- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 9, 2005

DALLAS — Texas finally snapped its Sooner schneid.

The second-ranked Longhorns obliterated Oklahoma 45-12 at the Cotton Bowl yesterday, turning the 100th edition of the famed rivalry game into a cathartic Red River rout.

“I’m excited about the win because it’s been a hard road for these seniors,” maligned Texas coach Mack Brown said after his ‘Horns ended Oklahoma’s five-year mastery of the series by administering a thorough thrashing in front of a bipartisan crowd of 75,452 fans.

“The emotions you have are for these players and the fans. They haven’t had the swagger in their step they’ve deserved over the past few years because of this game, and I take responsibility for that. To see those fans and kids celebrating with each other at the end today was really special.”

While the Oklahoma end of the Cotton Bowl spilled quickly and quietly out of the stadium, Texas upperclassmen Vince Young, Aaron Harris and Rod Wright took turns donning the Golden Hat game trophy and tipping it to their long-suffering fans.

“It felt good to finally get in there and dominate them the way they’ve dominated us in recent years,” said Wright, the mammoth defensive tackle who put an exclamation point on the beatdown by scooping up a fumble from Oklahoma redshirt freshman quarterback Rhett Bomar and lumbering 67 yards for the game’s final score with 7:41 left.

“A lot of people probably had question marks about our team. They probably weren’t going to be feeling us until we proved something against these guys. But today we answered those questions and got over this hump after being on the other end of it for five long years.”

There was nothing artistic about the victory. Young, the Longhorns’ 6-foot-5, 237-pound Heisman candidate at quarterback, finished the game with solid, if unspectacular, numbers (14-for-27 passing for 241 yards and three touchdowns) but bobbled a handful of snaps and worked little of the usual magic with his feet, gaining only 45 yards on 17 carries. And the Longhorns (5-0, 2-0 Big 12) fumbled three times, losing one, and were penalized 12 times for 110 yards.

After opening the game with a flawless 82-yard scoring march, the Longhorns gifted the Sooners (2-3, 1-1) six points by fumbling on their next two possessions, the first forcing a punt deep in their own territory and the second giving the Sooners a short field.

But the disparity in personnel was obvious from the outset, and Texas freshman tailback Jamaal Charles flipped momentum back in the Longhorns’ favor for good when he turned a simple dive play into an 80-yard touchdown run with 1:18 left in the first quarter. On the first of several plays that were emblematic of the day, Charles was met at the line by Oklahoma linebackers Clint Ingram and Zach Latimer but bounced off of Ingram and spun away from Latimer before outrunning the Oklahoma secondary to the end zone to put the ‘Horns ahead 14-6.

The second such play came just 27 seconds before intermission with Texas leading 17-6 and facing first-and-15 at its own 36-yard line. In a play shockingly uncharacteristic of a Bob Stoops’ defense, Oklahoma blew a coverage on a simple wheel route by Texas flanker Billy Pittman, and Young flipped a perfect pass down the sideline to Pittman for a 64-yard scoring stake.

“The corner on me was blitzing, which I thought was surprising given the down, distance and time, and the safety just ran right by me,” Pittman said. “It was your basic bust, and Vince threw me a perfect ball.”

The resulting 24-6 score would have been safe if the game had lasted four weeks instead of four quarters, such was the impotence of the Oklahoma offense. The Sooners’ primary offensive weapon, sophomore tailback Adrian Peterson, entered the game nursing a severe right ankle sprain and carried just three times for 10 yards before Stoops sent him back to the bench for the duration.

As a result, Oklahoma was forced to rely on the arm and legs of Bomar, who responded to the pressure of his first big-game action with a predictably ghastly performance. When he wasn’t scrambling for his life or counting clouds from his backside, Bomar completed just 12 of 33 passes for 94 yards, one touchdown, one interception and one fumble. The one-time prep phenom looked confused, helpless and a step slow all day, never more than when Texas defensive end Brian Robison blindsided him in the fourth quarter, leading to a fumble and Wright’s recovery and rambling touchdown.

“I was in denial,” Wright said. “The whole time I was running toward the end zone I just knew some little running back was going to catch me and spoil it.”

Nobody wearing crimson and cream looked capable of spoiling any part of Texas’ breakout day. Brown exited the game exonerated of five consecutive losses to Stoops and Co. by an average of 27 points. Young exited with his Heisman campaign intact after a workmanlike effort. And most importantly, the Longhorns exited with their Sooners ghosts slain and their Rose Bowl hopes intact. The only top 25 team remaining on Texas’ schedule is pass-happy Texas Tech, and the Longhorns will play host to the Red Raiders in Austin on Oct.22.

In fact, among the five unbeaten teams lumped at the top of the poll (USC, Texas, Virginia Tech, Florida State and Georgia), none has an easier path to Pasadena for a place in the BCS national title game than the Longhorns.

“That’s the expectation on this team, getting back to the Rose Bowl,” said Young, who single-handedly knocked out Michigan in last season’s Rose Bowl. “We were supposed to win this game, and we took care of business. We still haven’t played our best game, and there’s plenty more work to do. But we’re almost halfway home.”


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