Texas is back … in the Big 12 championship hunt … and it’s thanks to freshman kicker Cameron Dicker of all people. Dicker nailed a 40-yard go-ahead field goal with just 14 seconds left to give the No. 19 Longhorns a 48-45 win on Saturday over No. 7 Oklahoma after a furious surge by the Sooners late at the Red River Showdown.
The victory ended up being much tighter than expected, but that’s the beauty of rivalry games. The Longhorns had a 45-24 lead going into the fourth quarter but squandered it through a series of conservative calls. For a minute, it looked like Texas might actually blow the entire thing.
However, Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger, who was brilliant all day, had one final offensive drive in him with about 2:38 left to get the Horns into field goal range. The win is the fifth straight for Texas on the season and the first over Oklahoma since 2015. Has the tide totally turned in the Big 12? We shall find out over the rest of the season. In the meantime, here’s what we learned from Saturday’s thriller …
1. Texas isn’t “back” yet, but it’s the closest it’s been: Texas looked “back” when it was up 45-24 heading into the fourth quarter … and then it promptly blew a 21-point lead by allowing Oklahoma to score three quick touchdowns in about a six-minute stretch. That’s not “back,” but regardless, the win was the biggest under coach Tom Herman and could actually mark a true turning point for the program. Remember: it’s been nearly a decade since the Horns were nationally relevant like this.
As for when we can officially announce Texas as “back” and put the meme to bed for good, let’s see how Texas does moving forward. Herman has a knack for being a great underdog. He’s now 10-4 overall and 13-1 against the spread in these situations. His record is much less exemplary as a favorite. And chances are Texas will be the favorite for its remaining games.
2. Quarterback Sam Ehlinger is the most confident he’s ever been: The popular saying about Texas is that it was a competent quarterback away from being a 10-win team again. Consider that hole filled. Ehlinger looked completely in command with 386 total yards of offense and five touchdowns. And while his stats were excellent, what’s equally impressive is how comfortable he looks at the line of scrimmage dictating the play.
Texas’ offense is not complicated. Its best concepts involve running Ehlinger in short-yardage situations while utilizing the combination of Keaontay Ingram and Tre Watson out of the backfield. In the passing game, Ehlinger loves to hit Collin Johnson over the top in one-on-one coverage or get Lil’Jordan Humphrey involved. These are big-bodied players who can muscle their way for huge gains and together they combined for 214 yards receiving and two touchdowns.
It’s taken a while for the Longhorns to have consistency executing the things they do well, but they arrived at that point on Saturday. If Johnson was open on a slant, Ehlinger went back to him later on the same play. If Ehlinger was unstoppable on QB sweeps, Texas ran it again and dared Oklahoma to stop it. One game does not make a trend, but if Texas has found itself, it’s going to be hard for undersized Big 12 defenses to stop.
3. Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray is still a cheat code: Texas did a good job for most of the game corralling Murray and getting to him before plays had a chance to develop. But you’re not going to stop him from making plays for all 60 minutes. Murray was a little sloppier with the ball than usual — he had a bad interception in the first quarter and a fumble in the third quarter — but when he takes off running, no one can catch him. Seriously: Watch the speed on this 67-yard touchdown run. He’s a rare talent, and while professional baseball is his future, he’s doing just fine in this football thing.
4. Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops might be on the way out: It’s been a long time coming, but Oklahoma could move on from Stoops for good — be it now or at the end of the year. These are the types of games that get a coordinator fired. Oklahoma gave up just over 500 yards at 6.68 yards per play. What’s more is that the Sooners were utterly powerless to stop Texas from doing the two or three things it does consistently. The Longhorns always knew they could run power with Ehlinger or hit Johnson over the middle.
Unfortunately, there’s not always a lot a coach can do about that mid-game. Texas has a size advantage and no amount of coaching was going to change that. However, a coach can compensate by making sure players are in the right spots to at least make plays. That didn’t happen, either. On way too many occasions, Oklahoma defenders were out of position, losing contain, taking bad angles and not tackling well. That made a difficult matchup even harder.
There are big-picture issues Oklahoma needs to address. Smaller defensive backs were bullied around and that only changes through recruiting or transfer/JUCO help. But you also have to work with what you have and Stoops’ defense didn’t help matters. Frustration with the longtime DC has been building in the fanbase for a while. This might have been the tipping point.
CBS Sports was with you the entire way Saturday updating this story with highlights and analysis from the Red River Showdown. Check them out below.
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