Hard-hitting Horns get physical with Sooners
DALLAS -- Some things can always be counted on in the Red River Rivalry:
Big D will drink itself silly Friday night.
The fried Twinkies and corn dogs at the State Fair of Texas on Saturday morning will not take the edge off your hangover, but will take years off your life.
And the team that hits hardest Saturday afternoon will win the game.
The Texas Longhorns showed that their recent reversal of fortune against Oklahoma wasn't just a Vince Young production. It's also a Gene Chizik production.
"OU-Texas is always a game about who can be more physical," Texas defensive end Brian Robison said.
"Our No. 1 issue today was to be physical," said Chizik, my choice as the assistant coach most ready to become a head coach in 2006. "If we weren't physical, we couldn't win."
Man, were they physical. Texas pounded Oklahoma into six fumbles and recovered three of them. Texas smacked Adrian Peterson around, holding the nation's premier second-half runner to 38 yards on 13 carries after intermission and a season-low 109 yards for the game. Texas lit up Oklahoma receivers, sacked Paul Thompson twice, delivered haymaker shots on special teams and won enough battles at the line of scrimmage to generate eight tackles for loss.
In other words, the Longhorns did unto the Sooners what the Sooners had done unto them so often this century.
When Bob Stoops was having his way with Mack Brown, winning this rivalry five straight seasons from 2000-04, Oklahoma was the tough guy and Texas was soft. Not anymore.
Now Texas is the tougher team. Now Texas looks like a solid favorite to win out, win the Big 12 South and win another Big 12 title game. Now Texas remains alive in the national championship chase, while the Sooners are out beyond a doubt. (Let's face it, Sooner Nation, an 18-point loss can't be blamed on bad officiating. No more letter writing to Big 12 commissioner Kevin Wieberg, OK?)
And now Texas has routed Oklahoma by a combined 51 points the past two meetings -- the biggest two-year victory margin by the Horns in the history of this ancient rivalry, in its 101st incarnation this season.
"If you're physical all game long, that's when the ball comes out on the ground," Chizik said.
Out it popped repeatedly Saturday -- most often by force, as opposed to Oklahoma operator error. That was especially true in the second half, to Chizik's immense pleasure.
At halftime the game was going all wrong for Texas. After jumping out to a 7-0 lead, the Longhorns had been dominated in the second quarter, and trailed 10-7 going into the locker room. Given Peterson's propensity for taking over games in the fourth quarter, this looked like a prime opportunity for another Stoops upset of Brown.
"We had to make them very aware that as the game goes on, we had to become more physical," Chizik said. "Because that's what Adrian Peterson does.
"At halftime we challenged them about the physical part of the game. The second half was a great example of them taking it to heart."
The fourth quarter was a study in pain distribution by the Texas secondary. Marcus Griffin ripped tight end Joe Jon Finley. Cornerback Aaron Ross, who had a Jim Thorpe Award kind of day with two interceptions and a fumble return for a touchdown, laid a crushing shot on wideout Manuel Johnson. And cornerback Tarell Brown had the hit that iced the game.
Trailing 14-10 early in the fourth, Oklahoma drove to the Texas 29. On a third-and-long play, Thompson hit Juaquin Iglesias at the Longhorns 15-yard line. But Brown slammed into Iglesias when his feet hit the ground, dislodging the ball. Linebacker Robert Killebrew picked up the fumble and ran it to the Texas 40, and Oklahoma never threatened again.
The only thing left was for Peterson to make a play that might ultimately cost him the Heisman Trophy.
On a second-and-10 play from the Oklahoma 18, Thompson threw a bad swing pass to Peterson. The ball came right over Peterson's head and bounced off his hands for what Peterson thought was an incompletion.
"They teach us not to give up," Ross said. "I didn't know if the ball was thrown behind him or not, but I was going to make sure."
While Peterson was making a rookie mistake, Red River rookie Colt McCoy was playing like a fifth-year senior. The redshirt freshman Texas quarterback grew up before our eyes on the floor of the Cotton Bowl, making two gorgeous touchdown throws and managing the game pristinely.
He's come a long way in a month.
"Colt has grown so much since Ohio State," Brown said.
With a maturing quarterback, plenty of skill-position talent and a high-caliber offensive line, Texas has the tools to score a ton of points. And even when it doesn't, that wood-laying defense has its back.
"We don't want to only be known as a speed defense," Ross said. "We want to be physical."
They were Saturday. Oklahoma has the bruises to prove it.
Pat Forde is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPN4D@aol.com.
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