October 11, 2008

Texas has gone from blue blood to blue collar

DALLAS - Offensive coordinator Greg Davis and defensive ends coach Oscar Giles fought through the crowd on the concourse at the Cotton Bowl to get down to the field, where the fifth-ranked Longhorns were building a 7-foot dog pile at midfield after outplaying No. 1 Oklahoma in a 45-35 thriller that will go down as one of the best in the 103-year history of the Red River Shootout.

When Davis and Giles finally reached the tunnel and ran out on the field to join the celebration, Davis made a beeline for offensive line coach Mac McWhorter[db] and the two jumped in the air and chest-bumped.

"The two of us probably couldn't get over the Houston Yellow Pages, but it was fun to do," Davis said.

Then Davis spotted [db]Will Muschamp, who always wears black so his players on the field can find him easily on the sideline. Nevermind the black is now starting to serve as a funeral pyre shade for opponents. But Davis and Muschamp grabbed each other with such force, Muschamp spun Davis around and nearly dropped him to the field on the 40-yard-line - about the same spot Brian Orakpo collected both of his sacks on Oklahoma's Sam Bradford.

"I can't say enough about Greg Davis, Colt McCoy and our kicking game," Muschamp said.


Chemistry. Leadership. Unselfishness. Lottery ticket elation. It was all on display at midfield of an expanded Cotton Bowl in the minutes after what could prove to be one of the biggest wins of the Mack Brown Era.

Vince Young is gone. But even when VY was here, he had more offensive options than Madden 2009. Certainly more than this year's team a collection of scrappers still searching for a 20-carry running back, a stretch-the-field tight end, a third receiver and a big receiver.

It doesn't matter. Texas won its first game over the nation's top-ranked team since toppling USC in the BCS national title game three years ago with heart, togetherness, an insanely accurate quarterback and balls-to-the-wall Xs and Os.


Yes, Xs and Os. Texas outschemed Bob Stoops. Muschamp. Davis. McCoy. You name it. They all got one over on Stoops and Co, who have now lost three of the last four to the Longhorns. After the game, it was Stoops being second-guessed for decisions the way Brown used to be after this game in the earlier part of this decade.

"I probably should have gone for it," Stoops said, referring to his decision to punt on fourth-and-2 from the OU 46 with nearly seven minutes left and Oklahoma trailing 38-35. "We had gone for it one other time earlier and it didn't work, and there's so much time, you think you can get a stop and still have a shot. In hindsight, it's easy to make that call now."

Let's get back to those Xs and Os. Davis looked at the film and saw the OU defense was susceptible to plays by the tight end. The problem is, Texas doesn't really have a tight end like Vince Young had in David Thomas. So Davis made Jordan Shipley the team's tight end - sort of.


Davis flexed Shipley about three yards from the tackle in a three-wide formation on one side of the field. It forced OU to cover Shipley with either a linebacker or a safety. Shipley and McCoy have chemistry stemming back to their days playing catch as grade-schoolers while their parents tailgated at Abilene Christian games. So they used their schoolyard savvy to work over the Sooners to the tune of Shipley catching 11 passes for 112 yards and a touchdown. McCoy finished 28 of 35 passing for 277 yards and a touchdown.

"We felt what they did allowed the tight end spot to have some opportunities," Davis said. "But based on what we have, we had to change personnel groupings. I'm not beating up our tight ends. Jordan's just done it so many times. So we went with a 10 personnel - one back, no tight ends, and inserted Jordan in the tight end spot with a slight flex off the line. Probably most of Jordan's catches were from that position.

"We did it in the first half and ended up living with it in the second half. We had Jordan between the middle linebacker and the nickel back, and he had some flexibility about where he could work in that area. And Jordan's really good when he has option routes."

OU middle linebacker Ryan Reynolds suffered a season-ending ACL tear in the third quarter, which put even more pressure on OU's linebackers to contain Shipley. To no avail.


On defense, Muschamp was a heathen. He tried to blitz Oklahoma early, but Sam Bradford carved him up on the first series of the game, finding every one-on-one matchup Texas tried to hide. The Sooners made it look easy going up, 7-0.

But when his defense came to the sideline, Muschamp told his front four they were on their own. He stopped blitzing. He shadowed DeMarco Murray with linebacker Roddrick Muckelroy, who had a game-leading 14 tackles (12 solo) and helped hold Murray to 7 yards on seven carries. (OU finished with 26 carries for 48 yards, 1.8 ypc).

Muschamp decided to double cover tight end Jermaine Gresham and leave his cornerbacks in a lot of man-to-man matchups with Manuel Johnson, Juaquin Iglesias and Ryan Broyles. Texas lost its share of those battles - giving up 387 yards passing and five TDs through the air - but also started to get pressure on Bradford with four as the game wore on.

"I really felt good about our substitution," Muschamp said. "We were able to keep fresh guys in the game rushing Henry (Melton) and Rak (Orakpo) and Serg (Kindle) and Eddie (Jones) and Sam (Acho). We've got a good three-man rotation going inside (at tackle). The tough thing is we've got to develop more depth in the back end when those guys get a little gassed. The two series where they tempoed us in the first half, that was very evident."


The hits on Bradford took their toll in the third and fourth quarters. Orakpo sacked him twice and Kindle once. But Bradford was knocked down at least a dozen times.

"(Bradford) held the ball a lot and scrambled a lot, and that's not what he wanted to do," Muschamp said. "We just have to limit the explosives. My hats off to Oklahoma. They are an outstanding team. But we gave them some plays in the game. That's what I'm excited about from a positive standpoint. If we get things right and execute, we're fine, but we have to understand exactly what we're trying to do and that's on me."

Cornerback Ryan Palmer left the game in the second quarter with a hamstring injury. In came true freshman Aaron Williams.

"It's playing ball. It's fun," Muschamp said. "Ryan goes out and Aaron Williams comes in and plays the whole second half. We've got three freshmen in the core of our defense playing nickel and two safeties. So I'm going to get gray pretty soon.

"But our kids keep fighting and they come over to the sideline and say, 'What do you want to do now?' And that's what's fun about it. And when you've got our offense and Colt McCoy is playing outstanding and we're able to run the ball and mix in the kicking game and the defense can catch its breath, we were able to settle down a little bit in the second half."

UT's freshmen safeties showed up big. Blake Gideon had eight tackles (seven solo), and Earl Thomas picked off two passes, including a layout in the second quarter that led to a UT field goal cutting OU's lead to 21-20 and tons of momentum at halftime.


And then there was Colt McCoy, Quan Cosby and Chris Ogbonnaya. Texas' 2005 national title team had pass catchers in waves - Thomas, Limas Sweed, Billy Pittman, Ramonce Taylor, Brian Carter, Nate Jones and a freshman named Cosby. This year's team pretty much has Shipley, Cosby and Ogbonnaya, which makes Saturday's performance even more impressive.

OU knew it had to account for those three receiving threats from Texas and couldn't. Cosby was glue-fingered in hauling in nine passes for 122 yards, including a layout catch for 25 yards to the OU 10 on UT's first drive that set up a 26-yard Hunter Lawrence field goal.

Cosby also had a huge 19-yard reception on third-and-2 from the OU 27 in the second quarter that set up a 1-yard Cody Johnson TD run and cut OU's lead to 21-17.

"You can count on Quan and Jordan," McCoy said. "I knew where they were going to be, and they're going to get their catches."


Every time Oklahoma tried to pull away, Texas had an answer. After Oklahoma chopped through Texas without facing a third down and scored to go up 14-3, Shipley responded with a 96-yard kickoff return. When Texas' safeties completely busted on a 52-yard TD catch-and-run by Gresham for a 21-10 lead, Cosby came through with the big third-down catch and Texas answered with a scoring drive.

And in the second half, Chris Ogbonnaya and McCoy combined for a little magic as Ogbonnaya became a huge factor in the game. Ogbonnaya became UT's first back with a 100-yard rushing game this season (15 carries for 127 yards, 8.5 ypc). At halftime, he had just six carries for 8 yards, and UT had 15 carries for minus-3 yards.

Ogbonnaya ran for 30 yards to the OU 26 in a critical touchdown drive in the third quarter that allowed Texas to cut the Sooners' lead from 28-20 to 28-27. The drive-capping score came on a 2-yard pass from McCoy to Shipley in which McCoy stood in the pocket against a big rush and let Shipley work himself open along the back of the end zone.

After a drive to a 28-yard field goal by Lawrence gave Texas' its first lead - 30-28 - with 1:04 left in the third quarter, Texas suffered a roughing the kicker penalty on Ben Wells in the fourth quarter that extended an OU scoring drive and put the Longhorns' down 35-30.


McCoy, however, was saving his best for last. Facing third-and-8 from the OU 38 on UT's next possession, McCoy stood in the pocket against a jailbreak blitz and waited for Shipley to again work himself free on a crossing route against zone coverage. Shipley went 37 yards to the OU 1-yard-line, setting up another Cody Johnson touchdown and putting Texas up for good, 38-35.

By the way, McCoy, who owns Oklahoma despite having just a 2-1 record in the series, is 58 of 79 passing (73.4 percent) with five touchdowns and one interception in three games against the Sooners.

Texas held OU to three three-and-outs on the day - none bigger than in the fourth quarter. Stoops decided not to go for it on fourth-and-2 from the Sooners' 46 after failing to make fourth-and-6 on a fake punt in the third quarter.


The Longhorns stuck with a running game that failed to show much most of the game, and it finally paid off when Ogbonnaya broke free for 62 yards - from the UT 36 to the OU 2 - on a play called Gun Right Jack Twins 68 C Sweep.

Tight end Greg Smith delivered a devastating block to free Ogbonnaya.

"They blitzed and blitzed, and played their linebackers in tight, so that made us throw the ball a lot," McCoy said. "Finally, they backed off and Chris popped two long runs, and that was the difference."

It would have been the ultimate part in the Texas half of the Cotton Bowl if defensive tackle Roy Miller had held onto the ball on a pass from McCoy, following Ogbonnaya's run. But Cody Johnson powered in for this third touchdown of the game, and Texas was up, 45-35.


"We tried to use Roy Miller as the go-to receiver late in the game. We'll have to re-evaluate that, " Brown deadpanned. "He caught it every time we threw it in practice this week, but today was a little tougher."

The only thing left was the celebration. Davis and McWhorter chest-bumping. Muschamp and Cosby taking turns trying on the golden Governor's Trophy cowboy hat given to the winner of the Red River Shootout. And adding up the historical significance.

The Longhorns are 10-0 in games after playing Oklahoma with Missouri next up and ESPN's College Gameday headed to Austin.

The last time Texas beat a top-ranked Oklahoma team in the regular season was 1963. The Longhorns went on to win the national title that year. Even Mack Brown didn't hide the fact that this year's blue-collar Longhorns are now playing for much bigger stakes.

"Now, we're looking at a bigger goal," Brown said.

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