You know Oklahoma football, right? Ten yards and a cloud of fumbles. Well, look again. Oklahoma has changed. This year's Sooners play it a little close to the vest on offense. They can afford to. They have college football's top-ranked defense, and they proved it last Saturday in the Cotton Bowl, manhandling previously unbeaten Texas. The score was just 14-7, but don't let it fool you into thinking this was a cliffhanger. Texas wasn't about to score off the Oklahoma defense. The Longhorns' touchdown came on a fumble return. Shucks, they got into Sooner territory only three times, twice to the 49-yard line and once to the 46. One of those trips was thanks to—what's that?—another fumble? Well, it's nice to know that not everything about Oklahoma football has changed.
But oh, what D. Going into the Texas game, the Sooners were first nationally in total defense (146.5 yards allowed per game), first against the rush (39 yards), third against the pass and second in points surrendered (6.5). On Saturday, Oklahoma held the Longhorns to just 17 yards on the ground and 53 in the air. Texas had a grand total of four first downs, none in the second half. "Those statistics are incredible," said Sooner linebacker Paul Migliazzo. "We knew we could stop them. But accomplish that? No way." Moreover, Oklahoma accomplished that without Tony Casillas, its All-America noseguard. On the game's third play, he went down with a sprained right knee.
So dominant were the Sooners defensively that Texas's best offensive weapon turned out to be Kip Cooper, a 229-pound defensive end who runs the 40 in about two weeks. Late in the first quarter, while Oklahoma was playing its flip-and-fly wishbone with uncharacteristic caution, Cooper picked a fumble by fullback Lydell Carr out of the air and lumbered seven yards to put the Longhorns ahead 7-0. Just as Carr, a sophomore who at 20 is the oldest member of the Sooners' kiddie backfield, took a hand-off from sophomore quarterback Troy Aikman, he was hammered by Texas's other defensive end, Thomas Aldridge.
So much for the Longhorn attack. After the score, Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer held his young offensive charges in check for one more possession, which consisted of three downs and a punt. Then, just as the game edged into the second quarter, he turned his kids loose.
With the ball on the Oklahoma 20, Aikman called the Texas Special Pass. It was designed to catch the Longhorn strong safety coming up to support against the run. "I just go out like I'm going to block him," said Sooner tight end Keith Jackson. "If he goes by, I fly. He did and I did." Taking Aikman's perfect pass on the dead run at the Sooner 40, Jackson wasn't hauled down until he hit the Texas 37. Oklahoma drove for the tying TD in eight plays, mostly on the power running of Carr.
From then on, the Sooner defense, particularly its irrepressible and brilliant linebacker, Brian Bosworth, was in high gear. As a freshman last year, Bosworth had said he hated everything in Texas, including the color burnt orange, which reminded him of vomit. Switzer nicknamed Bosworth Bulletin Board, but suggested that the 6'2", 234-pound Texan, a second-team AP All-America in '84, curtail his public speaking. One day last week in Norman, where he was briefly touched by the flu, Bosworth found himself surrounded by the press. "I haven't been very vocal yet," he said with a wide grin. "I've been sick."
Just then Switzer came down the hallway. He shook his head and said, "Hey, what did you just tell me?"
"Huh?" said Bosworth, trying to back through a concrete wall.
"I just talked to him, and he told me he isn't giving any interviews," said Switzer. "And now look at him."
Switzer left smiling. Bosworth smiled, too, and limited himself to a few mild comments about the Longhorns. Then he went outside and told a Dallas TV interviewer, "I'd kill to beat Texas." Bosworth finished the game with 14 tackles, 11 of them unassisted, and an interception.
Oklahoma's winning touchdown came early in the fourth quarter, just, said sophomore running back Pat Collins, as Switzer had said it would. "Coach kept telling us to be patient, be patient," said Collins. "Their defense looked like it was getting tired. We knew if we kept pounding on them, something had to give."
Did it ever. On the fifth play of a drive that began on the Oklahoma 40. Aikman faked to Carr up the middle. Aikman then sprinted to his left with Collins, a 4.3 speedster, behind him. As most of the Texas defense collapsed in against Carr, cornerback Stephen Braggs went for Aikman, who flipped a pretty pitch back to Collins. "The line did a great job and [freshman running back] Leon Perry sealed everything off inside," said Collins. "I saw the strong safety [Gerard Senegal] coming for me, so I set my angle for the sideline and took off."
While Switzer screamed, "Burn! Burn!" Collins streaked 45 yards for the TD. "After we scored, they were beaten," said Migliazzo. "We ran the blitz against them anytime we wanted."
"They knew we were going to throw," said Longhorn quarterback Todd Dodge, who completed four of 13 passes with two interceptions. "They blitzed all their linebackers and we just couldn't pick them up." Dodge was dropped by Bosworth, loss of nine. By Troy Johnson, loss of 10. By Kevin Murphy twice, for losses of nine and six.
For Switzer, who called Saturday's game the greatest Oklahoma defensive performance he has seen in his 20 years in Norman, victory was sweeter than usual. Last season, the favored Sooners were tied 15-15 after several controversial calls went Texas's way. "You don't get that many chances to play Texas and know you are the better team," said Switzer. "We were better last year, but we didn't win. We proved we were better again this year, and we did it without Tony Casillas, the best defensive player in the country."
"Without Casillas?" said Dodge. "He didn't play? I didn't notice."
The Oklahoma defense will do that to you.