Oklahoma beat Texas because of at least a dozen mistakes — Aaron Williams just so happened to commit the last one.
Saturday’s loss, the second consecutive for the once-mighty Longhorns, was another disaster that unfurled over the course of a warm, sunny afternoon in Dallas. With Texas deciding to scrap together a late comeback, Williams went to receive a punt that he couldn’t handle — it dropped from his hands and cost the Longhorns a chance to tie the 28-20 game.
Instantly devastated, Williams walked to the sideline in agony, but Texas head coach Mack Brown approached him with a simple message: “I made mistakes throughout the day, too,” Brown told him. “He did not lose the game for us. It’s never one kid’s fault when you lose a game that you play for four hours. He was one of the reasons we even had a chance.”
Brown was right about Williams’ play. He relentlessly shut down Oklahoma receiver Ryan Broyles, whose 482 yards entering the game ranked second in the nation. Williams was all over Broyles throughout the game and held him to just 36 yards. On one play that would’ve easily been a Top 10 play nominee, Williams was running full speed in coverage when he leapt backward and almost secured one of the most acrobatic interceptions in recent history.
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But just like the punt and the game’s ultimate decision, the interception bounced out of Williams’ hands. After the game, his teammates made sure they let a tearful Williams know how much the game wasn’t his fault.
“You just have to keep your head up, man,” running back Fozzy Whittaker told him. “This one was on all of us, not just you.”
When Williams emerged from the locker room to face the cacophony of the pesky post-game questions, his backfield teammate safety Blake Gideon stood beside him in his defense. Gideon even found a way to get Williams to crack a smile.
“You see, Aaron was just expecting me to block the punt,” Gideon said jokingly. “So after I wasn’t able to pull that off, it threw him off a bit. It’s really all my fault.”
It was the first step in forgetting the play that could have easily rocked Williams’ confidence for a long time if not for his supporting teammates like Gideon.
“He’s always there to pick me up whenever I’m down,” Williams said. “Through good times and through bad.”
Of all people, Gideon knows Williams’ pain. Two years ago, he let an easy interception slip through his fingers in a loss at Texas Tech that ultimately cost the Longhorns a shot at the national championship.
But Gideon got over that missed opportunity and Williams should, too. It’s downright silly to blame Williams for Saturday’s loss. Doing that assumes that Texas’ offense would’ve somehow been adept enough to march 50 yards down the field, score a touchdown then successfully pull off a two-point conversion in less than one minute.
This was the same offense that wouldn’t have scored a touchdown without two explosive plays from running backs D.J. Monroe and Cody Johnson. It was the same offense that couldn’t keep pace with how fast the once-heralded Texas defense was letting Oklahoma score. Not to mention, Texas had a chance to secure a fumble inside Oklahoma’s 10-yard line just two plays before the muffed punt, and penalties on the defense prolonged the Sooners’ drives on third downs all game long.
Put this one on anyone but Williams. To steal an old team adage, if the rest of the team would have been as consistently good as he was on Saturday, they would’ve been great.
“Something that we don’t do here at Texas is lose,” said defensive end Eddie Jones. “We have to find a way to go back and change these two losses and turn them into victories.”