When Fred Akers and Barry Switzer reached midfield today to shake hands, it was Switzer who spoke first, his voice reflecting shock.
"That," he said, "was one hell of a second half."
No one argued with the Oklahoma coach. To the amazement of Switzer, 75,387 witnesses in the Cotton Bowl and a national television audience, Texas dominated the Sooners during the final 30 minutes, coming back from a 14-3 halftime deficit to prevail, 34-14.
"Our kids never got down because they knew they were good enough to win the game," said Akers, a college teammate of Switzer at Arkansas. "We just told them at half to keep doing what they were doing because we weren't going to keep fumbling all day."
By the time the Longhorns fumbled again, they had scored 24 second-half points and the game's outcome was not in doubt. They had driven 80, 69 and 42 yards on the Oklahoma defense and had recovered a fumble at the six to set up a field goal.
In short, they had turned a warm, pleasant day on the state fairgrounds into a nightmare for a once-proud team, one that is now 1-2-1 and has gone three games without a victory for the first time in 16 years.
Texas began the game as if bent on self-destruction. On the opening kickoff, return man John Walker, apparently frozen by the sea of orange and white he saw looking down at him, let Michael Keeling's kick bounce off his chest and into the grasp of OU's John Truitt at the Longhorn 16.
The Sooners needed only three plays to get to the end zone, halfback Chet Winters scoring from the one as the Sooners took a 7-0 lead 61 seconds into the contest.
Texas managed to hold on to the ensuing kickoff -- fumbling it after the whistle -- but when its offense could not move, the Sooners were back looking for more moments later. On third and eight from the Texas 31, Buster Rhymes took a pitch to the 23, coming up literally an inch short of the first down.
Sensing a possible early kill, Switzer went for the inch. In the press box, Longhorn defensive coordinator Leon Fuller decided he had to take a chance. He ordered all-America defensive tackle Kenneth Sims to move over and play directly over OU center Bill Bechtold, an alignment Texas almost never uses.
Fuller's move was correct. Quarterback Kelly Phelps tried to sneak left but Sims' partner at tackle, Mark Weber, was waiting to slam Phelps for a foot loss.
For the first time, Texas was in the game. The Longhorns closed the gap to 7-3 on Raul Allegre's 34-yard field goal 11 seconds into the second quarter, but then went into their stone-hands act again, twice fumbling on their 35 on consecutive possessions.
Once, the defense held and Keeling's 44-yard field goal was short. But the second time the Sooners scored, aided by a foolish pass interference by Mike Hatchett on a Phelps-to-Bobby Grayson pass that had no chance.
Fullback Stanley Wilson, who totaled 85 yards on 29 carries, got the last 13 yards on three straight runs, the final one from two yards out. So with 5:12 left in the half, Oklahoma led, 14-3.
At intermission, trailing by 11 points, the Texas players were calm in their locker room.
Akers and Fuller decided on one change: "We went in thinking we had to shut down their outside options," Fuller said. "We decided for the second half to worry about the fullback inside first and see what they could do outside."
Texas took the kickoff and was immediately on the move. Quarterback Rick McIvor found Maurice McCloney open under the OU zone for 50 yards, the play carrying to the four.
From there, oft-injured tailback A.J. (Jam) Jones, on his way to 137 yards on 36 carries, went the last four on three plays to cut the lead to 14-10.
Oklahoma returner Rod Pegues had to fall on his fumble of the kickoff at the seven and Wilson fumbled on the next play, Sims covering the ball at the six. The Oklahoma defense forced a 22-yard Allegre field goal and it was 14-13.
Then came the two series that decided the game. The Sooners took the next kickoff and reached the Texas 27. Again, they faced fourth and one. Again, Texas stunted with its tackles. This time Sims was in the backfield before Phelps could even decide whether to give to Wilson or keep, and slammed Phelps down for a four-yard loss.
The Texas offense took over. From the 31, the Longhorns got to the Sooner 29 before McIvor was sacked, setting up third and 16 at the 36.
Akers called for a pattern that crossed Jones and McCloney, again under the zone with Jones the primary target. But Jones was covered. Rushed, McIvor scrambled left and found open territory. At that point, seeing McIvor free, OU safety Dwight Drane came off McCloney. McIvor had only to loft the ball to the wide-open receiver, who walked in from the four for a 20-14 lead with 32 seconds left in the quarter.
That touchdown seemed to drain the Sooners. They could not move on their next possession and, after a short punt, the Longhorns easily went 42 yards, with McIvor throwing a four-yard touchdown pass to Sampleton to end the drive. That made it 27-14 with 8:14 left and Texas was in control.
When it was over, even Akers, who prides himself on containing his emotions, could not conceal his joy. As he turned from Switzer, Akers heard the Texas band playing, "The Eyes of Texas Are Upon You."
As the final notes faded, Akers stopped short, his face breaking into a wide grin. He wheeled toward the band and emphatically threw his hand into the air, his fingers forming the "Hook 'em Horns" salute.
Clearly, he was filled with pride.
Clearly, he was entitled.