Chris Whaley had a dream Friday night. It came true Saturday, but not in the way he envisioned.
The Longhorns’ senior defensive tackle said he dreamed he would make a big play against Oklahoma in Saturday’s 108th edition of the Red River Rivalry.
“But,” he said with a grin, “I didn’t dream it was going to be a pick-six.”
It was, though. The 295-pound Whaley’s improbable 31-yard interception return for a touchdown in the first quarter gave Texas a lead it never relinquished. It also set the tone for a defensive effort that was inspired, not tired, as the Longhorns shocked No. 12 Oklahoma, 36-20 before 92,500 fans in the Cotton Bowl.
In ending three years of frustration and two years of humiliation to the Sooners, Texas got the kind of defensive effort that seemed unlikely after the pulverization in Provo on Sept. 7, when UT allowed a school-record 550 rushing yards to BYU.
From those ashes arose Greg Robinson, who replaced Manny Diaz as coordinator and has methodically improved the beleaguered unit. The Sooners torched Texas for 63 and 55 points the past two seasons, but Saturday were held to a season-low 263 yards of offense — 133 passing, 130 rushing — and only 13 points since OU’s last touchdown came on an interception return.
Oklahoma converted just two of 13 third-down opportunities. Quarterback Blake Bell completed only 12 of 26 passes and was intercepted twice.
“It’s really amazing to see what Greg Robinson and those other three defensive coaches have done from the time he got here,” said coach Mack Brown, who finally could put on a happy face after this game. “We didn’t blitz a whole lot, but the guys still put pressure on Bell.
“It’s just amazing to see, after the change at Brigham Young, what this has become.”
Getting contributions from all three phases — in addition to the defensive effort, UT also had a pair of 120-yard rushers in Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown, and Daje Johnson returned a punt 85 yards for a touchdown — the Longhorns improved their Big 12 record to 3-0 and overall mark to 4-2.
“In each part of the game, I thought they outplayed us,” OU coach Bob Stoops said. “You’ve got to give (Texas’ defense) credit. They beat us in protections and they covered us, so it isn’t all on Blake.”
Robinson, a consultant who resurrected the defensive coordinator’s job he held in 2004, said one of the keys was to contain and pressure Bell with a minimum of blitzing. It worked perfectly.
Bell, who ran for four touchdowns in last year’s 63-21 rout of Texas, ran seven times Saturday for a net of 8 yards. He was sacked four times, twice by Jackson Jeffcoat.
“I think we took it away,” Robinson said of the quarterback keepers, which killed UT in previous games. “We were very determined not to let that happen. I think Blake got frustrated.”
And it started early.
Facing a third-and-4 situation late in the first quarter, Bell found himself being swallowed up in blitzing Longhorns and lofted a desperation pass. It went straight to Whaley, who had actually dropped back. The former running back from Madisonville was unchallenged to the end zone until he reached the goal line, where he bulled through Bell.
“I was shocked I had the ball,” Whaley said. “I saw the quarterback, but I wasn’t going to cut or anything. I was going to run straight through him.”
And, consequently, he and the Longhorns lived what many thought was an impossible dream Saturday.