Murray isn’t used to losing and that felt like it might’ve been his only shot to beat the Sooners’ biggest rival.
But, as fate had it, the storied programs met for the second time this season in the Big 12 championship Saturday. It had been more than a century since the schools played twice in a season and the game lived up to its hype.
Murray played a starring role in it, leading the Sooners to a 39-27 victory over the Longhorns at AT&T Stadium. Murray finished with 379 passing yards on 25-of-34 passing with three touchdowns and no interceptions, earning most outstanding player honors.
“We were more prepared this time coming around,” said Murray, who lost just his second game as a starter – high school and college combined – in the Red River Showdown on Oct. 6.
“The more you play against something, the more comfortable you get with it. I think as an offense, no panic when you see it. We kinda knew where to attack it.”
It was good enough to lift Oklahoma to a fourth straight Big 12 championship and a 12-1 record. Now Murray and his OU teammates have to see if it’s good enough for them to move up from No. 5 and into the College Football Playoff.
And if Murray has done enough to win the Heisman Trophy.
In the meantime, it’s about making statements and coach Lincoln Riley made his afterward. Yes, the Sooners have a team capable of winning a national championship.
“We have left everything that we’ve got out there this season. We’ve got a great resume,” Riley said. “I get there are other great teams out there, but I feel very confident that this team can go forward and continue to win and I think our best ball is head of us.
“I’m sure they were turned in and watching this. If they did, they saw one of the best teams in the country.”
What the committee would have seen was a packed house – the announced 83,114 in attendance is the highest attended conference football championship of all-time, surpassing the 1992 SEC Championship (83,091) – and a wild game.
Oklahoma and Texas were tied at 27-27 going into the fourth quarter. That’s when the Sooners took over.
A 31-yard field goal off the left upright by Austin Seibert early in the fourth quarter gave OU a 30-27 lead and the defense – yes, the Sooners much-maligned defense – forced a punt.
It seemed like the Sooners were on the way to putting the game out of reach on a 54-yard pass play from Murray to CeeDee Lamb, but Texas’ Gary Johnson forced a fumble on the play.
That gave the Longhorns new life, but the Sooners’ defense rose to the occasion once again. OU defensive back Tre Brown broke free on a corner blitz and sacked Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger in the end zone for a safety.
“I just saw lights,” Brown said. “Especially when I saw him do play-action pass, I was like, ‘Wow. I can’t believe he just faked the ball. I got a green light.’ I took my shot and delivered.”
Murray did the rest on the next drive, leading an 11-play, 65-yard TD drive. Facing third-and-10 from the Texas 18, Murray dropped back and placed a perfect touch pass on a fade route to Grant Calcaterra.
That TD extended OU’s lead to 39-27 with 2:00 left.
Texas appeared to have some magic left in it when Lil’Jordan Humphrey returned the ensuing kickoff to a touchdown, but that score was wiped out by a penalty.
Penalties, in the end, hurt the Longhorns all day. Texas had 13 penalties for 128 yards on the day compared to OU’s five for 60.
“We had some aggressive penalties that were called that certainly hurt us,” Texas coach Tom Herman said.
At the end of the day, Murray and Oklahoma were too much for the Longhorns.
If Oklahoma lands in the CFP, Texas is headed to the Sugar Bowl. Herman and the players were disappointed in the loss, but the Longhorns have made strides.
And, on Saturday, they showed they can play with anybody in the country.
“I will make it my mission to never let this team or this school feel this disappointment again,” Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger said.
Added Herman: “Losing is supposed to hurt. With a 1-0 mentality that we have, we don’t worry about the big picture. We went 1-0 today. When we wake up tomorrow, it’s our job to prepare to go 1-0 in the bowl game. After the bowl game, I think we will do some reflection and be very proud of where we’ve come.”