DALLAS – Charlie Strong put that gold cowboy hat on his head and flashed a huge smile filled with relief, joy and vindication.
If last week's beat down at TCU was rock bottom for Strong at Texas, the coach's first victory against rival Oklahoma — 24-17-over the 10th-ranked Sooners — might be what changes the trajectory of his program.
"We heard all week how the pride has been lost. How we don't play hard," Strong said. "And I don't have an answer for last week (TCU 50, Texas 7), we go out and we kind of just lay an egg and this week we came out and we wanted to impose our will."
The Longhorns (2-4, 1-2 Big 12) worked over Oklahoma's defense with 313 yards rushing. Their D went to work on quarterback Baker Mayfield and the Sooners offensive line, blitzing and stunting their way to six sacks. Naashon Hughes and Poona Ford buried Mayfield for a 17-yard loss on a third-and-14 deep in Oklahoma territory late in the fourth quarter on what turned out to be a fitting last offensive play of the game for the Sooners (4-1, 1-1).
When Jerrod Heard and the Longhorns offense got the ball with 3:33 left and Texas leading 24-17, they never gave it back. The Longhorns churned out three first downs, took a knee and then stormed the field.
The linemen lifted Strong off the ground during the celebration and tossed him in the air before he got to lift the Golden Hat Trophy that goes to the winner of the Red River Rivalry. Strong doffed that cowboy hat proudly, then passed it to his players.
"I think they said they didn't want to see me get fired so they were going to step up and play for me," Strong said with a laugh.
After getting drubbed by the Horned Frogs last Saturday, the Longhorns, who came in as 17-point underdogs, made matters worse by sniping at each other on social media. Eighteen games into Strong's tenure and his future in Austin was already being questioned.
"Seeing everything in the media about coach, everybody attacking him, picking on him and stuff, a bunch of guys were like, this isn't fair. We're not playing hard and it's affecting him and his status," offensive guard Sedrick Flowers said.
Heard led a scaled-down offense that threw only 12 passes. The quarterback ran for 115 on 21 carries. D'Onta Foreman made the biggest offensive play, a tackle-breaking 81-yard run that set up backup quarterback Tyrone Swoopes' jump-pass touchdown to Caleb Bluiett that made it 24-10 with 13:52 left in the fourth quarter. The 244-pound Swoopes played the role of closer for the Longhorns, with a 3-yard run TD to go with that scoring pass.
"I definitely don't think it was a lack of focus, and we definitely did not underestimate them at all," Oklahoma offensive lineman Ty Darlington said. "They were a much more talented and capable team than the record."