OU football: Sooners, Longhorns continue their storied rivalry this weekend in Dallas
Kingsley Burns, The Oklahoma Daily
After coming off a decisive win against Texas Tech last weekend, No. 13 Oklahoma now turns its sights on No. 15 Texas in a pivotal contest that could determine the team’s fate this season when the archrivals square off at 11 a.m. Saturday at the historic Cotton Bowl in Dallas.
Both teams come into the matchup with a conference loss, and both are ranked just outside the top 10 in the national polls.
The winner of the 107th edition of the Red River Rivalry will make an important step toward regaining momentum in the race for the Big 12 title. The loser most likely will find itself two games behind No. 5 West Virginia and No. 6 Kansas State with a much harder road to travel in order to become a league and national contender for the respective title games.
Although this game is always important to both programs for series bragging rights, senior quarterback Landry Jones said not carrying the Sooners’ current momentum into this rivalry game keeps the team from learning from its past mistakes and taking care of business in practice.
“You can’t ride the wave because there’s a lot of emotion that goes into the (OU-Texas) game,” Jones said. “It’s just a different type of game because there is so much tradition playing in a neutral location.”
One area of concern the Sooners said they need to improve in the game against the Longhorns is working to limit third down conversions, something that hurt OU in the home loss to Kansas State on Sept. 22.
“Lately, a lot of teams have been getting third downs against us, and that’s not good,” senior defensive end R.J. Washington said. “But I think it’s just tightening up the screws more and just keep working on the little things and getting even better than last week. For great teams, it’s not how they started and what they were doing in the beginning; it’s did they get better each and every weekend.”
And the Sooners will have to make those changes against a Texas team that has a lot of offensive weapons that are going to figure out a way to avenge the disappointing, 48-45, home loss to league newcomer West Virginia last weekend.
Although the Longhorns have the sixth-ranked offense in the nation averaging 46.8 points per game and are currently second in offensive third-down efficiency with a 58.1 completion percentage, the Sooners said regardless of what Texas brings to the matchup, they need to take care of the football in order to win the turnover battle against a defense that has produced 10 turnovers already this season.
“Every year, Texas is going to have a lot of good players on their team and a lot of different guys that can make a lot of plays,” Jones said. “So, we are going to be on our toes, and we are going to be ready for it and hopefully go out there and execute it like we want to.”
Coach Bob Stoops said he wanted his team to continue giving Jones the added protection he and the rest of the coaches saw last Saturday while working on the defensive side of the ball to shut down the Longhorns’ sophomore running back Joe Bergeron, who leads the Big 12 with nine rushing touchdowns.
“All (of the Texas) running backs run the ball well, find seams, have excellent speeds and make good cuts,” Stoops said. “They are in that Wildcat a fair amount, so that’s something we’ll have to spend some time on.”
After having just one takeaway prior to forcing three turnovers against Tech, the Sooners now boast the nation’s 17th-ranked defense going into the game, giving up 303 yards per game after facing its first four opponents of the 2012 season. Senior safety Javon Harris leads the Sooner defense with two interceptions, while junior corner back Aaron Colvin came up big for OU against the Red Raiders with his first career interception.
Being able to force the turnovers, while also finding plays that can produce points through the air and on the ground allows the Sooners to go into this year’s Red River Rivalry game knowing they are capable of making big plays on both sides of the ball that the team lacked in games earlier in the season.
“It builds a little bit of confidence being that we were struggling a little bit two weeks ago,” junior wide receiver Kenny Stills said. “It’s good to have our confidence back and be able to prepare this week without that monkey on our back.”