You can't pick just one hero in the Longhorns' victory over Oklahoma State; this one, instead, was a win for the team.
Sept. 30, 2012
Bill Little, Texas Media Relations
STILLWATER, Okla. -- Only a few hands had gone up in the Longhorn team meeting room on Thursday when Mack Brown asked his young team how many of them had ever been to Stillwater. And yet, there they were fighting for the right to swagger in front of a hostile bright-orange crowd and a mega-national television audience.
And before it was over, they would need to dig deep into their team theme for 2012 in order to pull out a showcase victory over the Oklahoma State Cowboys Saturday night. They had to be relentless; they had to have intensity; and the necessity for emotion had never been more prevalent. But to get to “swagger” it appeared they darn near needed a miracle.
In the incredible run Mack Brown’s teams have had in Stillwater, it had seemed each dramatic win featured a stellar performance that identified a hero. This time, in a season which has focused on the “team” identity of this particular band of brothers, there would be many. Over and over again, they have heard from speakers and from Special Forces Green Beret teammate Nate Boyer that you have to fight for the guy on your right and on your left.
And that is what they did.
Clinging to a 34-33 lead in the final three minutes of the game, Brown had told his defense, “Hold them to a field goal, and the offense is going to drive down and win the game.” And he told his offense, “They are going to hold them to a field goal, and we are going to drive down and win they game.”
It would appear that swagger had arrived in Stillwater, because that is exactly what happened.
Three times in the game, including twice in the fourth quarter, the Longhorns had to fight from behind. The drama, however, went beyond that. Texas won the game because it kept the ball for almost two thirds of the game (36:36 minutes to 23:24), ran 80 plays to 67 for Oklahoma State, and moved the chains for first downs in the most critical situations.
In a game where big plays dotted the landscape, it would be the third and fourth down conversions that would spell the difference. Texas was 9 of 17 on third downs, but when you figure that UT was successful on three of three fourth down tries, the end result was that the ‘Horns made first downs on 12 of the 17 times they faced a third down.
While much deserved credit goes to high profile players in such a win, Brown was clear in the locker room that this had been a team win with contributions from each of the 70 players who made the trip, as well as the coaches and the support staff. Sophomore quarterback David Ash completed 30 of 37 passes for 304 yards and three touchdowns. Eight different receivers caught passes, seven of them at least three. The only guy with one catch may have been the one with the most important catch of the season. Senior Tight end D. J. Grant’s only reception came on a perfect throw on a great route on fourth down that went for 29 yards on the ‘Horns’ game winning drive.
Jaxson Shipley stepped into the spotlight, with three TD catches - two in the first quarter. But as good as Shipley and fellow receivers Mike Davis and Marquise Goodwin were, the coaches would rave afterward about the blocking, particularly that of the young receivers.
Each game this season, senior D. J. Monroe has filled that admonition Brown has used over and over again - figure out your role to help this team win. Not only did Monroe had some key runs, his 100-yard TD kickoff return answered a tying OSU score in the first quarter.
The defense, playing short-handed because of key injuries, struggled at times, but still stiffened to hold OSU to three field goals on three second half drives that carried into or near the red zone. And it would be wrong to overlook the punting of Alex King, who pinned the Cowboys inside their own 20 of three of his four punts.
With the fireworks that happened through the first three quarters, it seems close to incomprehensible that the game could match or double that intensity in the final fifteen minutes. With Texas leading, 28-26 as the final stanza started, Oklahoma State mounted an eight play, 89 yard drive to take a 33-28.
Nine minutes and thirty-six seconds remained in the game when the Longhorns unveiled their secret weapon, freshman running back Jonathan Gray. Gray, who saw more action because of an injury to Malcolm Brown, joined the fray with four straight runs that took Texas from the OSU 31 to the one, from whence Joe Bergeron scored the first of his two late touchdowns to put Texas in front, 34-33. But a critical two-point conversion pass failed, and when Oklahoma State started at its own 35 with 5:48 remaining, the Cowboys only needed a field goal from the very reliable Quinn Sharp to take the lead.
Grudgingly, the defense saw the Cowboys use seven plays to march to the UT 9, from whence Sharp kicked a 24 yard field goal for a 36-34 lead. Only two minutes and thirty-four seconds were left in the game.
Historically, game winning drives begin with a successful first play. That did not happen after Sharp kicked out of the end zone and Ash threw incomplete. Senior running back Jeremy Hills took a third down pass to the UT 29 before being stopped. It was fourth down and six yards to go.
The road to Stillwater had been long for D. J. Grant. Injured his first two years, the senior from LBJ High School in Austin, had battled through injury to star briefly as he took three TD passes from Case McCoy last year at UCLA. Grant came off a block, slid into the linebacker area and got a step on the defender and Ash nailed him perfectly. By the time Grant had run away and up field for 29 yards, the crowd in Boone Pickens Stadium had grown anxious. Shortly before the play, the stadium’s namesake, T. Boone Pickens, had made a triumphal trip down the ramp to the field, anticipating the victory.
Ash hit Hills again on a short pass, and the senior running back got out of bounds to stop the clock at the Oklahoma State 37. The next play would perhaps be the defining moment for receiver Mike Davis. Struggling a year ago, Davis had beaten Oklahoma State’s top defender down the right sideline, and then he out-jumped him and came down with the ball at the Oklahoma State five-yard line. Two plays later, Joe Bergeron plowed in for the game winning score. After Nick Jordan’s kick, it was 41-36.
The game still would not be over until the Texas defense held on a multi-lateral final play.
Folks love college football, partly because of its unpredictability. Coaches play to win, but they also play because it is their job as teachers to develop young men and help them grow up.
That was the real story in the midst of the sea of contrasting oranges Saturday night on the plains of north central Oklahoma. Both teams played well, and both fought hard to win. Neither was perfect, and there are still things to correct and to improve as the rugged season continues for Texas. But for the first time on a mission to return to the elite company of the nation’s top football teams, Texas won a close game to stay unbeaten.
And perhaps most important, you can’t pick just one hero. This one, instead, was a win for a team.