The stage for Saturday's second-half hysteria was set in the first 30 minutes, when Texas went up 10-0 on a 25-yard Todd Dodge-to-Bill Boy Bryant pass—Bryant ran a simple out-and-up pattern and was left all alone by the Sooner deep back—and a 40-yard Jeff Ward field goal. The touchdown came after Oklahoma punter Mike Winchester let the snap slide through his hands. Given the soggy conditions, the Longhorns' halftime lead looked enormous.
But not to the Sooners. In a stunning span of six minutes, 50 seconds in the third quarter, Oklahoma flickered with a spark it hasn't shown since the glory days of the '70s. It all started when Texas tailback Terry Orr was crushed by Sooner linebacker Brian Bosworth. Orr fumbled, and strong safety Keith Stanberry recovered on the Texas six. Bosworth had spent the week spouting off about how much he hates Akers, Texas, Burnt Orange and Austin. All of his published remarks ended up in Austin, posted for the Longhorns to read and ponder. Switzer now calls Bosworth, a freshman from Dallas, Mr. Bulletin Board.
Two plays after Orr's fumble, right halfback Steve Sewell, a senior whom Oklahoma was lukewarm about recruiting out of San Francisco and who made a niche for himself because he not only knew how to block but also would, carried five yards for a touchdown.
A minute and a half later, the Longhorns had to swallow a safety when the snap by their deep snapper, Terry Steelhammer, sailed, over the head of punter John Teltschik. Suddenly it was Texas 10, Oklahoma 9, and the Sooners were gassed up. Upon receiving the free kick after the safety, Oklahoma powered down the field in 10 plays, culminating in Sewell's catching a 24-yard pass from quarterback Danny Bradley and then on the next play scooting outside for 12 yards and a TD. That made it 15-10, Oklahoma. The Sooners went for the two-point conversion but failed.
The band played Boomer Sooner with new vigor, and Oklahoma seemed on its way to a big-game win after three seasons in which its record in the biggies had been 2-9.
But with 5:59 left, Dodge passed 20 yards to tight end William Harris. On the next play, third-team tailback Kevin Nelson, a freshman, took off on a sweep to the left. He bounced off a would-be tackier and kept right on sloshing up the left sideline 58 yards to the Sooner two. "I kept thinking, I just want to help the team,' " said Nelson later.
But now the Oklahoma defense rose to the occasion, displaying an attacking style rather than the sit-back-and-be-cool-because-we're-better-than-you brand it has favored in recent years. Orr was held to just one yard by noseguard Tony Casillas; Orr was stopped by Stan-berry; Orr was tackled by Casillas, with Bosworth in support; Nelson tried to sweep wide right and slipped behind the line for a two-yard loss. The Sooners had stopped the drive and, seemingly, had broken Texas's spirit.
With the Sooners unable to move the ball for a first down after taking over on their own three, Switzer ordered his team to take a safety. The decision was defensible, because Winchester not only had dropped one snap but also had shanked two punts. Worried that there might be another punting fiasco, Switzer, as he explained later, "didn't want to run the risk of giving them a cheap touchdown. I felt if they were good enough to take the ball and drive it the length of the field when they hadn't done it all day, then they deserved to win." Indeed, for the day the Longhorns would get only 96 yards rushing and would convert only two of 14 third-down situations.
Texas took over on its own 44 with 2:04 left, trailing 15-12. On third-and-seven, pass interference was called at the OU 41 on Stanberry, who didn't like that one bit; the ball was "uncatchable," he fumed. Soon, however, Dodge faced a third-and-10. He passed to Orr for eight yards, but the Sooners were offside on the play, and Texas took the penalty. Third-and-five at the 36. Dodge then completed two of his next three passes—he was only 6 for 24 for the day—one to Harris for 15 yards, the other to Bryant for 11 down to the 10-yard line.
An illegal motion penalty put the ball on the 15 with 10 seconds left. Now came the game's most controversial play. On a pass to Bryant the ball was tipped by cornerback Andre Johnson, and Stanberry appeared to have intercepted it. But it was ruled simply an incomplete pass. This time, the Sooners did some big league complaining. As well they might have: Television replays showed that Stanberry caught the ball inbounds and that he may well have had control of it inbounds, too.