A win is a win, especially when it comes against your rival, but there was nothing pretty about Oklahoma's performance on Saturday against Texas.
The Sooners overcame a woeful first half performance and found just enough offense in the second half to hold off Texas, 31-26 at the Cotton Bowl.
It was as ugly a win as you could conjure up. 29 first half yards; one first down in the first 30 minutes; one third down conversion for the game; 482 yards allowed to an offense that hadn't sniffed 400 yards in a game all season.
But the Sooners still found a way to win and much of that is due to several key adjustments at halftime.
The Sooners managed to grab a 17-3 lead in the second quarter thanks to a 91-yard kickoff return for a touchdown from Alex Ross and Zach Sanchez' 43-yard pick-six. To that point in the game, the OU defense had been of the bend but don't break variety, giving up easy routes over the middle to Tyrone Swoopes and the Texas offense.
After the Sanchez interception, Texas marched right down the field and scored on a 38-yard pass from Swoopes to John Harris on 3rd-and-12. It was one of many third down conversions Oklahoma gave up, a disturbingly common thing for the Sooner defense. After an OU punt, Texas came right back down and nearly found the end zone again, but a fumble inside the 5-yard line on third down forced the Horns to kick a field goal.
Oklahoma has made it a habit of playing like a different team after halftime this season and Saturday was no exception. The Sooners' defense buckled down in the second half, allowing Texas just two first downs and 59 yards in the third quarter. With the defense playing better, the offense began to get on track. Knight's passes became crisper and when the Sooners went with some tempo, good things happened. The tempo resulted in the Sooners' best drive of the day, a five-play, 63 yard march in just 1:04, culminating in a 24-yard strike to Sterling Shepard that gave OU a 24-13 lead and eased the minds of the crimson end of the stadium.
Shepard finished with four catches for 63 yards.
Knight was more accurate than he was a week ago, but he didn't throw it nearly as often either. He finished the day 12-of-20 for 129 yards. He didn't throw an interception, but missed several open receivers and didn't get through his progressions very well to find others. However, while he didn't do a ton to win the game for OU, he didn't lose the game either.
The OU ground game was kept in check all afternoon as well, as the Sooners managed just 103 yards on the ground. Samaje Perine finished with 62 yards, 20 of those coming on the Sooners' first drive of the fourth quarter. The final 13 came on Perine's dash to the end zone, his eighth touchdown in the last three games.
It seemed like a 31-13 lead with 12:50 remaining would be safe, based on how the Oklahoma defense was playing at the time. But the Sooners finally wore down thanks to being on the field for 22:28 of the 30 minutes in the first half. Texas scored on its next two drives, sandwiched around an Oklahoma three-and-out, to cut the score to 31-26. Swoopes once again showed tremendous ability, hitting a nice touch pass to Harris for one touchdown, and running 12 yards untouched for the second. The Sooners stopped the Texas two-point conversion that would have made the score 31-28 with 4:57 remaining.
Swoopes finished the day 27-of-44 for 334 yards and two scores with another 50 yards and a touchdown coming on the ground.
To that point in the game, the Sooners had not converted a single third down. They needed at least one first down to milk the clock down to basically nothing. On 3rd and four, Knight hit a wide-open Perine for the first down. Two plays later, Perine kept his balance and stumbled forward for another first down to all but ice the game.
There wasn't a lot of good on Saturday, but the Sooners got the win and kept their slim playoff hopes alive. It's not common for teams to dominate in a rivalry game, despite what Oklahoma has managed to do to Texas over the years. Rivalry games are all about survival and that's what the Sooners did on Saturday, regardless of how bad it looked.