‘Fearless’ QB Gabriel leads OU to Red River upset

DALLAS — No matter the stakes, no matter the records, no matter the conference affiliation or the previous season’s result, Texas and Oklahoma seem to always meet in Dallas and deliver chaos and classics during the first weekend in October.

This year, Oklahoma quarterback Dillon Gabriel — making his first appearance in the rivalry — and receiver Nic Anderson became the heroes. Gabriel drove the Sooners 75 yards in just over a minute, finding Anderson in the back left corner of the south end zone for the game-winning touchdown pass with 15 seconds remaining to deliver a 34-30 upset by the No. 12 Sooners over the No. 3 Longhorns.

Oklahoma still had to survive a final drive by Texas to the OU 44 that ended when a Hail Mary attempt by Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers was batted to the turf with no time remaining.

An elated Oklahoma team poured onto the field, a cathartic release following a historic 49-0 loss to the Longhorns last year in Oklahoma coach Brent Venables’ first season, the worst shutout loss in school history and the largest victory by Texas over Oklahoma.

“This was an important one,” Venables said. “Last year was an embarrassment. My hands are all over that.”

Gabriel didn’t play in that one because of a concussion, and the Sooners ended up with only 38 passing yards, about half the amount Gabriel covered on the last drive on Saturday. He continually kept Texas off-balance with his feet, going 23-of-38 for 285 yards and a touchdown while running for 113 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries.

“He’s the calmest guy I’ve ever been around at the quarterback position,” Venables said. “He was fearless.”

The Longhorns and Sooners closed the Big 12 edition of the rivalry with another classic, more the norm than last year’s lopsided win. Before 2022, each of the last eight meetings were decided by eight points or less.

Ewers, the star of last year’s game, completed three of his first six passes and two ended up in the arms of Sooners on the first two drives. In the third quarter, Ewers also lost a fumble after a big hit on a scramble, but he ended up completing a school-record 19 straight passes en route to finishing 31-of-37 for 346 yards and a touchdown.

“We’ve got a formula for success that works for us,” Longhorns coach Steve Sarkisian said. “We’ve just got to minimize some of the mistakes like we had early in the ballgame.”

But late in the third quarter, the Oklahoma defense stuffed the Longhorns on four straight plays from the 1-yard line to keep Texas from scoring, then a Longhorns drive stalled after a running play on 3rd and 10 at the OU was stopped after a six-yard gain, and Texas kicked a 47-yard field goal to go up 30-27 with 1:17 left.

Then Gabriel conjured up some Sooner Magic once more, and Oklahoma claimed its first win against a Texas team ranked in the top five of the AP poll since 2004.

“This is our moment,” Gabriel said. “This is what we’ve worked for.”

Venables, who joined the Sooners as an assistant in 1999 before taking over as Clemson’s defensive coordinator from 2012-21 and returning to Norman last year as a first-time head coach, said this game was as exciting as any game he’s ever coached, national championship games included.

“Been in a whole bunch of really, really big games — and 15 of these [Oklahoma-Texas games] — and this one doesn’t take a back seat to any one of them,” he said. “There’s no limits on what this team can do, and no excuses either. We’ve got everything that we need.”

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