Texas was so, so close. Again.
There was little solace in battling back from a 20-point first-half deficit, only to drop a 29-24 heart-breaker to your biggest rival. But there was a sense of real change for this program led by first-year coach Tom Herman.
“I was extremely proud because the issues are not effort and that’s a start,” Herman said.
“The enthusiasm, belief and fortitude from our guys … it says a lot about this team and where we’re headed.”
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The half was a horror show all the way around for the Longhorns.
The defense got butchered by Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield. The Longhorns put little pressure on the Heisman hopeful, and when they did, he easily maneuvered his way out of trouble to find open receivers.
“The most important part to remember against them is big plays,” Texas linebacker Malik Jefferson said. “We were on the ropes early because they were tiring us out.”
When Herman needed the offense to pick things up, it was nowhere to be found. At halftime, quarterback Sam Ehlinger had completed just 10 passes on 19 attempts for 113 yards and a touchdown.
“We were a bit stubborn in the run game and that’s my fault,” Herman said. “The time of possession in the first quarter was completely lopsided and we realized that’s not who we are.”
Trailing 20-10 at the start of the second half, the tide began to turn.
It started on defense, when the Longhorns held OU to just a field goal in the third quarter.
“Last year against Oklahoma was the most embarrassing game I’d ever played in because we gave up,” Jefferson said, recalling the 45-40 loss. “This year, every single guys fought the entire game.”
Ehlinger’s 8-yard touchdown run gave Texas a 24-23 lead with 8:01 remaining in the game.
But busted coverage in the Longhorns secondary allowed Mayfield to find tight end Mark Andrews for a 59-yard touchdown that sealed the Sooners’ victory.
In terms of his first Red River Showdown experience, Ehlinger was well aware this was a missed opportunity.
“It was incredible,” Ehlinger said. Then he paused and re-evaluated. “The atmosphere was incredible, losing the game was not incredible. But I’m looking forward to the next few years.”
Afterward, Herman knew what the loss meant.
“There are no moral victories, especially against these guys,” Herman said. “I told our guys that it definitely hurts a little bit more because of who this loss is to. But we can’t let Oklahoma beat us twice …we’ve got to get ready for next week.”