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That 96-yard return established what would become a pattern for the Longhorns. Every time Oklahoma threatened to blow the game open, every time Texas fans experienced flashbacks to the 2000 and '03 editions of this rivalry (63--14 and 65--13 losses, respectively), the '08 Longhorns reminded them, That was then.
Fully aware that his team had been only lightly challenged before this game—Texas went into the Cotton Bowl having trailed all of seven minutes in its first five games—Brown admitted he had no idea how his guys would respond to adversity. "They answered that question today," the coach said.
TO HAVE any chance at victory—the college football punditocracy was adamant about this—Texas needed to "win the turnover battle." And lo, late in the first half, redshirt freshman safety Earl Thomas made a diving interception of Bradford's first bad throw of the day. After converting that takeaway into a field goal, Texas trailed 21--20 at intermission.
The Longhorns would get the ball to start the second half. Coming out of the locker room, "we were really excited," Brown recounted. "Then we stunk. We go three-and-out ... and I think they scored on four plays."
Six, actually. But McCoy promptly led a 12-play, 89-yard drive capped by a two-yard pass to Shipley, who got behind Brandon Crow, a backup linebacker who was on the field because, earlier in the quarter, the Sooners lost Ryan Reynolds, the heart and soul of the defense. The junior middle linebacker tore his right ACL, ending his season.
To counter the gathering gloom on his sideline, coach Bob Stoops called a fake punt on Oklahoma's next series. It was the sort of swashbuckling move that has become his signature in his 10 years in Norman. This time it backfired. Demonstrating a knack for open-field running best described as Plimptonesque, punter Mike Knall gained five yards when he needed six. Taking over on downs, the Longhorns drove to the Oklahoma 11. Hunter Lawrence's chip-shot field goal gave Texas its first lead, 30--28.
The Sooners promptly snatched it back with an 11-play touchdown drive. But a five-point lead could not begin to allay the anxiety on the Crimson half of this bifurcated stadium. The longer this game went on, the clearer it became: Oklahoma had no idea how to stop McCoy. With Texas facing a third-and-eight at the Oklahoma 38, Sooners defensive coordinator Brent Venables dialed up a zone blitz, which, to his chagrin, the Longhorns picked up.
Speeding through the secondary was Shipley, who found the spot vacated by the blitzer, gathered in a pass from McCoy and took it to the one-yard line. Cody Johnson's one-yard plunge put the Longhorns on top for good. Cosby's catch for the conversion—complete with that fortunate bounce—served notice that, as McCoy put it, "the ball was finally rolling our way."
With Texas sitting on a three-point lead and 7:29 left, a Christopher Walken--inspired battle cry issued forth from the Texas student section: "More cowbell!"
When the Longhorns don't have the ball, band members are required to put down their instruments. But whoever makes these rules has decreed that a cowbell is not an instrument. Which explains why Bradford spent the day raising his voice over the din of cowbells.