It’s been a while since we’ve seen it against Oklahoma.
When the members of this team are old and gray one day, they will look back on Oct. 12, 2013, as the day Texas put a physical beating on the team that had grown accustomed to being the heavy.
Case McCoy, Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown accounted for 433 yards of offense, but Saturday’s stupefying 36-20 win over the No. 12 Sooners should be credited to the guys who don’t normally see their names in a box score.
Simply put, it was won by the big boys in the trenches, and the result was unexpected.
And while some of you join me in one big “I can’t believe what I just saw” moment, be advised that Saturday was no fluke. Texas whupped Oklahoma on both sides of the ball. For the first time since 2009, the Horns came out throwing punches instead of ducking and dodging them.
“We ran the ball better than we have in the last couple of years, and we stopped the run better than we have in the last two years,” Mack Brown said.
Now, all of a sudden, the same Texas Longhorns who were left for dead before Big 12 play even started find themselves sitting atop the conference with a 3-0 record.
The much maligned offensive line played its most complete game in years. It’s difficult to recall the last time we’ve seen Texas running backs getting to the second level on such a consistent basis. It was Texas putting a hat on a hat. It was linemen spotted downfield in search of more prey. And it was runners getting consistent yards on first down.
They rarely get mentioned but the guys up front — center Dominic Espinosa, guards Mason Walters and Trey Hopkins, and tackles Donald Hawkins and Kennedy Estelle — made things much easier for McCoy, who took a couple of big shots in the pocket but wasn’t sacked.
Walters walked off the Cotton Bowl field a winner for the first time in four tries, a three-year weight off his shoulders and a huge sigh of relief for the other seniors.
“It’s the greatest feeling ever,” he said. “It’s something I will remember for the rest of my life.”
Want some more hallucinatory stats? Gray and Brown rushed for 243 yards, and with only five yards in losses against an Oklahoma defense that had allowed only one running back to rush for 100 yards this season. Gray and Brown also became became the first pair of Texas runners to both top the century mark against OU in 108 years of Red River matchups.
“The line was determined to go and play and determined to move the ball,” offensive coordinator Major Applewhite said of his line. “They understood the game plan. We spelled it out in terms of where we wanted to be on third down and where we wanted to possess the ball to keep the chains moving.”
Give Applewhite kudos for rebounding from a tough night in the play-calling department in Ames. He simplified the game plan by going to more of a two-tight end alignment and relied on basic traps and dives early in possessions, while McCoy channeled his older brother and made some the most beautiful deep throws of his young life, including an absolute dagger of a deep ball to Magic Mike Davis for a 38-yard touchdown in the third quarter.
While the line did its best job of holding up against what was thought to be insurmountable odds coming in, Greg Robinson’s defense took quarterback Blake Bell out of his rhythm early and reduced Oklahoma’s high-tempo offense to a shell of its former self. The Sooners finished with 20 points, but six came on a late interception. Oklahoma only ran 59 plays for 263 yards, an average of 4.4 yards per play.
The program has had its struggles against OU in the last three meetings, but Robinson-coached defenses have given up only 25 points and just two touchdowns in eight quarters against the Sooners.
This was easily a top-three performance on defense for the Mack Brown era, and it all started with the front seven that kept the pressure on Bell, who was held to minus-27 rushing yards. The defense even chipped in with a touchdown, courtesy of running-back-turned-defensive-tackle Chris Whaley, who returned an interception for a score.
Honestly, we would be looking at a 6-0 team if we had seen this type of physicality against BYU and Ole Miss, but history can’t be changed.
The challenge moving forward will be to maintain consistency and that physical nature that ran the Sooners out of Dallas.
Give Texas credit for showing on this day that they are more than capable of being the bully.