CFB Roundup: Texas comes back from the dead, stuns No. 10 Oklahoma
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Charlie Strong kept jabbing two fists into the air. His smile was as wide as the Red River — and his shirt, after a Gatorade shower, as wet — as he lay back onto the hands of his Texas players and body-surfed right there on the field at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.
It was quite a sight. It was hugely emotional. And it was utterly fitting for Strong and his up-against-it team to come together like that after a stunning 24-17 upset of No. 10 Oklahoma in a Red River Rivalry classic.
“I’m just so proud of our players,” Strong said after the Longhorns won for only the second time in six tries this season. “I know this, I’ve been saying it and I truly believe it: We have a good football team.”
Indeed. he has been saying it — yet it was impossible to believe through five games. Do we have to recount the misery? Sure, we do:
Notre Dame 38, Texas 3. California 45, Texas 44. Oklahoma State 30, Texas 27. And then in Week 5 — the humanity! — TCU 50, Texas 7.
The last game was 40-0 at halftime. That’s when a young Longhorns player infamously was outed for being on Twitter — yes, from the losing locker room during the half. In the ensuing days leading to the all-important Oklahoma game, freshman Longhorns bickered publicly with upperclassmen.
The team seemed to have fallen apart. Strong, in his second season at the helm of this iconic program, was taking searing heat from a disguted fan base. The only thing surprising about the 17-point spread on Saturday was that Oklahoma hadn’t been favored by more.
“We heard all week how the pride has been lost, how we don’t play hard,” Strong said. “And I don’t have an answer for last week; we [went] out and we kind of just laid an egg. This week, we came out and we wanted to impose our will. We wanted to play physical and watch our team just go to work.”
They did that, and then some. The Longhorns rushed for 313 yards on Oklahoma. They sacked Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield six times. These was the same OU squad that had won at Tennessee and dominated West Virginia. It figured to be a Red River mismatch, and for most of the game it was — just the other way around.
Hours later Saturday, No. 2 TCU came back from 18 points down at the half and squeaked out a 52-45 victory at Kansas State. It was a pretty gutsy effort, but let’s face it — the Week 6 Horned Frogs wouldn’t have beaten the Week 6 Longhorns by a score anywhere close to 50-7.
But college football is funny like that. Young athletes sometimes don’t have a clue what they’re capable of until they’re faced — for the first time, in the case of Texas’ freshmen — with deep doubt and angry criticism.
It helps to have a coach who puts the “strong” in “strong-willed.”
We’ll see how far Texas can go after a 1-4 start. Maybe the Longhorns won’t truly be back until next year, but they just took one giant step in the right direction. And no one’s dumping on Charlie Strong anymore.
“We needed this,” he said.
In the worst way.
GAMES OF THE WEEK/WEAK
Week: Tennessee 38, No. 19 Georgia 31. The Volunteers entered Georgia week with a terribly disappointing 2-3 record and a hard-earned reputation for choking on large leads. But there they were Saturday in Knoxville, in a decidedly different sort of circumstance: trailing by three touchdowns in the second quarter.
Hey, no problem. Tennessee cut it to 24-17 at halftime and made all the clutch plays from there. It was the second straight loss for the Bulldogs (4-2), who can all but forget about getting to the SEC title game now.
“They had a different look,” said Vols coach Butch Jones. “This football team was not going to be denied.”
Week: Wisconsin 23, Nebraska 21. Wisconsin’s kicker had one final shot. This time — despite having missed his second field goal of the day with 1:26 left to play — he didn’t, um, gag. Rafael Gaglianone drilled a 46-yarder with four seconds left to lift the Badgers (4-2) over the Huskers (2-4). All four Nebraska losses have been of the rip-your-heart-out variety.
Weak: Wake Forest 3, Boston College 0. The Demon Deacons totaled five first downs and were outgained by nearly double. The Eagles were one yard from a game-winning touchdown or — hello? — a game-tying chip shot when quarterback Jeff Smith clocked the ball as time expired. Both teams are 3-3 and, for three utterly forgettable hours, were hideous.
Joshua Dobbs, QB, Tennessee: Dobbs was nothing short of amazing in bringing the Vols back from 24-3 down to a 38-31 win over Georgia. The junior passed for 312 yards and three touchdowns, and rushed for 118 and two scores. What, he couldn’t kick his team’s field goal, too?
Shannon Brooks, RB, Minnesota: The Gophers’ offense has been reeling, and they were struggling again at Purdue until Brooks, a freshman, busted loose for a 71-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. Floodgates: open. Brooks finished with 176 yards on just 17 carries as his team romped to a 41-13 victory.
Jehu Chesson, WR/KR, Michigan: Of all the great things the Wolverines did in squashing Northwestern 38-0, Chesson’s game-opening 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown was best because it came first. That’s what we call setting the tone.
Up: the Big Ten title race. Michigan is college football’s “it” team. Iowa is soaring at 6-0. And powerhouses Ohio State and Michigan State continue to underwhelm. There’s a whole range of ways this thing could go.
Down: Bob Stoops. Oklahoma’s longtime coach hasn’t lived up to his old “Big Game Bob” nickname in forever.
Down and out: Randy Edsall. Maryland fired its coach following a 49-28 defeat at Ohio State. Not because the Terps lost to the No. 1 team in the land, mind you, but because they’re roughly 1.4 billion miles from halfway decent by Big Ten standards.
• Just a crusher to see Georgia sophomore running back Nick Chubb sustain a severe leg injury on his first carry at Tennessee. No back in college football has been better than Chubb since the then-freshman exploded on the scene after superstar Todd Gurley got hurt. The season has broken pretty bad on the Bulldogs, but this injury makes it feel so much worse.
• Florida is 6-0. Even better, the Gators are off to a 4-0 start in SEC play. Jim McElwain for national coach of the year? It could happen.
• It was awful enough when Oregon was humiliated 62-20 by Utah a few games ago. Week 6 brought an even lower low — a 45-38 overtime loss at home against Pac-12 bottom-feeder Washington State. These ain’t your big brother’s Ducks.
Follow me on Twitter @SLGreenberg.