(Editor’s note: Sellout Crowd’s coverage of the Oklahoma-Texas game in Dallas is Sponsored by Modelo – The Official Beer of Fans with the Fighting Spirit (https://www.modelousa.com))
DALLAS — Dasan McCullough skipped toward the Texas half of the Cotton Bowl, looked around the burnt-orange end and threw the Horns down. Isaiah Coe paraded a giant crimson OU flag from one end of the field to the other. Danny Stutsman snagged the Golden Hat and checked out its fit.
This was a day for Sooners to celebrate.
OU 34, Texas 30.
Steve Sarkisian called it hard fought. Brent Venables termed it amazing.
I’ll add another: classic.
The Red River Rivalry rarely disappoints, though last season was a rare dud in a series that spans more than a century. Saturday, though, this rivalry resumed its spot atop college football’s best. It returned to its ways as a maker of memories, a taker of breaths.
“I’ve coached … ” Venables said, then paused. “I don’t know how long I’ve coached.”
He chuckled. Games like Saturday addle pretty much everyone.
“But I’ve been in a whole bunch of really, really big games,” Venables continued. “This one doesn’t take a backseat to any one of them. National championships. Conference championships. Just all the scenarios and moments and big plays, both sides of the ball.”
This was a grand ball game, and that would’ve been the case regardless of which team won.
Venables ticked off all the thrills.
“Goal-line stand. Hail Mary into the end zone. A two-minute drill to go 75 yards with no timeouts,” he said.
And that was just the stuff that went right for OU.
Texas had its own big plays. Blocking a punt in the end zone and scooping it up for a touchdown. Converting three of four times on fourth down, including one that went for a 22-yard touchdown. Holding the Sooners scoreless for more than 24 minutes of the second half, erasing a double-digit lead and taking a three-point lead with less than two minutes remaining.
In the final half of the fourth quarter, the Horns looked like the fresher team. After Zach Schmit missed a 45-yard field goal that fell woefully short, Texas seemed to find a second wind. The Horns went 73 yards in less than two minutes, and the last three snaps of the drive all resulted in chunk plays.
A 17-yard pass from Quinn Ewers to Jordan Whittington.
An 11-yard pass, again from Ewers to Whittington.
And finally, a 29-yard touchdown run by Jonathon Brooks that tied the game 27-27.
The next OU possession was a three-and-out, and all of a sudden, it felt like this game was headed toward a great finish. Maybe not as great as the game two years ago when the Sooners came back from a three-touchdown deficit, traded touchdowns in the final 90 seconds of the game and won with a walk-off touchdown run from Kennedy Brooks that actually shook the old stadium on the State Fair of Texas grounds.
That is a once-in-a-lifetime game.
But Saturday was a gem, and after Texas hit a 46-yard field goal to take a three-point lead with 77 seconds left, it didn’t seem impossible that OU might tie the game, though that miss earlier by Schmidt did not instill great confidence in his game-tying abilities. But the Sooners didn’t have any timeouts.
Going 75 yards with no timeouts?
Texas felt good about its chances.
Defensive star Jaylan Ford had a simple message for his teammates on the sidelines.
“Let’s go get a stop.”
Longhorn cornerback Jahdae Barron thought to himself, “This is the moment you live for. We do the two-minute drill all the time.”
Apparently, so do the Sooners.
Two plays into the drive, OU was already across midfield, courtesy of an 11-yard Dillon Gabriel pass to Drake Stoops and a 16-yard pass to Jalil Farooq. On that second completion, Farooq smartly beelined to the sideline to stop the clock.
Only 15 seconds had ticked off. There was still more than a minute to play, and that gave the Sooners a chance to throw toward the middle of the field; Gabriel hit Stoops for another big gain, this one for 28 yards.
Three plays later, Gabriel hit Nic Anderson in the back corner of the end zone and set off crimson-colored pandemonium.
“Even if I just had one play and nothing happened,” Anderson said, “I’d be blessed to be a part of this game.”
But of course, Anderson’s lone catch of the day was the one that will be replayed more than any other from Saturday. The one that will be remembered for years to come. The one that won the game.
And when the final desperation Horn heave was batted to the ground and the clock ran out on this glorious game, Sooners spilled onto the field like they’d won the national title or the Big 12 championship.
Oklahoma native and Sooner defensive end Ethan Downs took a moment to just watch his teammates rush onto the field.
“I really take a lot of joy in that, seeing my teammates and my guys and the coaches express all that emotion, the hard-fought emotion,” Downs said. “We’ve been thinking about that for 12 months.”
Like several other players and coaches, he admitted the 49-0 loss to Texas last year was an embarrassment and a motivator.
“Just taking a second not to swim in the confetti,” Downs said, “but to look around and say, ‘Wow, we did that as a team, as a family.’”
He’ll remember those snapshots forever.
Lucky for all of us, this was a game that created lots of memories and moments of grandeur. It was a game worthy of this splendid rivalry in a series worthy of the top spot in all of college football.