AUSTIN - Texas cornerback Curtis Brown swatted Zac Robinson's Hail Mary pass to the ground at the 5-yard-line as time expired, preserving a 28-24 victory for the top-ranked Longhorns, who were too tired to celebrate.
After nearly four hours of electrifying play-making from both sides, plenty of trick plays and helmet-popping collisions, the postgame embraces with Oklahoma State players in front of a UT record crowd of 98,518 suddenly recalled Apollo Creed's infamous words after 15 rounds in the movie Rocky, when he whispered into the challenger's ear, "Ain't gonna be no rematch."
"That was a really physical game," said Texas receiver Jordan Shipley, who had a school-record 15 receptions for 168 yards and a touchdown.
For Texas, it was the ultimate display of offense helping defense for three quarters and then defense bailing out offense in the fourth quarter. The Longhorns failed to score a point in the final 21:50 of the game as Colt McCoy suddenly proved mortal - throwing his first interception in 100 pass attempts and fumbling - killing two drives in Oklahoma State territory.
BEND BUT DON'T BREAK
But the Texas defense, bloodied and bruised for 217 yards rushing and 416 total yards by the most balanced offense it has seen all year, answered both turnovers with heroics.
"In a special season like this, you have to win games like this," Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp said. "It wasn't always pretty on either side of the ball. It wasn't always pretty on special teams. But you have to credit our kids, too. Our kids kept fighting. We're a good football team, and our kids kept fighting and kept grinding, and they won the football game when it was on the line."
Oklahoma State drove the ball after McCoy's interception to the Texas 19, where it had third-and-6. Aaron Lewis flushed Robinson from the pocket, and Sergio Kindle sacked him for a 3-yard loss, forcing a 39-yard field goal by Dan Bailey, cutting Texas' lead to 28-24 with 12:58 left.
Texas took its next possession to the OSU 10, but McCoy was stripped of the ball by linebacker Orie Lemon, and Jeray Chatham recovered at the 10 for the Cowboys with 5:27 left. Plenty of time to do damage.
MORE GUNDY REGRET
OSU coach Mike Gundy blamed himself for failing to run clock with a 35-14 lead in the fourth quarter last season against Texas as the Longhorns came back for a 38-35 victory. Gundy will have similar pangs after OSU got away from the run, and saw Robinson get sacked by Henry Melton on second-and-5 from the OSU31. The offense looked even more scattered as Robinson then rushed for only 1 yard on third-and-7, bringing up fourth-and-6.
With just under three minutes left and the Cowboys' upset hopes on the line, Gundy called a screen pass to Dez Bryant that the UT coaches anticipated from the sideline and directed Curtis Brown, playing brilliantly for the injured Chykie Brown (ankle), to play inside of Bryant. Lamarr Houston ultimately stuffed the play for a 3-yard loss, giving Texas the ball back at the OSU 27.
"Our players played well enough to win the game today," Gundy said. "The offensive play-calling in the last drive we had the ball was poor. It was my fault. The players deserved the opportunity to win, and we didn't have very good play calling on the drive previous to the one at the end of the game."
UT STAYS AGGRESSIVE
Texas made things interesting on its final possession. Facing third-and-9 at the OSU 26 with 1:50 left and clinging to a four-point lead, Greg Davis called a pass to Shipley. McCoy faked a screen pass with a pump, and Shipley acted like he was blocking, then released down the left sideline.
Shipley caught the pass in stride to the OSU 6. Texas had used the play one other time - against UTEP - and it capped an aggressive day of play-calling from Davis.
The drive stalled at the OSU 1, when Texas failed on a fourth-down pass with 33 seconds left. UT opted to go for it rather than kick a field goal to make it a 7-point game because OSU had to go 99 yards without a timeout.
OSU got to the Texas 49 on passes of 23 and 14 yards from Robinson to Bryant and a 13-yard scramble by Robinson. But Robinson's Hail Mary on the final play was broken up by Curtis Brown.
TRUSTING IN COLT
Davis also deployed a receiver pass from Quan Cosby to Shipley on a reverse in the second quarter (that went incomplete but drew a pass interference flag on OSU), and ran a straight reverse with Shipley (for 17 yards) as well as a fumblerooski on a pass by McCoy (that was intercepted by Perrish Cox but negated by an egregious hands-to-the-face, roughing-the-passer penalty on Andre Sexton in the third quarter).
"I trust Colt with my paycheck, so I must trust him a lot," Davis said. "Colt has done a great job of understanding what we want to get done. Against a team as good as Oklahoma State - we saw what they did to Missouri. We felt like we had to stay aggressive. We tried a couple trick plays today and wanted our kids to know we were going to be as aggressive as they were."
McCoy credited Oklahoma State for a great effort and Texas' defense for answering when it was necessary.
"They never gave up," McCoy said. "They are a great football team, and give them all of the credit. They were not going to give up. They kept fighting, and there's a reason why they are in the top 10. They are tough.
"But give credit to our defense at the end for making a huge stop. That's on us as an offense. We can't turn the ball over down there. We have to execute on fourth down. We just have to finish. We played excellent football the whole game to get in that situation. It's good for us and we will learn from it. The next time we're there, we'll finish."
NO LETDOWN BY NO. 1
This was no letdown by No. 1. This was the Longhorns surviving one of the hardest-fought games of the Mack Brown Era against a team absolutely loaded with offense and incredibly physical on defense.
The Longhorns struggled to slow down OSU's offense and made a mockery of special teams in the first half against incredibly talented playmakers (OSU averaged 47.4 yards per kick return). But in many ways, Texas played as well as it could Saturday. The Longhorns sacked Robinson five times, limited tight end Brandon Pettigrew to two catches for 12 yards in the second half after he had six for 71 yards in the first. Bryant, who came into the game second nationally in receiving yards per game (115.6), had only three catches through three quarters before finishing with six catches for 74 yards.
Texas held OSU to its first scoreless first quarter of the season on its way to a 14-0 lead.
On offense, McCoy broke the UT school record he set last week with 18 straight completions. Most of them went to Shipley, none bigger than the 26-yarder on third-and-9 from the OSU 26 with just less than two minutes to play to help drain precious time off the clock.
Texas also converted 11 of 14 third downs as McCoy completed 84.4 percent of his passes with a school, single-game record for pass completions with 38 (on 45 attempts for 391 yards).
BROWN EXPECTED A BATTLE
"A couple people I heard this week were talking about the Orange Bowl, and I said, 'You're absolutely fools,'" Mack Brown said after improving to 22-4 in his last 26 games against Top 25 teams. "Others said this would be a blowout. It's an advantage when you don't watch film because you can be stupid. Anyone who had watched Oklahoma State go up and down the field, is absolutely stupid to think it wasn't going to be a great football game."
Brown was asked if the seventh-ranked Cowboys were the best team Texas has faced.
"I think them and Oklahoma will be a great football game in Stillwater. I really do," Brown said. "This is not the same Oklahoma State team we've played the last couple of years. They're really, really a good football team. You watch the film and you knew it. I knew it in pre-game when they looked better standing around than they did on film. And then when they started knocking us out, I said, 'Boys, we have got us a fight. You better hang on because this bunch has come to play.'"
Oklahoma State never stopped coming forward. The Cowboys' Kendall Hunter became the first back to rush for 100 yards against UT (161 yards on 18 carries - an average of 8.9 yards per rush). Robinson did just enough to keep the Texas defense off-balance, completing 17 of 26 passes for 199 yards and one touchdown, while also running 13 times for 26 yards.
"They have good players, but it wasn't anything they did," Robinson said. "We could move the ball on them anytime we wanted, and we knew that coming in. They made some good plays in the second half when it counted, and we didn't."
TEXAS TECH UP NEXT
Texas players didn't even have the energy to look ahead to next week's game at Texas Tech, which will be televised nationally on ABC at 7 p.m.
"It's another great team," said defensive tackle Roy Miller. "It seems like that's all we have in this conference."
Added Mack Brown, "I think everyone got their money's worth. Our reward - I heard coming off the field - was that Tech won 63-21 at Kansas, and I saw Baylor barely lost to Nebraska. So we've still got some work to do."
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