Dillon Gabriel leads No. 12 Oklahoma to dramatic 34-30 victory over No. 3 Texas

Oklahoma quarterback Dillon Gabriel (8) passes during warmups before an NCAA college football game against Texas at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Dillon Gabriel and No. 12 Oklahoma were out for revenge against No. 3 Texas, and it showed in a dramatic 34-30 victory.

Last year, with Gabriel sidelined, the Longhorns embarrassed the Sooners 49-0 in the annual Red River Rivalry. But this time around, Gabriel was able to lead Oklahoma to a thrilling win in a game that came down to the final minute.

Texas trailed 27-17 late into the third quarter, but rallied with 13 consecutive points to take a 30-27 lead on a 47-yard Bert Auburn field goal with 1:17 remaining.

But that was more than enough time for Gabriel and the Sooners offense. Gabriel completed three consecutive passes, including a 28-yarder to Drake Stoops, to push the ball deep into Texas territory. And then on a second-and-goal play from the Texas 3-yard line, Gabriel calmly found Nic Anderson for what proved to be the winning touchdown.

With the win, Oklahoma improved to 6-0 to put itself in the pole position in the Big 12 all while handing Texas its first loss of the year.

The Sooners went 6-7 last year, its first season under Brent Venables following Lincoln Riley’s shocking departure to USC. In the early part of the season, the Sooners had not been tested as they posted comfortable victories over overmatched competition.

Bolstered by stellar quarterback play from Gabriel and a revamped defense, Oklahoma showed just how much it has improved by beating a stacked team like Texas. And as a result, the Sooners have now catapulted itself into the College Football Playoff race.

It wasn’t easy as the game had a frenetic start. Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers threw interceptions on UT’s first two possessions. The first Ewers turnover set up a touchdown run from Gabriel to give the Sooners an early 7-0 lead.

Texas would tie the game by blocking an Oklahoma punt and recovering it in the end zone for a score. And that was only six minutes into the first quarter.

The game would settle in, and the offenses would get into a rhythm. Following an Oklahoma field goal, Texas took the lead on a gutsy fourth-down call by Steve Sarkisian that yielded a 22-yard touchdown pass from Ewers to tight end Gunnar Helm.

Oklahoma quickly responded with a touchdown of its own before the teams traded field goals ahead of halftime with Oklahoma’s lead at 20-17.

Oklahoma took 10-point lead before Texas stormed back

Early in the second half, it seemed like Oklahoma had seized control of the game. On the Sooners’ first drive of the third quarter, they marched 75 yards in 13 plays and grew the lead to 27-17 on a Tawee Walker touchdown run.

And on the ensuing drive, Ewers turned it over for the third time in the game. This time, he was drilled by prized Oklahoma freshman Peyton Bowen and fumbled. But Oklahoma wouldn’t take advantage and punted it back to Texas.

A 45-yard field goal from Texas’ Bert Auburn cut Oklahoma’s lead to 27-20 with 1:53 remaining in the third, and then Texas got a clutch fourth-down stop near midfield on the next drive.

But Oklahoma would respond with an even bigger fourth-down stop. Texas had four tries from the 1-yard line. Three Jonathon Brooks runs were stuffed, and then a quick throw to Xavier Worthy on fourth down was sniffed out by the Oklahoma defense as well.

It looked like a defensive stand that could ultimately decide the game, but Texas kept its composure.

Following the goal line stand, Oklahoma drove into Texas territory but stalled at the 27. A chance to go up two scores via a Zach Schmit 45-yard field goal game up short, keeping the score at a 27-20 edge for the Sooners.

That miss looked like it would be costly as Texas quickly responded. After getting stuffed three times from the 1 on the previous drive, Brooks reeled off a 29-yard touchdown run to tie the score at 27-27 with 6:10 to play.

An Oklahoma three-and-out soon followed, and Texas was able to move the ball well enough to set up a go-ahead 47-yard field goal by Auburn with 1:17 to play. Auburn’s clutch kick made it a 30-27 Texas lead, but the defense just could not hang on.

Gabriel, who threw for 285 yards and ran for 113 yards in the win, put the offense on his back and led the Sooners to a breathtaking victory.

Oklahoma and Texas both look like playoff contenders

The loss is obviously a setback for a team with national championship aspirations like Texas, but it’s not a loss that immediately puts a ceiling on this season for the Longhorns.

Now 5-1 headed into a bye week, Texas can rebound but has no margin for error. The second half of the Big 12 schedule is very navigable with road games vs. Houston, TCU and Iowa State and home games vs. BYU, Kansas State and Texas Tech.

There’s a lot of parity in the Big 12, so there is certainly potential for a slip-up. At the same time, Texas will almost certainly be favored in all six of those games.

If the Longhorns can get through that stretch unscathed, a rematch with the Sooners in the Big 12 title game could materialize. And a trip to the CFP could be on the line before both schools move to the SEC in 2024.

Like with Texas, Oklahoma should be favored in all six of its remaining games. Now 6-0, the Sooners also have a bye next week before hosting UCF on Oct. 21. From there, OU will travel to Kansas and Oklahoma State, host West Virginia and then close out the season with a road game at BYU and a home game vs. TCU.

Unlike Texas, Oklahoma can actually afford a slip-up but the Sooners are better off served keeping their foot on the gas as the season progresses.

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