Oklahoma delivered an eye-opener on the national landscape Saturday with its 63-21 win over Texas in the Red River Rivalry at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. The Sooners dialed up play after play with great success against the Longhorns. Yet there were five key first-half plays that set the tone in OU’s blowout victory:
OU’s thirrd-and-8 conversion on its first possession
This was a key play because the Sooners would have started the game three-and-out.
Texas, clearly counting on its outstanding defensive ends Alex Okafor and Jackson Jeffcoat to get a pass rush, did not blitz. The Sooners' offensive line held up, giving Landry Jones plenty of time to find a wide-open Trey Metoyer in the middle of the field. Metoyer beat Carrington Byndom on the play for the 14-yard reception.
It had to be encouraging for Jones to see his offensive line stuff Okafor and Jackson and have Metoyer find the opening in the Longhorns defense -- an early sign that OU’s offensive line had come to play Saturday.
OU’s third down stop on Texas’ second possession
This play speaks volumes of the difference between last season's defense and this season's.
On third-and-5 at its own 26-yard line, Texas got the matchup it wanted, the Longhorns’ go-to receiver Jaxon Shipley in a one-on-one battle with Julian Wilson, OU’s sixth defensive back. While Shipley made the catch, Wilson made the tackle short of first-down yardage after good coverage for a 3-yard gain.
Last season, the thought of leaving OU’s sixth defensive back in a one-on-one situation with UT’s top receiver would have been unheard of. This season, with the Sooners' improved secondary, OU didn’t think twice about trusting Wilson. And he rewarded that trust.
Damien Williams’ 95-yard touchdown run
Much like Williams’ other long touchdown runs this season, the junior was untouched well into the defensive backfield and, again, showed his breakaway speed in the open field. But a quality cut was the main reason. Longhorn safety Kenny Vaccaro filled the hole but Williams found a different crease behind Trey Millard’s block.
Once Williams was in the secondary, Justin Brown took Quandre Diggs out of the play and Williams put a move on safety Mykkele Thompson that left the Texas safety on his heels, taking him and Byndom out of the play. Williams was in a race to the end zone with Diggs in hot pursuit before Kenny Stills block took him out. While there’s no guarantee Diggs would have been able to catch Williams, Stills made sure he didn't.
The key to the play was the downfield blocking of OU’s receivers. It’s clear Brown takes pride in his blocking as he continues to be one of OU's best blocking receivers and one of the better blocking receivers in the Big 12. Stills' block got a lot of attention but the fact the junior was in position to make the block is way more important than the block itself. He was lined up on the left side of the field in the formation, yet made his block on the right sideline, more than 50 yards away. He was in position to make a block because he chose to be a participant in the play instead of an observer.
This play set the tone for the game on many levels, from Texas’ poor defensive effort to the Sooners extra effort to assist a teammate. A early sign the Red River Rivalry was the Sooners to lose.
Millard’s 73-yard reception
While Millard got the accolades for his amazing catch-and-run, the play call was terrific.
A fake pass to Roy Finch, followed by play action fake to Williams to the left set up Millard wide open off the misdirection to the right. There were no defenders within 15 yards of the junior fullback when he caught the football.
Millard took over from there. Thompson tried to go low on Millard, who at 256 pounds, has over 70 pounds on the 183-pound Texas safety, and cornerback Adrian Phillips tried to knock the Sooners fullback off his feet while he was in mid-air but bounced off like ping pong ball trying to knock over the wall.
Only Byndom kept it from being a touchdown. Great play by Millard but terrific play call and play design by the Sooners offensive coaching staff.
Finally getting recognition for his superb play the past two seasons, this interception was a peak into the competitive mindset that makes Colvin great.
Marquis Goodwin, a 2012 Olympian for Team USA in the long jump, was the Longhorns lone receiver. After a play action fake, Ash tried to find Goodwin but Colvin was stride for stride with the speedster and, despite being the last line of defense for OU, undercut the throw to make the interception.
He clearly has the short memory that defensive backs require but, maybe more importantly, he had the confidence to trust his ability and take a risk by going for the interception one play after he had allowed a long completion. That type of confidence combined with physical ability can be what separates great from good.
OU's momentum, and the game, was never really in jeopardy after these five plays.