking down at the table in front of him to compose himself while Lincoln Riley offered the quarterback a comforting pat on the back. “It’s tough because I turned the ball over and they didn’t. That’s giving them an advantage when we turn the ball over.”
For all the defensive struggles the Sooners had — and they had plenty — those two turnovers by Murray loomed large. They were magnified not only for what they were individually but also because of the high level of execution demanded of Oklahoma’s offense as its defense sputters.
With the game tied in the first quarter, on a second-and-23 play, Mur-
ray scrambled out of the pocket and heaved the ball over Texas nickelback P.J. Locke III toward Lee Morris.
Brandon Jones stepped underneath Morris and picked off Murray’s pass.
“I kind of lost my footing but knowing the coverage and knowing the situation, shouldn’t have tried to fit it in there,” Murray said.
To add insult to injury, Murray was called for a low block on the play, adding 15 yards to Jones’ return.
Jones’ pick not only led to a field goal for the Longhorns but took away a precious opportunity for Oklahoma’s prolific offense to score.
It was the same thing in the third quarter when momentum seemed to finally make a shift the Sooners’ way.
On each of Texas’ first five drives — save the 28 seconds it burned off with a knee just before the end of the half — the Longhorns came away with points.
But about six minutes into the third, with Texas up 31-24, the Sooners’ defense finally got Texas off the field with a threeand-out.
All year long, Murray had made the improbable look easy, with impeccable decision-making, especially as it related to when to run the ball himself.
Murray stepped up in the pocket to avoid the rush outside from Texas’ Gary Johnson, then tried to reverse field as Johnson changed course in his pursuit.
Murray stumbled backward a bit and when he did, reached down with his right arm — ball in hand — to steady himself.
Murray’s body kept moving backward. The ball didn’t.
Texas’ Breckyn Hager dove on the ball as Murray protested that he was down.
It didn’t take long for replay to confirm the fumble and five plays later, Texas scored to extend its lead to two touchdowns.
“It’s pretty frustrating turning the ball over anyway but that’s turning the ball over when we’re trying to come back,” wide receiver CeeDee Lamb said. “It hurt us a lot.”
Murray came into the game near the top of many Heisman Trophy watch lists.
His stock plummeted until his late-game heroics — a 19-yard touchdown pass to Morris, a 67-yard touchdown run that showcased his world-class speed and a 35-yard pass to Trey Sermon that set up Sermon’s touchdown run to tie it. All of those happened in the span of about six minutes in the fourth quarter.
“Even when things got bad on his end, he still stepped up.” Lamb said. “He performed. I salute the man. He had two costly turnovers and he was still back doing it.
“He brought us back from 21 (down).”
Murray’s numbers wound up being better than his Texas counterpart Sam Ehlinger’s.
Murray completed 19 of 26 passes for 304 yards and four touchdowns.
Ehlinger was 24 of 35 for 314 yards and two scores.
But unlike Murray, Ehlinger avoided turnovers.
“Coach Riley, he’s preached to me all the time, ball security in the pocket, and I gave it up in a big game,” Murray said.
Texas defensive back Brandon Jones (19) intercepts a pass thrown by Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray in the first half Saturday. It was one of two turnovers by Murray.