Momentum-shifting safety highlights defense’s big day
Tre Brown had the feeling. Then he saw Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger fake a handoff, and Brown had more than a feeling. He saw a green light to victory.
Brown is nothing if not fast. He sometimes gets overpowered at cornerback, but he can run. And with the Big 12 Championship on the line Saturday, OU defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill called a boundary blitz. Brown zipped into the end zone, knocked down Ehlinger before the Bevo build-a-like knew what hit him, and more than order was restored in JerryWorld. Sooner defensive pride was back.
OU beat the Longhorns 39-27 to keep alive its College Football Playoff hopes, and for once this season, Kyler Murray and Co. had help. Lots of help. Crucial help. Not just a couple of monster plays in a 59-56 victory. Consistent, quality play.
“They were awesome today,” Lincoln Riley said. “They played just like we know they can
When the OU offense was slow to start (six points through almost 25 minutes), the defense hung in. When the fourth quarter arrived, the defense dominated. In total, Texas had 10 possessions and four touchdowns. Wouldn’t impress Tony Casillas or Brian Bosworth, but in the 21st century, it’s winning football.
“Have we played like the Chicago Bears? No,” said McNeill. “But have we won games?”
Riley has been saying that all year. And it finally came true in the most unique OU-Texas game of them all. Twenty-one miles west of the Cotton Bowl, the ancient rivals staged a battle royale for a trophy not named the Golden Hat, and the Sooners won it with not only great offense from Murray, who fortified his Heisman Trophy campaign, but also with solid defense.
Never thought I’d see the day. Not this season. But in the fourth quarter that began tied, the OU defense outscored the Texas offense 2-0. The Longhorns’ three possessions ended in punt, safety and interception. And the safety sucked all the momentum out of UT.
OU’s CeeDee Lamb had just fumbled on the end of a 56-yard pass play, inside the 10-yard line, and Texas took the field trailing 30-27.
But on second down, McNeill ordered a blitz for either Brown, linebacker Curtis Bolton or safety Robert Barnes, depending on the Longhorn formation. Brown claimed the right.
“I was like, man, I got it,” Brown said. “I’m feeling it right now. I’m going to go get it. Had my chance, right there … especially when I saw him do play-action pass. I was like, ‘wow. I can’t believe he just faked the ball.’”
That delay meant Ehlinger had no chance. “I got a green light and I took my shot and delivered,” Brown said.
Down went Ehlinger, up went OU’s lead to five, and Murray promptly directed a clock-eating drive to a touchdown that ended Bevo hopes.
“My fault for not seeing him,” Ehlinger said. “I was looking the other way.”
Then to ice the day, cornerback Parnell Motley tipped Ehlinger’s final pass, and Tre Norwood, moved to safety for this game, intercepted.
A perfect script for Oklahoma, really. A victory over Texas, with some solid defense and a semi-normal score that showed the playoff committee these Sooners can win the traditional way.
“We made a statement,” Brown said. “Big game. Big-time game. Defense made a lot of big-time plays. “
None bigger than Brown’s. Two points. Possession of the football. Priceless momentum.
“I don’t like fumbling,” said Lamb, who could have been the goat. “For me to cough up the ball and then Tre to backdoor and help me out, that took a lot of weight off my shoulders. I couldn’t thank him enough.”
All the OU offense can say the same about all the beleaguered defense, which played its best game of the year in the biggest game of the year.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at [email protected]lahoman.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.
Grant Calcaterra’s one-handed touchdown catch in front of Texas’ B.J. Foster (25) put OU up 39-27.
Kyler Murray had plenty to smile about in OU’s 39-27 win over Texas on Saturday.