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Shooting From the Hip: Texas 24, OU 17

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And just when things seemed darkest...the football got good again.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Sorry for the delay, folks - I was ready to overcome the pernicious effects of seven wax cups to get this up from the fairgrounds, but was ultimately defeated by a combination of Fair Park's lone cell tower and my status as the only human who can't get 5+ hours out of a 6 Plus battery.

I'll preface this by saying that between my low field angle and high BAC, a lot of y'all who caught this one in HD probably have some better detailed X and O insight than I do at this present moment.

But I'll bet I had more fun.

OFFENSE

We ran the ball down their throats, through their gut, all the way along Lemmiwinks territory and brought it out to smack them on the ass with it without Kent Perkins at right tackle.

Holy shit.

From the stands, this felt like a Jeff Tedford game more than anything as a constant array of backfield misdirection kept OU from flowing fast to the football and gave us plenty of soft corners while giving a previously overmatched interior OL the chance to establish some angle advantage and lean on a more-beatable-than-advertised OU front.

It's a lot more fun to be on the right side of that kind of action than it was to watch D.D. Lewis run around like a chicken with his head cut off.

While the game plan played a major role in our ground game success, individual effort was just as huge.  The standout play of the game might have been Marcus Johnson's sideline Houdini act on his end-around touchdown - I still have no idea how he wove through those would-be tacklers while keeping his feet in bounds, but it's hard to imagine a better-timed play for a team that just HAD to have something break their way early.  D'onta Foreman and Johnathan Gray both ran their absolute hardest and got as much as they could get out of their runs - hopefully their relative YPC in this one will be reflected in their relative carry distribution going forward, but hats off to Gray for helping Charlie put the Golden Hat on with authoritative runs and rock-solid ball security to ice the final drive.

Heard showed a lot of electricity with his feet, generated limited wattage with his arm and had more than one mental short-circuit when it came time to demonstrate Sack Avoidance 101 by throwing the ball to a coach once he was outside the pocket.  It wasn't necessarily unexpected that the ground game would be Heard's road to success given OU's speed-to-beef ratio - we didn't seem willing to put too much on his plate during our play-not-to-lose stretch in the 2nd and 3rd quarters, but hopefully we'll be able to add to his repertoire of effective reads and routes once we move out of this whole TOUGHEST SCHEDULE IN THE ENTIRE DAMN COUNTRY stretch.

After a memorable fisting or two at the hands of Blake Bell, it was really nice to give the Sooners a taste of their own medicine with the SwoopesDozer.  It's just impossible not to be fired up on Swoopes' behalf given the slings and arrows he took during his tenure as the starter, and his touchdown-and-a-half were some great horror-to-high-five moments in the stadium (we were afraid that he'd lost the fumble and unsure of Joe's recovery on the TD run, and had a brief moment of pure terror as we though he'd airmailed the throw five yards over Andrew Beck's head before we saw it settle into Caleb Blueitt's hands.)

This wasn't the game for our receivers to strut their stuff downfield, but they blocked their cocks off (Lorenzo Joe in particular) while Joe and Johnson each came up with a crucial third-down grab.  Bigger days are ahead for this bunch as we rebuild the air attack, but that kind of effort and buy-in were great to see as the entire squad fought back from the precipice.

It'll take a rewatch for me to speak too intelligently about the OL, but I'm betting I like a lot of what I see.  My impression from a low angle in the stands was that Vahe was laying down the law on some pulls, Connor Williams' ability to reach and seal on the edge is one of many things that will make him a Friday (if not Thursday) pick, Doyle and Flowers stuck their blocks with a lot more far more authority than at any previous moment and the Hutchins/Nickelson combo platter at right tackle...did not cost us the game.

DEFENSE

Texas' early-game dime package was a smart deployment against OU's high-octane air attack, and the Sooners were tremendously obliging by failing to run against five-man boxes early on while Texas' coverage looks kept Mayfield guessing.  We threw a corner blitz at them on what seemed like half our first quarter plays and Mayfield stayed obligingly confused.  The Sooners eventually found some offensive balance and managed a decent degree of success on the ground and in the air, but a young and undermanned defense threw down with one of the nation's most productive O's and held them to a Kansas-esque 17 points.

It's almost like Strong and Bedford didn't suddenly forget how to coach defense during the offseason.

The DL played a whale of a game despite the late-game loss of Hassan Ridgeway.  Paul Boyette played far and away his best game as a Longhorn, and Poona Ford started cashing in on the gap-shooting promise that he flashed in his recruiting tape.  Ridge himself was a rock against the run when he was in there (get well soon, big man) and I think I even caught a few good moments from Chris Nelson at nose.  A decent percentage of their Mayfield takedowns were of the coverage sack variety and it looked like they were absolutely cashed on the Sooners' fourth quarter touchdown drive, but big ups to the big boys for raising up on OU's final possession.

On Redemption Day for a much-maligned senior class, nobody stepped up bigger than Peter Jinkens.  He was all that stood between OU and a festival of 20+ yard gains in Texas' dime looks, and he was up to the challenge of flowing to the ball and making sure, sound tackles.  He tracked multiple receivers on drag routes to limit gains, and his ability to keep things squared away in the middle let Texas turn Malik loose to wreak havoc.  Havoc was wroughten, and his dip-and-rip sack that helped write the end to OU's final drive will make the highlight reels when the dratniks are making Von Miller comparisons in the lead-up to the 2018 (or, God willing, 2019) NFL Draft.

A secondary that has looked outright baffled for major stretches of the 2015 season got to turn the tables on Baker Mayfield as they were finally able to stay cohesive, remember the coverage and start inflicting the kind of hesitation and confusion that helped Texas knock a round or two off Bryce Petty's draft grade last year.  Duke Thomas continued his campaign to rename the act of biting on a double move as "Getting Duked," but outside of that bad moment played a standout game as he bounced between outside and nickel coverage.  Holton Hill played a tremendous game on the outside (though he caught a break when a high throw/receiver slip combo saved him from surrendering an easy red zone TD) and Davises Antwaun and Davante hung tough despite a couple of tough moments.  I could live a hundred years and not figure out what Dylan Haines thought was more important than just sticking with OU's fullback on Mayfield's only TD, but my pre-rewatch impression was that he generally put himself in the right position and managed to keep the singles and doubles from turning into home runs.

SPECIAL TEAMS

When snappers snap, punters catch and kickers kick, this unit ain't half bad.  OU never got the big, momentum-turning return that played a role in last year's loss while Texas gave its returners (including Kris Boyd, who's taking one back this year) a lot of room to operate.  The tremulous oh-God-please Horns Up that normally accompany 50+ yard field goal attempts were on display for extra points today, but the RoserCoaster overcame a dropped snap to go 4-4 on the FG/XP count and hung them high and deep on kickoffs.

POSTGAME

It's been dry in Dallas of late, but it was the damndest coincidence that a dust storm blew into the stadium at the exact moment that the team hoisted the coach on their shoulders as 40K+ Texas fans chanted "CHARLIE!!! CHARLIE!!!  CHARLIE!!'  Some of it got into Peter Jinkens' eyes, too, and he had to spend a minute or so prone in the end zone to get them blinked clear.

I feel ya, Pete.

THE BOTTOM LINE

The biggest roller-coaster week since I've been watching this team felt like we witnessed the death, burial and resurrection of the Charlie Strong Era in the span of eight days.  While any real, immediate danger to Charlie's tenure was a figment borne of click-seeking media and a few self-important blowhards in the suites and cheap seats, there's no denying that no program in the country may see a bigger win at a better time this season.  Texas has two weeks to rest, refit and make sure that the Purple Wizard doesn't drop an Avada Kedavra on us in Austin - it's always a danger, but with 85 guys solidly aligned behind a coach they'll run through a wall for, I like our chances.

Hook 'em....and OU still sucks.