DALLAS -- On the final snap that really mattered in the 112th Red River Showdown, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo chased Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger every which way before forcing him to surrender on fourth down with a pass into the sideline. At the other end of the play, Sooners safety Steven Parker ran back and forth, making sure no Longhorns receiver broke free in the end zone. At the end of the tiring sequence, after which less than two minutes remained in Saturday's fourth quarter, Okoronkwo had nothing left to give, and was flat on his back before being gingerly pulled up by trainers and teammate Caleb Kelly. Parker had nothing left, either, after reaggravating his injured ankle; he had to be helped off the field, as well.
After being gashed, then condemned in the wake of last week's stunning loss to Iowa State, Oklahoma's beleaguered defense delivered a valiant effort Saturday in the Cotton Bowl, getting the winning stop it needed as the No. 12 Sooners held off Ehlinger while holding on for a 29-24 victory loaded with fourth-quarter theater.
Oklahoma's effort was hardly a work of art. After falling behind 20-0, Ehlinger had the Sooners (5-1, 2-1 Big 12) on their heels for much of the second half before his 8-yard carry gave Texas a stunning 24-23 lead.
But on a weekend in which Clemson, Washington State and Auburn went down, the Sooners escaped Dallas with their Big 12 title and College Football Playoff hopes intact.
Quarterback Baker Mayfield was the story for the Sooners early as he torched Texas for 179 yards through the air in the first quarter alone. But with the Oklahoma offense cooling off in the second half for the second consecutive week, the Sooners had to beat Texas with one big Mayfield touchdown. And with the key defensive stop that eluded them last week.
After the Longhorns (3-3, 2-1) took the late lead, Mayfield answered with a 59-yard touchdown pass on a wheel route to tight end Mark Andrews, who went uncovered against a busted Texas coverage.
Texas, however, wouldn't go away. Neither would Ehlinger.
After leaving the game for five plays following a shot he took from Okoronkwo near the sidelines, Ehlinger returned on 2nd-and-22 from the Oklahoma 43-yard line. But after a 9-yard Ehlinger run, the Sooners forced an incompletion.
Then they forced Ehlinger into another, which ultimately decided the game.
And left Oklahoma defenders exhausted but victorious on the turf.