Oklahoma 12, Texas 0
The focus should be on the defense: No one had shut out Texas since 1980, and Oklahoma did that Saturday. Or maybe we should concentrate on the Longhorns themselves, who vowed to alter their mind-set specifically to beat Oklahoma, yet lost to the Sooners for the fifth straight time.
Yes, those themes ran strong through the second-ranked Sooners' 12-0 victory over the No. 5 Longhorns before 79,587 fans who packed the Cotton Bowl. But just six minutes into the game, the game's focus became clear, when Oklahoma freshman Adrian Peterson first got his hands on the ball -- and started running.
"I was just trying to run hard," Peterson said afterward.
He ran hard, as he showed on that first carry, which finally ended 44 yards later. He ran frequently, 32 carries in all, mostly because Texas, which has a much better defense than it did a year ago, simply couldn't stop him. He ran over people, by people, around people, and finished with 225 yards, the most by a freshman in the 99-game history of this rivalry.
"You can't arm-tackle the guy," Texas defensive tackle Rodrique Wright said. "You have to hit him. And you can't really hit him low, either. He'll run through that. . . . He looked like he was a veteran. He didn't really have any flaws."
And because of that, Oklahoma (5-0) might have eliminated the flaws it had a year ago, when it rolled through the regular season, only to stumble in both the Big 12 championship game and the Sugar Bowl. Quarterback Jason White won the Heisman following his performance during that regular season. But Saturday, White needed only to throw for 113 yards -- and overcome two interceptions -- because Peterson and junior Kejuan Jones led Oklahoma's 301-yard performance on the ground.
"I don't believe he's changed" what we do, Oklahoma Coach Bob Stoops said of Peterson. "I believe he's added to what we're able to do."
In gaining more than 100 yards for the fifth time in the first five games of his career -- no Oklahoma freshman had done that even three times -- Peterson outshone Cedric Benson, his senior counterpart from Texas (4-1). Benson, who entered the game as the nation's leading rusher, managed 92 yards on 23 carries, but he fumbled once and generally couldn't break free against Oklahoma's much-maligned defensive front. The Longhorns had been averaging 353 yards rushing per game. Oklahoma held them to 154, a performance that led Brent Venables, the Sooners' co-defensive coordinator, to vehemently defend his unit's performance in the early part of the season.
"Trust me: It was a collective effort," Venables said. "It starts with the guys inside. Their manhood had been challenged, to say the least. . . . I don't have questions. Nobody else on the defense has questions. I don't know who has the questions, but we don't."
The game was, however, in question until the fourth quarter. Despite the fact that Oklahoma moved the ball far more consistently -- the Sooners outgained the Longhorns 234-103 in the first half -- Texas's defense stiffened when necessary. Four times Oklahoma moved into Texas territory in the first half but managed just one chip shot field goal from Trey DiCarlo to take a 3-0 lead. The Texas fans in the crowd -- restless from four straight losses, including last year's 65-13 debacle -- took some measure of encouragement.
"I thought we'd go back out and move the ball," Texas Coach Mack Brown said, "and we'd win the game."
That didn't happen, in large part because Oklahoma knew there was only one way Texas could move it: on the ground. Longhorns quarterback Vince Young hadn't thrown for 200 yards in a game this year. Saturday, he completed just 8 of 23 passes for 86 yards. Worse for Texas, he was twice sacked to take the Longhorns out of field goal range, and on Texas's best scoring opportunity, he negated a nice run by fumbling at the Oklahoma 14-yard line.
"You can't turn it over against OU," Brown said. "You can't get taken out of field goal range and have a chance to win."
You also can't almost exclusively run the ball. When asked whether he expected the Longhorns to be so one-dimensional, Stoops said, "Yes." Thus, Oklahoma constantly brought at least one safety close to the line of scrimmage -- and even blitzed cornerbacks -- giving the Sooners eight or nine men to stop the run.
"It's tough," Benson said. "When you have guys in every hole, it's hard to make plays on the ground."
Oklahoma didn't have that problem. Up 6-0 on another short field goal by DiCarlo, the Sooners let Peterson bring them to the Texas 6, and from there, Jones scored the only touchdown of the game. The two-point conversion failed, but with just more than eight minutes left, it was 12-0, and the life was sucked out of the Texas crowd.
The Sooners fans, of course, heckled the Longhorns as they came off the field, chanting: "Five in a row! Five in a row!" Brown's wife, Sally, aware of how much has been said about her husband's recent struggles in this game, couldn't hold back tears in the tunnel below the stands.
And then there was Peterson. The kid from the small town of Palestine, Tex., who chose the Sooners over the Longhorns last winter, answered questions about his performance with brief, polite answers, smiling all the way. A Texas kid, to do this for Oklahoma, must have some deep thoughts about it, right?
"Not really," Peterson said. "I'm ready to do it again next year."