Posted on October 15, 2017, by Travis Pulver
The Texas Longhorns and Oklahoma Sooners have one of the longest ongoing rivalries in the country. Saturday’s game between the two was the 112th edition of the infamous Red River Rivalry. Like other rivalry games, it didn’t matter that Oklahoma came into the game ranked No. 6 in the nation. It didn’t matter that Texas was unranked.
When rivals play, any and all expectations get thrown out the window. Poor teams somehow figure out how to play like decent ones. Decent teams become good ones, and good teams often become great. If teams are only going to win one game, they want it to be against their hated rival.
That is certainly the case each year when Texas and Oklahoma meet. This year was no different.
Initially, it looked as ugly as many thought it might be. Baker Mayfield carved up the Texas defense with ease in the first quarter completing eight of nine passes for 179 yards and a touchdown. He led the Sooners offense to 17 points on its first three drives of the game.
The Sooners extended the lead with another field goal late in the second quarter to make the score 20-0. But then the craziest thing happened. Much like it did against Iowa State the week before, the Sooners offense started to falter.
Texas was able to get on the board following Oklahoma’s late second quarter field goal with the first Texas touchdown of the night. A rare Baker Mayfield interception set the Longhorns up with an opportunity to put points on the board before halftime—which they did making the score 20-10 at the break.
Oklahoma padded their lead with a field goal to start the second half, but when the Sooners defense needed to step up it didn’t. Texas followed Oklahoma’s field goal with a touchdown to close the gap to 23-17.
Neither offense was able to do much for the rest of the third quarter. But midway through the fourth Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger finished off an eight-play drive with an eight-yard touchdown run to give the Longhorns their first lead of the game, 24-23.
The Texas defense had done a good job of limiting Baker Mayfield and the Oklahoma offense since the first quarter. After taking a massive hit from Gerald Wilbon late in the third quarter, it appeared as if Mayfield may be out of the game. He returned on Oklahoma’s next two drives, but they couldn’t get a first down.
However, now that Texas had the lead, it was time for the Heisman candidate to step up—and he knew it.
“For the older guys that were around here and got nicked up, it’s realizing it’s your last one,” said Mayfield (ESPN). “You’ll fight through a little extra pain. It was a mental decision for all of us.”
Fight through it he did. Three plays after Texas took the lead, he took it right back with a 59-yard touchdown pass to Mark Andrews. But the Sooners left a window open for the Longhorns by going for two rather than kick the extra point. The conversion failed and the Sooners led by five.
With just under seven minutes on the clock, Sam Ehlinger did his best to get Texas in position. He was momentarily knocked out of the game after taking a hard hit going out of bounds. While he was able to return, he wasn’t able to finish the job. He got the Longhorns to the Oklahoma 34-yard line but turned the ball over on downs.
“The atmosphere was incredible,” Ehlinger said after the game (ESPN). “Losing the game is not incredible. I’m looking forward to the next three years.”
Texas fans can’t be happy that their team is now 3-3, but they have to like what they see overall. Two of the three losses were by less than a touchdown, and to teams many picked to make the college football playoffs. They will have another tough one on their hands next week when Oklahoma State comes to town.
Oklahoma will face off against Kansas State next weekend. But following that game will have a three-game stretch that will define their season—Texas Tech, at Oklahoma State, and TCU.