DALLAS — The Red River Rivalry lived up to its traditional standards when Oklahoma, the 15-point favorite, never found separation from a surprisingly feisty but in the end disappointing Texas team.
The Sooners won 31-26 in a game that was closer than many anticipated, but the significance is lacking. This is a game that for at least the past six decades usually had multi- impact, often generating a national champion.
There’s not so much of that now.
The squeaker of a win against a 2-4 Texas, following a loss to TCU, puts Oklahoma, 5-1, out of contention, at least for the time being, for a berth in the inaugural College Football Playoff.
As for the Longhorns, last Saturday’s game signaled what we can continue to expect. I don’t think the Longhorns will go to a bowl game, but they showed against No. 11 OU that they’re a talented team. With another year of Charlie Strong’s system and the addition of his first full recruiting class, we will see a change at Texas.
But this season will get worse before Texas fans see the benefits. Strong is changing the culture, but the team still has to get through culture shock.
Players are jittery as they try to win the confidence of a coach who’s often critical.
As has been the case in previous weeks, Texas was its own enemy in this one. Plagued by four false starts, a delay of game, and a holding call that brought back a run of over 50 yards by QB Tyrone Swoopes, the Longhorns nonetheless reached the half trailing only 17-13.
Not to say its win was a fluke, but Oklahoma’s 17 points in the first half came off of a kick return TD, an interception returned for a touchdown, and a 44-yard field goal.
In the second half, as we’ve seen all year, the Texas defense, having been on the field for lengthy periods of time due to its offense stalling, yielded 14 points to the Sooners.
Then, as the burnt-orange-clads started to pour out of the stadium, Swoopes moved the Longhorns down the field for two touchdowns. The change of momentum seemed well earned, considering that the Longhorns outgained Oklahoma 482 to 232 total yards.
With over four minutes remaining and their team within a touchdown of victory, the Texas fans found their voice again and roared louder than I had heard in years.
But in the end, the defense couldn’t stop Oklahoma in time, so the Sooners for the fourth time in six years claimed the 10-gallon Golden Hat emblematic of victory in a series that began in 1900.
A couple of other annual Texas rivalry games were lost through conference realignments, Arkansas and Texas A&M. Fortunately, the Red River Rivalry seems likely to endure, in a Cotton Bowl which has hosted the game ever since 1932 and today seats 90,000.
It’s unlikely the Longhorns will be a 15-point dog to Oklahoma next year. But for now Texas fans must endure a startling lack of consistency from the offense.
I think down the road we will see Texas fold late to the likes of Oklahoma State and Kansas State. Even possibly struggle with a night game against the Red Raiders in Lubbock, and against TCU on Thanksgiving night.
Those four losses, added to the four they already have, would disqualify the Longhorns from bowl eligibility, for the first time in four years.