STEPHEN HAWKINS, AP Sports Writer
DALLAS (AP) — Sure, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops was feeling a little bit frustrated at halftime when his 11th-ranked Sooners had only 29 total yards on offense.
But the Sooners had some big early returns that put them ahead to stay while taking away some offensive chances in the Red River rivalry, a 31-26 win over Texas on Saturday.
“A little bit of that, the rhythm of it, you lose an offensive possession when you return the kick for a touchdown, the offense doesn’t get their possession when you return an interception for a touchdown,” Stoops said. “I’m not complaining about the touchdowns, but it does throw you off.”
Alex Ross had a 91-yard kickoff return and Zack Sanchez scored on a 43-yard interception return before the Sooners (5-1, 2-1 Big 12) finally got a couple of offensive touchdowns along with 202 total yards in the second half in another bounce-back victory under Stoops.
In each of the Sooners’ 11 losses overall since 2009, they have beaten that team the next season, now avenging that unexpected loss to Texas a year ago.
Oklahoma, whose loss last weekend at TCU was among an unprecedented series of upsets across the country, is also 32-0 in regular-season games after a loss since the start of the 2000 season.
“This win was about getting back to basics,” Sanchez said. “Last week it was just mental busts, not physical.”
Trevor Knight threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Sterling Shepard for Oklahoma late in the third quarter. Samaje Perine then had a 13-yard TD run with 12:50 left that made it 31-13, before Tyrone Swoopes threw his second touchdown pass to John Harris and ran 12 yards for a score for the Longhorns (2-4, 1-2) in a span of 3 1/2 minutes.
“We’re resilient. The group has a great attitude, great team chemistry and we just got to keep fighting,” Stoops said. “We’ve made some mistakes or bad plays through the game, but you have to keep after it. Make other plays that make up for it.”
This was the first time Stoops coached the annual game at the State Fair of Texas against anyone other than Mack Brown. Stoops was 9-6 against Brown, and is now 1-0 with a much-needed victory for the Sooners against new Texas coach Charlie Strong.
A second loss by the midpoint of the season would have made it difficult, maybe impossible, for Oklahoma to get back in the mix for a spot in the new four-team College Football Playoff.
“I feel like we’re improving as a team. Do I like everything that happened today? Heck no,” Stoops said. “We’ve got a lot to work on, that’s obvious, but it always good when you win and you didn’t play well and you know you’ve got things you can correct.”
Texas, which was also a two-touchdown underdog when it beat Oklahoma a year ago, is off to its worst start since going 1-9 in 1956, the year before Darrell Royal became the coach in Austin.
The Longhorns had five false start penalties, three on the game-opening drive along with a delay of game penalty before they kicked a field goal. Ross went the distance on the ensuing kickoff.
“Overall, I was very pleased with the way we played, but you just can’t give away opportunities,” Strong said. “You have to take advantage of everything.”
Oklahoma went up 17-3 early in the second quarter when Sanchez had his Big 12-leading fifth interception. He has picks in seven of the past nine games.
Despite pressure, Swoopes hung in the pocket on third-and-12 before finding Harris for a 38-yard touchdown, and Rose kicked his second field goal just before halftime to get within 17-13.
Swoopes, who was 27 of 44 passing for 334 yards, scored on a 12-yard keeper with just under 5 minutes left. The Longhorns kicked the ball away after Swoopes was stopped short on a 2-point try.
The Sooners then picked up a couple of first downs before punting, leaving Texas only 18 seconds. Texas had an incompletion and another penalty before a game-ending incompletion from their 10.
“Overall, it’s a good team win in that we score on special teams, get a defensive touchdown and the offense gets a touchdown in the second half when we needed it,” Stoops said.
“I was pleased we were able to run the clock out at the end of the game when we needed it. It’s those types of things that are all positive. Everybody had a hand in it.”
Because of it, they take the Golden Hat Trophy back to Norman and keep their hat in the playoff chase.