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2018 Season

10 Takeaways: Oklahoma Wins Their Fourth Straight Title By Outlasting Texas

The Sooners won the Big 12 Championship in the Red River Rematch. We offer some observations from an exciting title match in AT&T Stadium.

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The Big 12 season came to an end on Saturday with the Oklahoma Sooners beating the Texas Longhorns 39-27. The Sooners won their fourth straight Big 12 title, the first team to ever do so, and won their 14th overall league title.

This game began with Texas taking an early 14-6 lead as Oklahoma struggled to score in the red zone. The Sooners would come back at the end of the first half, however, and get 14 straight points to take the lead into halftime. In the third quarter, the Sooners got up 27-14 before Texas came back to tie things up headed into the last period.

From there, Oklahoma was able to hold the ball for over 11 minutes and seal the game with a safety and a touchdown. Below we look at some things we can take away from this contest.

PENALTIES WERE KILLER FOR TEXAS

Texas was hurt by penalties on both sides of the ball in this matchup. On offense, the Longhorns had three false start penalties and two delay of game penalties, mistakes that made it more difficult for Texas to have success against an Oklahoma defense that had been giving up points all season.

On defense, senior Kris Boyd accounted for three flags, one of which negated what would have been a Kyler Murray interception. Overall, those self-inflicted penalty yards put the Longhorns at a disadvantage in a game where they entered as more than a touchdown underdog.

THE TEXAS DEFENSE DID WHAT IT NEEDED TO

The Longhorns had one of their best performances of the season against the Sooners’ offensive attack. They held Oklahoma to under 40 points of offense, only the third time all season that a team has been able to do that. Texas was especially good early, holding Oklahoma to field goals instead of touchdowns in the red zone. That kind of performance allowed the Longhorns to get an early lead:

THE LONGHORNS PASSING ATTACK WAS EFFECTIVE

The biggest mismatch in this game was thought to be the passing game for the Longhorns against a vulnerable Oklahoma secondary, and that showed at several points. From a pure statistics perspective, quarterback Sam Ehlinger had a good game throwing the ball.

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The sophomore completed 62.2 percent of his passes for 349 yards, threw two touchdowns, and ran the ball 15 times. One of his primary targets, Collin Johnson, set a Big 12 title game record for receiving yards. The junior wideout had 177 yards receiving on eight catches. Texas would sure like to have him back next year:

TEXAS GOT AWAY FROM THEMSELVES

The Longhorns were always going to need to be balanced on offense in order to win this one, and were probably going to need to lean on their run game more. Texas was 8-1 this season when they ran the ball more than 36 times, but in AT&T Stadium they fell just short of that at 32 rushing attempts. Ehlinger was the lead ball carrier, toting the rock for just under half those carries.

Moving into next season, Texas will need to find a running threat to truly compliment Ehlinger’s abilities:

TEXAS WAS GOOD, BUT NOT ELITE THIS SEASON

At the end of the day, the better team probably won this game. These two programs are just at different places in their respective trajectories. The fact is that Oklahoma has made a habit out of winning the Big 12 these last few years, and the Longhorns were 6-6 last season.

And indeed, Texas had plenty of games that made you question just how good they were. On Saturday, they were competitive against the Sooners, and had a chance to win this game going into the fourth quarter. In the end, they weren’t able to capitalize.

The Longhorns made a lot of progress in 2018, and seem to be playing at a higher level than they have in years. Winning this game against the Sooners and beating them twice in one season was always going to be a tall order. It would have been a boon for Herman’s tenure for Texas to get just their fourth title in the history of the Big 12, though.

THE SOONERS WERE JUST TOO GOOD ON OFFENSE

Texas led for the majority of the first half, but you knew watching the game that an eight point lead wasn’t going to be enough against this high-powered Sooners offense. Although the Longhorns contained Oklahoma for most of the first half, eventually Oklahoma got it going. This was not the best performance Oklahoma had all season, and they ended the game with 39 total points and over 500 yards of offense.

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This was probably the most explosive offense in Big 12 history, and considering the history of offense in the conference, that’s really saying something. When the fewest points you’ve scored in league play was 37, it’s going to be difficult for any team to stop that:

LINCOLN RILEY KNOWS A LITTLE SOMETHING

Lincoln Riley made a concerted effort to run the ball in this game, and eventually it would help the Sooners run out the clock. Oklahoma ran the ball 40 times in this contest, which is six more times than they threw it. Even though the Sooners only managed to get 129 yards off those runs, it helped them close out the game. Their last touchdown came after a drive that last 6:19 and left the Longhorns with just two minutes in the game. The Sooners probably won this game because they didn’t always score quickly.

KYLER DIDN’T NEED TO BE MEMORABLE

The biggest difference between Kyler Murray in the game in October and this one last Saturday was his ability to take care of the ball. Murray had two turnovers in the Sooners’ only loss, but on Saturday he was turnover-free. The only turnover that the Sooners had on the day was a fumble in Texas territory, and overall both teams were even at that point with one a piece.

THE SOONERS KEEP MAKING PLAYS ON DEFENSE

Once again, Oklahoma’s pass rush stepped up when it was needed. With the Sooners leading 30-27, a CeeDee Lamb fumble on the Texas eight yard line seemed like it would swing the momentum in the Longhorns’ favor. Two plays later, however, the Sooners’ defense would make up for the turnover.

With Texas facing a second down and eleven yards to go, the Sooners called a corner blitz, and it hit home. Tre Brown came from the boundary side of the field, and Ehlinger never saw him coming. The safety only put up two points on the scoreboard, but it gave the Sooners the ball and the momentum:

OKLAHOMA’S RUN DEFENSE STEPPED UP

The Oklahoma defense came to play in Arlington, and had one of their best performances all season. They held Texas to just 2.8 yards rushing, which helped them put the Longhorns in longer down-and-distance situations. The average distance on third down that Texas had to travel was 7.2 yards, which makes it a lot easier to get stops.

And it was easy to see that interim defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeil wanted to stop the run from the beginning. McNeil sometimes had three linebackers on the field against the Longhorns, daring them to throw the ball. Even though that may have led to a few big passing plays, it’s hard to argue with the end result.

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