Texas Longhorns vs. Oklahoma Sooners: Complete Game Preview
The Red River Rivalry is unlike any atmosphere in all sports, with Texas and Oklahoma fans dividing at the 50-yard line to create a constant deafening environment.
The Texas Longhorns will look to end their three-game losing streak to the Oklahoma Sooners, Saturday, in the 108th Red River Rivalry. The Sooners have averaged 30-point victories over the last three years, but Texas looks to break the streak with backup quarterback Case McCoy calling the snaps.
In the past, when Texas entered the Cotton Bowl with a quarterback named McCoy, it usually meant success. Now, the Longhorns find themselves with a McCoy who is 0-3 against the Sooners and will be fighting to save Texas' season and, quite possibly, save Mack Brown's job.
When: Saturday, October 12, noon ET
Where: Cotton Bowl; Dallas, Texas
Austin radio: KVET 98.1/1300
SiriusXM satellite radio: XM 117; Sirius 202; Internet 969; Spanish 970
Spread: Oklahoma (-14), per VegasInsider.com
Last meeting: October 13, 2012, Cotton Bowl, Dallas, Texas
Last outcome: No. 13/10 Oklahoma 62, No. 15/15 Texas 21
Texas Keys to Victory
1. Run the Ball
In the Longhorns game against Iowa State, Texas came out running the ball, which led to a quick touchdown by running back Johnathan Gray. But Major Applewhite called eight of nine passing plays in the following offensive drive. If David Ash were under center, the play-calling would make more sense.
But backup quarterback Case McCoy, who lacks the ability to pass the deep ball, started for Texas and finished with 45 passing attempts. Applewhite's play-calling was not his finest moment, and he will need to make up for it Saturday, when his offense faces Oklahoma's stout defense.
Oklahoma's defense is probably the best defense Texas will face this season, ranking No. 9 nationally in total defense.
The Sooners have shown their ability to control the passing game, allowing only two receiving touchdowns through the first five games of the season. With McCoy starting at quarterback, the Longhorns will need to rely on running the football in order to have a chance in the game.
2. Put up Points Early
Texas will enter the Cotton Bowl as an underdog led by a backup quarterback. The crowd plays a role in the Red River Rivalry and can shift at any given moment. It is imperative for the Longhorns to score early to help gain momentum and keep the Oklahoma fans silent...at least for a minute.
3. Contain OU's Complete Offense
The Longhorns defense has been a work-in-progress since 2012. Although the defense has shown signs of progress since the awful performance against BYU, September 7, it still has a ways to go. Now Texas has to find a way to stop Oklahoma's offense, which is averaging 455 yards per game.
Last year, Oklahoma backup quarterback Blake Bell scored four touchdowns against the Longhorns. Now, Bell is in a starting role and will likely be the Sooners go-to guy on the goal line.
The Texas defense will, no doubt, give up points, but the Longhorns cannot allow this game to get out of hand, as it has the last two years. The defense holding OU to as few points as possible will be the only way for Texas to have a chance in the game.
4. Prayer :)
Oklahoma Keys to Victory
Keep It Simple
Unlike Texas, Oklahoma does not necessarily need both an offensive and defensive key to victory in the 108th Red River Rivalry. The Sooners talent on both sides of the ball trumps that of the Longhorns, especially without quarterback David Ash.
Since McCoy has taken over for the injured Ash, the Longhorns have averaged a little more than six points per quarter. Meanwhile, Texas' defense is not ranked 108 out of 120 in total defense by accident.
The only way Oklahoma struggles in this is game is if it out-thinks itself. In other words, the Sooners need to replicate the performance they had last year against the Longhorns: keep it simple, pound the ground game, force the Texas defense to stop the ground attack and win the turnover battle.
Texas Players to Watch
Oklahoma's defense is stacked at every position, but the Sooners have given up more touchdowns on the ground (six) than scores in the air (two). Sophomore running back Johnathan Gray should be a person to watch in the Longhorns game against the Sooners Saturday afternoon. And the emphasis here is SHOULD.
Through the first five games of the season, Gray is averaging 5.4 yards per carry and 87.8 yards per game. When the former Gatorade National Football Player of the Year gets enough carries to get in a rhythm, he makes a difference.
The Sooners will likely be expecting to face Texas' ground attack, but with McCoy in charge of throwing the ball, the Longhorns will need to force Oklahoma to stop the run before even thinking about calling a passing play.
Oklahoma Players to Watch
Oklahoma quarterback Blake Bell, also known as the "Belldozer," played a key role in the Sooners 63-21 win over the Longhorns in 2012. In last year's game, Bell only picked up 31 yards on 11 rushing attempts, but seven of Bell's 11 carries either resulted in a first down or a touchdown. That's pretty good, right?
Bell will enter the Cotton Bowl with zero rushing touchdowns, so far this season, but if history repeats itself, expect the "Belldozer" to have another high-scoring performance against the Longhorns.
Oklahoma's defense is, once again, resembling the Mike Stoops defenses, circa 2000-2003. The Sooners stats are solid, holding opponents to 13 points per game this season. But OU had one of the most impressive stats to date in its game against TCU, October 5.
The Sooners held the Horned Frogs to seven straight three-and-outs and 18 yards of offense through the first 35 minutes of the game. Let's repeat that—18 yards of offense through the first 35 minutes of the game.
Even if Texas had David Ash under center, the matchup would still favor Oklahoma. There is not necessarily one player to watch on the Sooners defense, the unit as a whole is worth noticing.
What They're Saying
Texas head coach Mack Brown, via texassports.com:
Oklahoma game is one of the great games in college football for all the unique reasons. It's the State Fair. It's at a neutral site. It's such a traditional game and one that all the changes in conference realignment has not hurt because it's still about the conference games. It's still about a conference championship and it's still one of the more unique games with two bordering states that's really, really special. I've been lucky enough to be on both sides of it.
Well it's always exciting. It's a great experience. The State Fair, the Cotton Bowl, the tradition and history there, two teams here that have been in the same division when we had divisions (in the Big 12) and the atmosphere of the game with the stadium split in half. It's always really special. It's kind of like a bowl game in the middle of the year. It's a great game.
I think it's all on the line, when you play Oklahoma, every year. I don't think these kids or coaches or anyone else feel differently. It's the Oklahoma game, it's what you come to Texas to play for, same thing on the other side. ... It's bragging rights. It's what you get to talk about when you're old and retired. ...
This is a game you have to go in with confidence. You have to go in understanding that it's going to be loud; it's going to be physical; there's going to be ups and downs. By understanding that, accepting that, you're not shocked when it happens and you're able to put it in its own place and compartmentalize it and move through it, fight through it.
It's a big game. It's why kids come to Oklahoma; they want an opportunity to go down there and compete in this type of ball game. This is one of the most special events in college football. The atmosphere outside of the stadium, in the State Fair of Texas and the atmosphere inside is electric. This is a fun game to play. You'll remember it.
Texas senior defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat:
We have got to out-physical [the Sooners]. We've got to play tougher than them. We just have to stay up and make plays, play like we know how to play instead of playing timid. We have to do what we know we can do as Texas. We've made too many big mistakes against OU. When you do that, it gets worse and worse. You need to be loose and not uptight, but you have to be focused.
Prediction: Boomer Sooner
There really is not much to say about the 108th Red River Rivalry, other than the game will, once again, lack competition from Texas' side of the ball and will end in a Sooner blowout.
It does not take a scientist to dissect the 2013 matchup between Texas and Oklahoma.
Oklahoma's defense is better than Texas' offense and Oklahoma's offense is better than Texas' defense.
Barring a miracle, Texas will lose Saturday's game before arriving at the Cotton Bowl.
Prediction: Oklahoma scores early and often and extends its winning streak to 4-0 against Texas.
Oklahoma 45, Texas 21
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.
Follow Taylor on Twitter: @Taylor_Gaspar
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