Texas exits Big 12 with title, makes case for CFP

Sports

ARLINGTON, Texas — Texas ended its Big 12 tenure the way it began in 1996: with a conference championship.

The No. 7 Longhorns ended a 13-year conference title drought — the longest in the program history — with a 49-21 win over Oklahoma State behind the right arm of Quinn Ewers. The sophomore quarterback completed his first 12 passes en route to setting the Big 12 championship game record for most yards (452) and tying the mark for touchdown passes (4). In the first half, he threw for the most yards (346) by any player in a half in any conference championship game in the past 20 years, putting on a show for the College Football Playoff committee watching 20 miles away in Grapevine. Ewers exited the game in the fourth quarter, giving way to Maalik Murphy — and later, Arch Manning — after completing 35 of 46 passes.

The Longhorns’ title-clincher was the culmination of a breakthrough season for coach Steve Sarkisian, who won five and eight games in his first two seasons in Austin before going 12-1 this year, eclipsing 10 wins for the first time in his decade as a head coach and putting Texas in contention for a CFP berth.

From the beginning of the season, Sarkisian told the Longhorns to “embrace the hate” on the way out the door before heading to the SEC next season. His team responded, beating every team they’re leaving behind but suffering the one loss at the hands of SEC-bound Oklahoma, which drove 75 yards in 1:17 to beat Texas 34-30 on Oct. 7.

In three of the next four weeks, the Longhorns survived tight games at Houston (31-24), home against Kansas State (33-30) and at TCU (29-26) before a 10-point win on the road over Iowa State. But last week, Texas demolished Texas Tech 57-7, and followed it up with a dominant win over the Cowboys.

The Longhorns led from wire to wire, rolling up 662 yards of offense and holding Oklahoma State to 281 yards, including holding Ollie Gordon II, the nation’s leading rusher who came into the game with 1,580 yards and 20 TDs, to just 34 yards on 13 carries, an average of 2.6 yards per carry.

Two different receivers — Ja’Tavion Sanders (8 catches, 105 yards and a TD) and Adonai Mitchell (6-109-1) — went over the 100-yard mark. Texas star Xavier Worthy added six catches for 86 yards, but he went out with an injury in the second half and came back on the field on crutches and in a walking boot.

As the clock wound down, Texas fans at AT&T Stadium chanted “SEC!” But for today, the Longhorns claimed their fourth Big 12 title, second to Oklahoma’s 14, to end an era for the league.

Texas was presented the trophy by Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark, who was drowned out by boos and SEC chants from the Texas fans as Sarkisian tried to quiet the crowd.

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