By James Hale | OKC CBS KINB-FM 105.3
OU entered the Cotton Bowl looking for redemption and credibility in their annual Red River Rivalry battle with the Texas Longhorns. OU came out of the game as one of the hottest teams in college football and is now squarely on the path to the College Football Playoff. The Sooners matched the favored Longhorns punch for punch and even won the battle in the trenches with the more celebrated Longhorns and came away with a 34-30 win in front of another capacity crowd split down the middle at the storied Cotton Bowl at the state fair in Texas. In what will go down as an instant classic in the series, OU senior quarterback Dillon Gabriel led the Sooners on a 75-yard drive in five plays that covered 1:02 on the clock, hitting redshirt freshman wide receiver Nic Anderson from three years out to give the Sooner the win. The win keeps the Sooners undefeated at 6-and-0 and 3-0 in the Big 12 Conference play, while Texas falls to 5-1 and 2-1 in the Big 12 Conference. The game had gone back and forth all day with big plays for both teams. The Sooners had several heroic plays in the game. Texas had retaken the lead thanks to an 11-play, 58-yard drive that took 3:32 off the clock, with Bert Auburn kicking a 47-yard field goal. On that final drive, the Longhorns were driving, but Sooner senior defensive tackle Jacob Lacey came up with a three-yard sack that thwarted the Longhorns’ momentum and forced the field goal. It also left just enough time on the clock for Gabriel, one of the best two-minute quarterbacks in college football, to work his magic. “Starting out, I saw 1:17 on the clock, and we are beginning on the 25,” said Gabriel after the game. “We need to start the drive out right and create a completion, and I hit Drake (Stoops) across the middle (11). From there, we are rolling, and we have that rhythm and that flow. Then I find Jalil (Farooq) on the sideline, and he gets another chunk (16).” “Time is dwindling as you get to midfield, and we just know we are within 20 yards of getting three, but we also have a chance to win the game. Not taking a sack is in my mind, and either find a way to get a first down, touchdown, or get the ball out of bounds.” “I did get flushed and find Drake again, and he gets a good chunk (28) again. We are in plus territory, but I also know that the clock is running.” At this point, Gabriel can’t remember the next play, and that is because it is a penalty and not a completion, but his buddy Farooq is sitting next to him on the podium and reminds him what happened. “Oh yeah, The next play, we got a penalty (PI on T. Brooks for walling Farooq out of bounds), and we get plus 15. We are now in the tight zone (UT 6-yard line), but we are at the 20 or 30-second mark. I am thinking the same thing, either touchdown or out-of-bounds. I just saw the corner clamp and Nic (Anderson) in the back of the end zone.” “That is what we practice week in and week out. I am proud of everyone coming together and controlling the ‘chaos’ and just dialing it in. We were playing tough football, which you dream of when
you are a little kid.” “Just being part of it is something special with all these guys in that locker room, and I love every single one of them.” Love and joy were part of the Sooners’ celebration after the game. Texas entered the game as a 4.5 point favorite, and the line was as high as 6.5 through the week. Sooner Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield was the only person to pick the Sooners on ESPN’s Game Day. Most felt this Texas team had finally arrived and would be too good for Brent Venables Sooners, who had played much better this year following the 6-7 disaster of 2022. The Sooners had trained every day in the off-season, thinking about that 49-0 beatdown that Texas had put on them just a year earlier. The OU defense played a great game despite giving up 527 yards of total offense and 30 points. OU created three turnovers in the game, one inside the Red Zone, and OU had a gallant goal-line stand in the fourth quarter, the best goal-line stand for the Sooners in the series’ history. On first down, Longhorn running back Jonathan Brooks tried the middle, but Sooner linebacker Kip Lewis went low and tackled him at the line of scrimmage. Then Brooks tried the right side, and Lewis and Sooner Cheetah Dasan McCullough made the stop for no gain. Brooks then tried the middle again, and McCullough and OU linebacker Danny Stutsman dropped him for a one-yard loss. Texas had brought in 700 pounds of beef from the defensive side, and OU had stuffed the Longhorns on three straight downs. That forced Longhorn head coach Steve Sarkisian to try something different on fourth down. From the slot, he had his talented wide receiver Xavier Worthy take a quick slant from Ewers, who ran smack dab into Billy Bowman, who made a great tackle to keep Worthy out of that end zone. “I would just like to congratulate the University of Texas on a hard-fought, amazing college football game,” said Brent Venables after the Sooners 34-30 win over Texas. “I don’t know how long I’ve coached in the big scheme, but been in a whole bunch of really, really big games, and 15 of these, and this one doesn’t take a backseat to any one of them, the national championships, conference championships.” “All the scenarios, moments, and big plays on both sides of the ball are incredible. Our backs are against the wall, and we get a goal line stand; they are throwing Hail Mary’s into the end zone. We have a two-minute drill that goes 75 yards with no timeouts.” “We got an interception (Gentry Williams) to start the game, and then they come out and block a punt. I love watching young people respond and believe, and our guys have unshakeable beliefs. I know that. What a display.” “We have everything we need. We’re certainly not there. There’s plenty we’ll have to improve and get better at, but boy, just really thankful for our players, and their effort. They were nothing short of amazing today.” OU has a well-deserved off week this weekend, and the players can go home for a few days while the Sooner coaches will hit the recruiting trail.
The win moved the Sooners up seven spots to 5th in the Associated Press College Football Poll and five spots in the coaches poll to 7th.