The win came even though the Longhorns were outgained nearly twofold. The Cowboys finished with 530 offensive yards to Texas’ 287. Entering Saturday, Big 12 teams were 3-120 since 2004 in conference games when being outgained by 240 or more yards, according to research by ESPN Stats & Information. The Longhorns’ 4-0 turnover advantage was the difference.
“This was not pretty,” Texas coach Tom Herman said. “But when you take the ball away four times and you don’t turn it over at all, you give yourself a chance to win.”
It was the first time the Longhorns defeated an Associated Press top-10 team on the road since defeating No. 5 Nebraska in 2010. It comes just three weeks after the Longhorns suffered consecutive losses to TCU and Oklahoma, which caused fans concern about the state of the program under Herman, who is in his fourth year at Texas.
Now the Longhorns (4-2 overall, 3-2 Big 12) have won two in row and are still within reach of a Big 12 championship game berth.
“A lot of resiliency shown by every member of this team,” Herman said. “We feel like we’re never out of game. We haven’t been out of a game. We lost one by two points with an opportunity with the ball on the 1-yard line and we lost a four-overtime thriller to our archrivals.
“We’re a lot different team than we were back then, too. … We are a work in progress.”
It was the first loss for Oklahoma State (4-1, 3-1 Big 12), which entered Saturday as the last undefeated team in the Big 12 and the league’s best hope at making the College Football Playoff. According to the Allstate Playoff Predictor, the Cowboys now have just a 1.5% chance of reaching the playoff.
The Cowboys’ major mistakes came back to haunt them. In addition to the four turnovers, Oklahoma State also committed a roughing the kicker penalty on a fourth-quarter Texas punt that gave the Longhorns the ball back. Texas wound up scoring on that drive and also had 18 points off the four Oklahoma State turnovers.
“Disciplined football, special teams and turnovers, is what determines the outcome of games till you get to the latter part of the season,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said, “and we failed in those areas today and then this is the result you’ll get.”
Texas’ victory came thanks in part to the play of linebacker Joseph Ossai and quarterback Sam Ehlinger. Ossai had a career day with a game-high 12 tackles, six tackles for loss, three sacks and a forced fumble. He sealed the victory with a fourth-down sack of Oklahoma State quarterback Spencer Sanders to end the game in overtime.
“This is a dude that literally has two speeds: off and full, that’s it,” Herman said. “And he is full most of the time.”
Said defensive lineman Ta’Quon Graham: “He had a monster game … the type of performance he had, I’m speechless.”
Ehlinger’s statistics weren’t eye-popping, but he made two crucial touchdown passes in the fourth quarter and overtime. His fourth-and-7 go-ahead touchdown toss to Jake Smith to give the Longhorns a fourth-quarter lead was what Herman called “the best play of his career.” His 15-yard scoring pass to Joshua Moore in overtime wound up being the game winner.
“I know that anytime the team needs him, he’s gonna show up,” Ehlinger said of Moore. “And he did exactly that. Josh has been incredible all year.”