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October 8, 2006
Texas defense paved way to Red River win
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DALLAS – Adrian Peterson is an explosive runner.
So much in fact, each time he carries the football it is a tense, nerve-wracking experience for a defense. One wrong move – one tiny mistake – and Oklahoma's junior running back can turn an ordinary run into a touchdown.
The Texas Longhorns made a mistake on Saturday, and Peterson capitalized with a 25-yard TD run. But that was just one of very few errors the Longhorns defense made against the run in a 28-10 victory over the Sooners. The victory gives No. 7 Texas (5-1, 2-0 in the Big 12) the advantage in the Big 12 South Division race.
"We knew coming into the game if Adrian Peterson runs up and down the field like he does every week you're going to lose," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "We knew he was going to get his yards because it's hard to tackle to him."
But Texas does not give up many yards on the ground. The Longhorns entered their annual grudge allowing an average of 36.6 yards per game to rank second nationally, and had not given up 100 yards rushing to an individual.
Peterson, who ranked third nationally in rushing yardage, managed to gain 109 yards against UT. However, he needed 25 carries to do it. He rushed for only 38 yards in the second half - when the Longhorns apparently made some strategic adjustments.
Or did they? Sooners coach Bob Stoops suggested they did not.
"Everybody is enamored with this quarter and that quarter," Stoops said. "It's a four-quarter game. They were running the same plays in the third quarter that they ran in the second. They were running them better than we were."
Of course, Oklahoma was running its plays against a defense which made a halftime adjustment – in attitude.
"In the second quarter (when OU took a 10-7 lead) they were gaining momentum because they were being more physical than us," Texas senior defensive end Brian Robison said. "At halftime we didn't do anything different. We just lined up and made sure we were being more physical than them."
The Longhorns can clog up the middle with 6-foot-5, 315-pound junior Frank Okam at defensive tackle. Robison and Tim Crowder are active and hard to get around. Put fast linebackers and defensive backs behind them and it's no wonder the Longhorns held Peterson to his season-low output.
"We're very confident in our defense," Crowder said. "We realize we're pretty good. Adrian Peterson is a great player and he runs hard every play. A great player like him is going to get his yards regardless, but you try to limit him. That's what we did."
But they did more than that. By controlling the line of scrimmage, the Longhorns' safeties were not forced to play close to the line of scrimmage to help out on Peterson.
Free safety Michael Griffin did bite on a couple of play-action fakes that enabled OU receivers to get behind him for long gains, but overall the Longhorns could leave defensive backs in pass coverage.
That's why Malcolm Kelly, OU's excellent receiver, was held to just two catches.
Oklahoma's Thompson threw for 209 yards, but could never get a receiver open in the end zone. Texas held an opponent to one touchdown or less for the fifth time in six games.
That defense is a big reason the Longhorns are not long shots to win their second consecutive Big 12 championship.
They will be favored in every game they play in the second half of the season, even though they still must face four teams – Nebraska, Texas Tech, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State – which entered the weekend ranked among the nation's top 24 offenses.
Those teams will certainly provide challenges because they all have good quarterbacks and receivers.
But they don't have Peterson.
And if the Longhorns can contain an offense which features Peterson, they have to feel good about their chances against the rest of the offenses they'll play this season.