DALLAS — Facing a manageable deficit and the nation's seventh-worst rushing defense, Oklahoma coaches continued to trust Blake Bell's arm.
The Longhorns used that faith to turn a 10-point, mid-third quarter lead into an insurmountable one, beating the Sooners 36-20 Saturday inside the Cotton Bowl to end a three-year Red River Rivalry losing streak.
Oklahoma's offense — which entered Saturday's game averaging nearly 250 yards per game on the ground — managed only 13 first downs and 263 total yards of offense against the Longhorns' much-maligned defense.
The Sooners (5-1, 2-1 Big 12) return to action next Saturday afternoon at Big 12 cellar dweller Kansas.
“We always want to work the run game, and this game, that's a big part of it,” said OU coach Bob Stoops. “Some of our better drives today, when we did have success, was the running game.”
Stoops and other Sooners insisted after the game that they went away from the run in the second half because they were playing catch-up and needed quick touchdowns.
But Oklahoma trailed 23-13 midway through the third quarter, when it took over possession at its own 42-yard line.
After a Bell run for two yards, a one-yard loss on a swing pass and an incompletion, Texas' Daje Johnson returned a punt 85 yards for a touchdown.
When Bell and the offense returned to the field, co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel dialed up four straight running plays — including a 17-yard Damien Williams run — and the Sooners advanced to midfield.
But Heupel then went back to the air, and Bell threw his second interception of the game a few plays later. Texas responded with a nine-play, 70-yard touchdown drive that essentially put the game out of reach.
“There are a lot of things you want to get to over the course of a ball game,” Heupel said. “We tried to get to some of it.”
Texas' defense had been particularly susceptible to mobile quarterbacks throughout its first five games this season. Opposing quarterbacks averaged 104 rushing yards per game against the Longhorns before Saturday, and Bell had demonstrated the ability to be effective with his legs.
“We saw a lot (of quarterback runs) when they played TCU,” said Texas senior defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat. “(Bell) didn't run as much, and that was fine with us.”
Bell completed only 12 of his 26 pass attempts Saturday for 133 yards with no touchdowns and the two interceptions.
“That's the coaches' decision,” said freshman running back Keith Ford, who finished with a team-high 34 yards rushing on six carries.
“If they wanna pass the ball, they can pass it. If they wanna run it, they can run it. I really don't know what they're thinking most of the time.”