CeeDee Lamb, improved defense lead No. 6 Oklahoma past No. 11 Texas 34-27

CeeDee Lamb was not going to let his team lose.

The star Oklahoma wide receiver turned in an electric performance Saturday against arch-rival Texas, catching 10 passes for 171 yards and three touchdowns in a 34-27 Sooners victory.

Lamb’s first touchdown came from just a yard out. His next two came on absurd individual efforts. In the third quarter, Lamb was wide open on a flea flicker, but somehow evaded a crowd of five Texas defenders before sprinting the final 25 yards into the end zone.

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Early in the fourth, Jalen Hurts found Lamb yet again — this time on a pass near the 10-yard line. After making the catch, Lamb seemed to have no room to run. Again, he deftly maneuvered through three Texas defenders for his third score of the afternoon, a score that increased OU’s lead to 27-17 with 11:56 to play.

That proved to be the winning touchdown. Texas would get within seven, 27-20, with 6:53 remaining, but could not get the stop it needed. On the ensuing possession, the Sooners marched right down the field and sealed a victory with a Hurts touchdown run.

Oklahoma’s defense is much-improved

Offense has never been an issue for Oklahoma under Lincoln Riley. It was always the defense that has kept the Sooners from climbing the college football mountaintop. Things could be different now.

A year ago, the 48 points OU allowed in a loss to Texas ultimately led to Riley’s decision to fire Mike Stoops as defensive coordinator. Even after that decision was made, the Sooners scuffled defensively on a weekly basis, including in another College Football Playoff semifinal loss.

Entering 2019, Riley hired Alex Grinch, the former Washington State defensive coordinator who spent a year at Ohio State, to run his defense. It has certainly paid off so far. Grinch’s unit had pressure in the face of Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger all afternoon and finished the game with a whopping nine sacks. Ehlinger could muster only 210 passing yards on 38 attempts. The running game didn’t fare much better, gaining only 100 yards on 36 carries — 58 of which came on a single run from Roschon Johnson.

A defense like this will give the Sooners a much better chance to compete on the biggest stages of college football.

Some struggles from Jalen Hurts

Jalen Hurts entered the weekend as our top candidate for the Heisman Trophy, but he had his worst game in an OU uniform against the Longhorns. Hurts has gotten away with forcing some balls into double or even triple coverage in recent weeks, but he could not do the same against the Longhorns.

Hurts had two red zone turnovers in the first half. In the first quarter, Hurts rumbled into Texas territory, only to fumble at the end of a 27-yard run, giving UT the ball at its own 7-yard line. And on Oklahoma’s next possession, Hurts inexplicably threw back across the field into a crowd of Texas defenders — a pass that was intercepted by Brandon Jones near the goal line.

Hurts got away with a few other balls later in the game, but those two gaffes proved to be OU’s only two turnovers of the game. Hurts would finish the afternoon with 235 yards and three touchdowns on 16-of-28 throwing. He also added 131 yards and a score on the ground.

The fact that a game with that statistical output was the worst of Hurts’ season so far reflects how well he had been playing to this point in the season. With the Sooners still undefeated, Hurts will have plenty of chances to clean things up.

What does this mean for Texas?

Texas already had a loss to LSU under its belt. From a College Football Playoff perspective, Saturday’s defeat may be too much to overcome. But the Longhorns still have plenty to play for.

Entering Saturday, Oklahoma, Texas and No. 22 Baylor were the only three Big 12 teams without a conference loss. Baylor plays Oklahoma and Texas in back-to-back weeks in November, so Texas still has a great chance to earn a rematch with the Sooners in the Big 12 title game later in the year.

But for that to come to fruition, Texas will likely have to reel off back-to-back road wins over Iowa State and the Bears late in the year. There won’t be much, if any, margin for error, either.

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