It’s said he who laughs last, laughs best.
The Texas Longhorns, given up for dead by the media after a 1-2 start, were having a good laugh after a 36-20 over heavily favored No. 12 Oklahoma Saturday.
“Keep criticizing us,’’ said Longhorns quarterback Case McCoy in a postgame interview. “We love it. It’s not hurting us ... it wasn’t us criticizing him (much-maligned Texas head coach Mack Brown). It’s all you, and you’re not in the locker room, you’re not playing. If we don’t make plays, you all can continue to write bad articles, continue to hound our coaches ... we proved to you all that we can play ... it’s the best feeling.’’
The Longhorns took a page out of OU head coach Bob Stoops’ philosophy of playing with a chip on their shoulders after three straight losses to the Sooners, the last two by a combined score of 118-38.
“It’s a big rivalry game with two physical teams,’’ McCoy said. “It’s about time we decided to be physical, as well. Hats off to the offensive line ... they’re the ones that we need to be wearing the gold hats (which go to the winner) because they played a heck of a game.’’
“The one thing you can’t predict is the determination of young people,’’ Brown said. “This was really important to them. They all decided to do what they can to let this team win.’’
Brown felt the seeds of the upset were sown after last year’s 63-21 loss to OU.
“I knew we would have a different mindset coming into this game,’’ he said. “We were not happy with the last two years and the way it looked. Walking out of here last year, a lot of things were said in the dressing room that affected today.’’
That different mindset could be seen in the statistics.
The last two years, UT only had 259 and 289 yards in total offense. They trailed 34-10 at halftime in 2011 and 36-2 in 2012.
At halftime this season, Texas had 305 yards in total offense in taking a 23-10 lead. The Longhorns lost one fumble, but three plays later, Chris Whaley intercepted a Blake Bell pass and returned it 31 yards for a touchdown.
“We had confidence the last couple of years, but we hadn’t gotten in the ring to fight,’’ McCoy said. “We slipped coming in and hadn’t gotten on to the stage to make it a fight. We had no false confidence. We knew where we were and what we could do.’’
Texas was 13 of 20 on third down conversions overall and 9 of 12 in the first half. That was quite a contrast from the 5 of 16 and the 4 of 13 UT was the last two years. UT converted six times on down and distance of six yards or more.
“They were executing better than we were,’’ Stoops said. “They found a way to get open. They really outplayed us on first down. That was a big part of the first half.’’
“We have a lot of playmakers,’’ McCoy said. “We had a lot of confidence in our game plan.’’
The Sooners, on the other hand, were only 2 of 13 on third down. That’s quite a contrast from 8 of 15 in 2011 and 11 of 18 last year.
“Their execution was much cleaner than ours on third down,’’ OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “That happens. We couldn’t come up with any plays on third down.’’
“We have a bunch of playmakers,’’ McCoy said.
In the two previous matchups, Texas rushed for a combined 110 yards (36 in 2011 and 74 in 2012). Saturday, the Longhorns rushed for 255 yards with Johnathan Gray (29 for 123) and Malcolm Brown (23 for 120) both going over 100 yards.
“When they can run it right at you, that’s a problem,’’ Mike Stoops said. “They had a good game plan. Their quarterback understood what we were trying to do defensively and got them in good plays. We never handled the run well.
“They were a much better team than they were last year, that’s for sure. Their execution was excellent. They did the right things at the right time. When you execute that well on third down, you’re well prepared.’’
The often-criticized McCoy may never have played better as a Longhorn. He was 13 of 21 passing for 190 yards, including perfectly thrown touchdown strikes of 59 yards to Marcus Johnson and 38 yards to Mike Davis. Both caught the ball in stride after beating the OU secondary.
“It’s a dream,’’ McCoy said. “I came here for this game. I loved the game plan that we had. Major (Applewhite, UT offensive coordinator) is doing a great job working with my strength and the team strengths, so I was confident. I knew in any situation what I was doing and where I was going. I wasn’t pressing.
“The touchdown passes, that’s the fun part of this job. The pass to Marcus was a 3rd-and-11 and we made a play. They were bringing a blitz. We knew they were coming. You just get the ball off ... I really felt good today. The ball was coming out healthy. That was the best I’ve thrown for a long time.’’
Brown called the third down conversions a major key, noting, “It’s all about moving the chains. When you stay balanced, you can win football games.
The Sooners were averaging 246 yards rushing and 209.2 yards passing coming into the game, but were held to a season-low 130 yards rushing and 133 yards passing against a team that had allowed a Big 12 worst average of 248.4 yards rushing and 465.4 yards in total offense.
New Longhorns’ defensive coordinator Greg Robinson is beginning to make an impact. UT only had two quarterback sacks in its first three games, but now have 13 in the last three contests, including four against the Sooners.
“It’s amazing what Greg Robinson and those three other defensive coaches have done to put in a run stop defense and still put pressure on Bell,’’ Brown said. “It’s amazing to see what this has come to.’’
“They had a lot of big plays and we hardly had any,’’ Bob Stoops said. “They outplayed us.’’
Then some days, it’s just not your day.
Mike Stoops was brilliant in his calls in the first half against TCU the week before when the Horned Frogs didn’t have a first down.
“There were no good calls today,’’ Mike Stoops said. “Some days the calls are all good. Today, nothing was good. That happens when you’re not playing well. It tells me we’re not playing like we have been. They just out-executed us at the line of scrimmage. They were a lot smarter on third downs. Their attitude was stronger than ours.’’
It’s said he who laughs last, laughs best.
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