A wet haze blanketed the field in Norman, Oklahoma. It was cold, in the mid 40’s; something the Longhorns have played through before, but not a condition they are accustomed to.
After a thorough warmup to loosen muscles tightened by the weather, the Longhorns seemed hopeful. The team linked arms around their head coach Chris (Buss) Hopps in the try zone with just about five minutes to go until their heated rivalry with the Oklahoma Sooners began. Buss directed motivating words around the circle to his players. Although Oklahoma is a non-conference game, it is one that both teams look forward to every year. The victor of the Red River Rivalry earns distinguished bragging rights for the year.
The Longhorns hit the field with fire in their hearts and adrenaline coursing through their veins. Texas lost the coin toss resulting in a Sooners kicked off to start the match. The ball came down into the hands of the Longhorns and the Texas offense hit the ground running.
Unfortunately for Texas, the offense didn’t run long. When the match was over, senior captain John Boudreaux estimated that, out of the 80 minute game, the Longhorns only played offense for 10 to 20 minutes.
For the short time frame in which Texas carried the ball, it struggled with intensity. Ball carriers didn’t pose a threat to the tough Sooner defense. The Longhorns couldn’t beat their Oklahoma defenders, being forced to run straight into contact, resulting in no runs earning more than a few meters.
The Longhorns managed to get close, occasionally within ten meters, to the try-zone but couldn’t convert. Despite a noteworthy aggressive performance by the forwards, Texas finished the game with zero points on the board.
“I think their strength was their physicality and their size,” OU head coach Jason Horowitz said. “It was good to take on that pack with that size and weight and come out on top.”
Oklahoma, on the other hand, had numerous long runs a few of which ended in tries. The Sooners found their way into the try-zone early and created a sizable lead going into the half that the Longhorns couldn’t make up for in the final 40 minutes, leading to final score of 39-0 in favor of the Sooners.
But the cushion on the scoreboard didn’t seem to be enough to calm Horowitz. Horowitz’s frustrated shouts could be heard from try-zone to try-zone. Some were directed towards the referee for his choice in penalty calling, but the majority were directed to his players.
His booming voice traveled far across the pitch but appeared to find a home in the ears and minds of the Sooners. Some players called off the field and back to the sidelines by their irritated coach spit their annoyances back but were swiftly silenced by Horowitz, who made clear that if they didn’t like it they were free to leave the field immediately.
Although it may have been perceived as negative criticism, Horowitz assures it was nothing of the sort.
“That wasn’t yelling, that was motivationally trying to improve the match,” Horowitz said.
Directions were shouted from the Texas sideline, but for the most part Buss remained relatively hushed and left it up to his men on the field, like junior Taylor Hayes, to assume the leadership position.
But coaching methods during the game only go so far. It was in the preparations for the match that really made the difference.
“I think we didn’t prepare them well enough to handle that adversity,” Buss said. “Any game like this, its not won on Saturday, its won in the weeks leading up, and we lost it in the weeks leading up.”
Despite the loss the Longhorns still have things to take pride in.
“I’m proud of my guys every day,” Buss said. “They hit hard, they were hustling around. I’m happy with the effort. I think the guys came out and they played.”
The Longhorns had some offensive slip ups but were satisfied with their defensive efforts.
“We played defense and we played it hard and I’m proud of that,” Boudreaux said.
Further compounding on the Longhorns’ incomplete preparation was their fragmented team. Starters Matt Young, Thomas Mauriac, Peter Hyams and Charlie Schwan were all absent from Saturday’s game due to injuries or personal reasons.
OU had injuries that affected their game day roster as well, but only the Longhorns suffered a severe on-field injury. Making a tackle after a line break, Stuart McNulty stayed down on the field. As the Oklahoma trainer assisted him off the field, he clutched his limp arm with a look of agony across his face. McNulty was taken to the hospital where it was discovered he had suffered a dislocated elbow and a hairline fracture down his ulna.
The Longhorns have two weeks off to nurse their wounds and mentally and physically prepare for their match against Army on March 15.