With the Oklahoma leading Texas by 11 points on Saturday, ABC sideline reporter Holly Rowe said Sooner coach Bob Stoops challenged his players to finish strong, asking the defense to blank the Longhorns in the fourth quarter.
Stoops' pep talk, however, didn't change OU's 2010 trend of shaky finishes.
After watching film of the Sooners' 28-20 win over Texas, a season-long theme continued Saturday in the Cotton Bowl.
Similar to wins over Utah State, Air Force and Cincinnati the Sooners seized control early only to be forced to make some big plays to hang on at the end.
It was a group effort. Neither the offense nor defense maintained early-game momentum.
The defense once again failed to slam the door. But at least the defense posted a pivotal red-zone stop and a three-and-out after a botched fake field goal. Meanwhile, the offense was a key factor for some Red River rivalry late-game drama.
Statistics were dramatically different from when OU went up 21-7 midway through the second quarter compared to the rest of the game.
The issue was little production on first and second down.
On eight possessions following the two-touchdown lead, the Sooners averaged 1.2 yards on first and second down. The Sooners converted a couple of third-and-longs. But the result was six punts, a turnover on downs and one touchdown.
From midway through the second quarter to the end of the game, the Sooners averaged 1.3 yards per rush and were 0-of-2 passing on first and second down.
It's logical to run clock with a comfortable lead. But on eight possessions after taking control in the second quarter, 14 of 16 plays on first and second down were runs.
On OU's first five possessions, three ending with touchdowns, the Sooners were more balanced -- 20 runs, 15 passes -- on first and second down.
The offense's production was dramatically different, too. OU averaged 5.2 yards per play on first and second down to compile 17 first downs and three touchdowns.
Here are a few other observations from watching the Texas film:
* Kenny Stills is developing into a solid No. 2 receiver. Stills' 18-yard TD catch and 20- and 32-yard receptions were against man-to-man coverage.
* James Hanna's TD catch caught Texas flat footed. With both tight ends lined up on the left side, Hanna went in motion right. Hanna hesitated and found a wide open seam in the end zone.
* Because of DeMarco Murray's big game (115 yards, two TDs) it appeared the running game showed vast improvement, but the Sooners averaged only 2.4 yards per carry. If you throw out John Nimmo's sack on the fake field goal, Landry Jones' four losses, and two team losses in the victory formation, Murray, Mossis Madu and Trey Millard averaged only 3.5 yards a carry. More than half of OU's carries (29) produced three yards or less, including 13 carries for zero or negative yards.
* One negative play was another errant snap in the shotgun formation, the third this season.
* Ryan Broyles had his first dropped pass this season and an illegal motion penalty that wiped out his TD catch. Broyles, though, was effective as a blocker and decoy. Using some pump fakes to Broyles, Jones connected 10 times with Stills and Dejuan Miller.
* Millard catching a pooch kickoff in the fourth quarter was another example why he doesn't play like a true freshman.
* Tyler Evans played the entire game at right guard.
* Tony Jefferson's open-field tackling is exceptional. Jefferson delivers punishing hits which is why defensive coordinator Brent Venables said the true freshman nickel back reminds him of a young Roy Williams. Jefferson stopping Garrett Gilbert short of the end zone, forcing a field goal, was one of the game's biggest plays.
* Linebacker Travis Lewis sometimes gets beat in pass coverage but is excellent in pursuit. Lewis (10 tackles) was OU's most active defender.
* Defensive end Pryce Macon made his first career start and is playing well, which is why he's receiving the most snaps opposite Jeremy Beal.
* Ronnell Lewis, primarily used in pass-rushing situations, twice forced Gilbert to make hurried throws.
* Redshirt freshman middle linebacker Tom Wort's best play was fighting off a block to sack Gilbert on the first play after OU's botched fake field goal.
* True freshman cornerback Aaron Colvin showed why coaches raved about him in camp. Colvin not only blankets receivers, he turns and finds the ball and pursues well to make one-on-one tackles.