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OU's first test comes Saturday in the Cotton Bowl

October 10, 2019 ▪ By Ray Dozier

The No. 11 Texas Longhorns have a couple of historical streaks heading into the 115th meeting of the Red River rivals (11 a.m. FOX) in Dallas on Saturday. And, both streaks involve number 6.

The Longhorns have won six straight over the Sooners in years ending in ‘9’. Oklahoma hasn’t won in a year ending in the numeral ‘9’ since 1949, and the Horns own a record of 3-8 in years ending in number ‘9’. Texas also has beaten the spread in the last six consecutive years during the regular season. The Sooners won in 2014, 2016, and 2017. They lost in 2013, 2015, and last year. OU, however, beat the spread as an 8-point favorite in last year’s Big 12 Championship Game, but it’s not the regular season.

This Saturday, No. 5 Oklahoma (5-0, 2-0 Big 12) will seek to end those two streaks as an 11-point favorite. Of course, those streaks don’t mean a thing to the Sooner coaches, who just want to leave Cotton Bowl Stadium with a victory.

The Steers (4-1, 2-0) are coming off a 42-31 win over West Virginia. UT intercepted the Mountaineers four times and converted three of those turnovers into touchdowns. But the Longhorns’ defense gave up 367 yards and 3 TDs through the air.

Texas QB Sam Ehlinger completed 18 of 33 for 211 yards with 2 TDs and one INT. He also added a pair of touchdowns on the ground. Backup running back Roschon Johnson, a freshman, led the ground attack with 121 yards.

Ehlinger has completed 63.4 percent of his passes for 1,448 yards with a TD/INT ratio of 17/2. Devin Duvernay is the team’s top receiver with 45 grabs for 463 yards and 4 scores. Keontay Ingram leads in rushing with 313 yards and 3 TDs. He suffered a neck injury in the first half last weekend and missed the rest of the game against WVU.

Texas is banged up in the secondary with Caden Sterns, Jalen Green, and Josh Thompson not expected to play. Sterns, a safety, is the team’s leading tackler along with safety Brandon Jones and nickleback Joseph Ossai with 29 stops. Ossai also has 5 tackles for loss, including 2 sacks, and leads the team (with cornerback D’Shawn Jamison) with two interceptions.

The Sooners easily dispatched Kansas, 45-20, last Saturday. The Jayhawks got their last two touchdowns mostly against OU’s defensive reserves. QB Jalen Hurts had a lackluster performance compared to the first four games. He hit 16 of 24 passing for 228 yards with a couple of TDs against one interception. Thirteen Sooners caught a pass, and five Sooners caught at least two aerials. Trey Sermon scored two TDs — one on the ground and the second through the air.

JUCO transfer Rhamondre Stevenson picked up 109 rushing yards on 5 carries, including a 61- yard scamper for a 42-7 lead. Kennedy Brooks should return from a minor knee injury this week. He was held out as a precaution against KU.

The defense gave up 360 yards (145 against mostly reserves) and allowed Kansas running back Pooka Williams 137 yards but kept him out of the end zone.

The Sooners continued to have penalty trouble being flagged 8 times for 89 yards. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty squelched one drive, and Oklahoma had to punt. Two huge penalties on KU’s first scoring drive in the fourth quarter allowed the Jayhawks to score a touchdown. QB Carter Stanley threw an incomplete pass, but linebacker Bryan Mead was whistled for roughing the passer. Two plays later, Justin Broiles intercepted Stanley’s pass and returned it 58 yards to the KU 19, but Broiles was flagged for holding before the pick.

Oklahoma is the second-most penalized team in the country being whistled 8.2 times per game for an average of 90.4 yards. Still, coach Lincoln Riley like his team’s aggressiveness.

“At the end of the year, go look at the least penalized team and look at their record,” he explained. “The aggressiveness has to be there. I won’t do anything to take away their aggressiveness. We have to play aggressive, that’s the only way you win, especially big games. We’re gonna play aggressive … It’s on me and our staff and our players to do it more smart.”

The Longhorns haven’t been perfect, either. They have been whistled an average of 6.8 times for an average of 60.2 yards per outing. They had 10 against the Mountaineers.

If OU or Texas gets in trouble with yellow flags, the other can make them pay the price in a game of this caliber. The team making the fewest mistakes should win the game.

OU tackles Erik Swenson and Adrian Ealy are not expected to return this weekend from injuries. The Sooners have shuffled five different lineups in the first five games, but the same lineup from last weekend is expected to start again Saturday—Creed Humphrey at center, Tyrese Robinson and R.J. Proctor at tackle positions, and Brey Walker and Marquis Hayes at the guard slots.

The Steers will be the toughest test for the Sooners this year. Texas has played in a top 10 matchup losing to No. 6 LSU (45-38) at home in Week 2.

The Sooners boast the nation’s best offense (3,219 yards; 9.94 per play) and No. 2 in scoring (53.4 ppg). Jalen Hurts is the country’s most productive passer completing 75.2 percent with a 14/2 TD/INT ratio for a rating of 231.3.

Texas has allowed an average of 325 passing yards this year (No. 126), and three teams (La. Tech, LSU, and West Virginia) each went for 340 or more.

With a crippled secondary, the Steers’ front seven will have to pressure Hurts and force mistakes. Likewise, the Sooners must not allow Ehlinger to get comfortable in the pocket. He was responsible for five touchdowns in last year’s matchup in Dallas and added four more in the Big 12 Championship Game. OU’s defense (No. 25 in scoring and No. 46 in yards allowed) has improved from a year ago. The players are swarming to the ball more, and the secondary hasn’t allowed receivers to beat them deep.

As usual, throw out all these stats because this game is played in pure emotion. The Crimson faithful will file out of the Cotton Bowl in a good mood, and one of Texas’ two historical streaks will come to an end—the wins in the year ending in ‘9’. So, let’s go with Oklahoma by 9.

Sooners 44, Longhorns 35.

Fast Facts

  • UT leads the series 62-47-5; 51-43-4 in Dallas.
  • UT is the home team this year and every odd year. UT is 23-14-2 when wearing home orange jerseys.
  • OU leads the series 26-17-3 when both teams are ranked; 18-6-2 when ranked higher than UT.
  • OU leads 9-6 in morning kickoffs.
  • 53 of these contests (46.5%); have been decided by a touchdown (7 points) or less the last five meetings have been decided by a TD or less.
  • Both teams have met 12 times on October 12; UT leads 8-4.
  • Lincoln Riley’s record: 29-4 (.906) overall; 2-1 vs. UT; 4-3 on neutral field; 7-3 vs. ranked opponents; 19-2 vs. conference foes.
  • UT coach Tom Herman’s record: 43-15 (.741) overall; at UT: 21-11 (.656); 1-2 vs. OU; 3-2 on neutral field; 6-6 vs. ranked foes; 11-8 vs. conference opponents.
  • 44 Texans dot OU’s roster.
  • Only one player on UT’s roster is from Oklahoma (Casey Thompson, son of former Sooner star Charles Thompson).

Articles by Ray Dozier