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Sooners-Longhorns meet for 113th time Saturday

October 3, 2018 ▪ By Ray Dozier

Texas football is relevant again. The Longhorns enter the Red River Showdown with a national ranking (No. 19 in A.P. poll and 20 in Coaches poll) and best record (4-1) since 2012. That year, the Steers were 4-1 and ranked No. 15 in the polls entering the RRS.

The No. 5/7 Oklahoma Sooners (5-0, 2-0 Big 12) also are more relevant entering the rivalry with the highest ranking since 2011. That year the Sooners were No. 1 in the coaches poll and third in the A.P. OU also enters the RRS undefeated for the first time since 2015.

Both teams will meet again for the 113th time at 11 a.m. (ABC) on Saturday.

After a loss to Maryland in the season opener, the Longhorns have won four straight games including wins over two ranked foes—USC and TCU. Texas beat Kansas State, 19-14, last weekend to snap and five-game losing streak in Manhattan.

The Steers jumped to a 19-0 lead in the first half but did not score in the second half. Texas’ scoring was sparked by D’Shawn Jamison’s 90-yard punt return late the first quarter for a 7-0 lead. The Horns drove 89 yards for a 14-0 advantage on their next series. Quarterback Sam Ehlinger, who was 29 of 36 for 207 yards, completed a 4-yard strike to Collin Johnson.

K-State began its next possession with a 9-yard kickoff return to its 9-yard line. Moments later, Texas sacked KSU quarterback in the end zone for a safety. UT then marched to a field goal on the next series for a 19-0 lead.

The Longhorns, which put up 339 total yards in the contest, was held to 129 in the last two-and-a-half quarters. Texas had only one serious scoring threat in the second half (to the KSU 30), and it ended with a missed field goal.

The Sooners ran their record to 5-0 with a 66-33 shellacking of Baylor in Norman. Quarterback Kyler Murray completed 17 of 21 for 432 yards and 6 touchdowns. He also ran for another. And, he didn’t start the game due to a brief suspension after appearing late for a team practice the day before.

OU rolled to a 14-0 lead and 28-9 by halftime. Tight end Lee Morris caught two of the first half scoring strikes. Morris finished with 3 catches for 61 yards. Marquise Brown led the receiving corps with 5 grabs for 132 yards and 2 TDs. Cee Dee Lamb caught 3 for 101 yards and a score. Kennedy Brooks led the running game with 8 carries for 108 yards and two scores.

The Bears came within 12 points (35-23) midway through the third stanza, but the Sooners outscored them 31-10 down the stretch.

The Sooners lead the nation with 8.9 yards-per-play thanks to Murray’s performance. He’s completed 70.6 percent for 1,469 yards with 17 TDs and 2 INTs. Murray’s QB efficiency rating is 231.6, second nationally, but his average of 13.4 yards per attempt tops the country. For the third time this year, the Allen, Texas product has been named Big 12’s Offensive Player of the Week for his performance against Baylor.

Murray hooks up the deep ball to Marquise Brown and Cee Dee Lamb, who have combined for 43 receptions for 892 yards and 10 TDs. OU must establish its running game. The team that has rushed for more yards has won this contest 19 of the last 20 years.

To put this game in perspective, Oklahoma has averaged 204.4 ypg on the ground, and the Steers have given up 115.0. Texas has averaged 153.3 ypg, while the Sooners have allowed 152.8.

Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger hasn’t put up numbers quite as impressive as Murray. Ehlinger has hit 108 of 167 (65%) for 1,185 yards with 9 TDs and 2 INTs. His average per attempt is 7.1 yards. The Steers haven’t rolled up large figures on the ground, either. They average 153.2 yards-per-game, 51 yards less than the Sooners’ average.

The Longhorns have two dangerous receivers in Lil’Jordan Humphrey and Collin Johnson, who have combined for 50 grabs for 753 yards and six scores.

Oklahoma’s 48.6-points-per game is nearly 20 more than Texas has put up in its first five outings. The Steers’ defense had allowed 19.8 per game compared to 23.2 for OU. The Horns have given up an average of 218.2 yards through the air.

Texas has intercepted six passes this year, and safety Caden Sterns has half of them. Safety Brandon Jones leads the squad with 35 tackles, 3 for loss, one interception and one fumble recovery. End Charles Omenihu leads Texas with 3 sacks.

The Horns have struggled in the punting game. Freshman Ryan Bujcevski has averaged 37.5 yards so far—10 yards per game less than Michael Dickson had last year. Dickson won last year’s Ray Guy Award. Austin Seibert has averaged 42.4 yards per kick for OU. Seibert also has hit 4 of his 6 field goal tries and is perfect on 32 PATs. Cameron Dicker has nailed all 17 PATs for UT, and 5 of 8 FGs.

The Longhorns rank third nationally with a 28-yard average on punt returns. OU has averaged 14.5 ypg, and both teams have returned one for a score. The Sooners hold the edge on kickoff returns (28.6-20.8 ypg).

As the old cliché goes, you can throw out the stats when these two meet up on the floor of the Cotton Bowl. This game is based on raw emotion. Mistakes must be minimal. Murray is going to give Texas fits, just as he’s done in the first five games. OU’s defense has to wrap up, wrap up, wrap up. Too many slipped tackles by opponents this year.

Last year, the Sooners were en route to a blow out by jumping to a 20-0 lead in the game’s first 25.5 minutes. The Horns fought back and took a 24-23 lead midway through the fourth period. Oklahoma responded with the deciding tally when Baker Mayfield found Mark Andrews wide open along the sideline for a 59-yard touchdown.

The Sooners could win this one in a blowout, but since the defense has allowed so many slipped tackles like last year—have to keep this one close.

Sooners 34, Longhorns 27.

Fast Facts

  • UT leads the series 61-46-5; 50-43-4 in Dallas: OU has won two straight.
  • OU is favored by 7.5.
  • OU is the home team this year and every even-numbered year.
  • Since 1929, OU leads the series 24-23-2 when wearing home jerseys, including four straight wins.
  • OU leads the series 25-16-3 when both teams are ranked; 17-5-2 when ranked higher than UT.
  • OU leads 8-5 in morning kickoffs.
  • 52 of these contests (46%) have been decided by a touchdown or less including the last four meetings.
  • The rivalry has mostly been held during the second Saturday in October. This year it’s being held on the first Saturday of the month. OU leads 5-1.
  • Both teams have met twice on October 6, and OU has won both times (14-3 in 2001 and 28-21 in 2007).
  • ESPN’s College Gameday will broadcast its show from Dallas Saturday morning. OU has appeared in 34 games (23-11) with Gameday present; UT has appeared in 15 games (9-6) with Gameday present.
  • This weekend will mark the sixth time Gameday will be in Dallas for the RRS; OU leads 3-2.

Articles by Ray Dozier