Every year, nearly 95,000 people gather in the Cotton Bowl to watch one of the most historic rivalries in all of college football. These games rely as much on preparation and coaching as they do on player determination and pride. Texas was a 14 point underdog coming into Saturday’s game versus Oklahoma – no surprise considering they were facing the eleventh ranked team in the country.

The real surprise was that the winning team only ran 50 plays, was 1 of 11 on 3rd down, and totaled only 232 yards of offense. When looking at the stats, it doesn’t seem like Oklahoma should have won this game; however, the Sooners were able to limit their turnovers and cash in on some big X factor scores to win by 5 points.

Texas won most of the vital statistical categories like 3rd down conversions (7 of 18), total 1st downs (24), total yards (482yds), and plays run (84), yet still fell short. Texas even won the Time of Possession battle by nearly 15 minutes! In today’s college football, some high tempo offenses make it clear that TOP isn’t important, but for Charlie Strong’s offense the stat plays a big role.

The Longhorn offense is built to sustain drives and limit the amount of time their defense has to spend on the field. This trend was highlighted in the first half when OU was up by four points: Texas’ combined scoring drives accounted for 32 plays and 208 yards while OU’s seventeen points were accumulated by just 5 offensive plays and 19 yards gained. While there were several crucial situations in this game that changed the momentum, the only way a winner is determined is by the scoreboard, so let’s take a look at Oklahoma’s X factor score which changed the tide of the game.

After Texas made a statement by going on a 13-play, 64-yard drive to take the lead 3-0, Oklahoma cashed in on special teams with a Kick Return for a Touchdown. Texas plays their kick coverage by limiting the amount of field the return team has to work with. They attempted to achieve this by placing the ball on the left hash for kickoffs and pinning the returner on the outside of the hash marks. By attempting to corral the returner, he has less space to work with, thus making the tackle easier for the defense. The Sooners countered by attacking the open side of the field and used lead blockers to clear the way (fig 1).

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Later in the game as Texas was attempting to mount another scoring drive, Tyrone Swoops made a costly error and threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown. This ‘sudden change score’ boosted OU to a 17 - 3 lead. Texas started the game in ‘spread’ formations in an attempt to give their offensive line more favorable numbers while blocking. This led Oklahoma to use a ‘nickel’ package and forced them to convert to a 3-3 defense. On 2nd and 9 Texas ran a bootleg pass that Oklahoma timed perfectly with a man coverage blitz (fig 2).

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The result was an interception return for a touchdown by Zack Sanchez (fig 3).

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After all was said and done, Oklahoma came out on top with a final score of 31-26. Texas played very well for most of the game; however, they did not play a complete game. Texas has consistently struggled in the second half during their first six games. The team is also frequently penalized for miscues and poor technique.

The Texas players said repeatedly that this game was about pride and ‘who wants it more’. Those are great sound bites, but every game comes down to the execution of a detailed game plan. When opportunity presented itself Oklahoma took advantage more than Texas, but Texas played with nothing to lose and great passion. As a big fan of the Red River Rivalry, a close and intense game never surprises me or any fan of either team.
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