By Cyle Kitchen
Both Texas and Oklahoma were ranked in the Top 15 nationally as they came together for the annual Red River Rivalry at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas. However, only one team showed up. Oklahoma took control from the beginning, scoring on its first drive, and never looked back.
The Oklahoma Pessimist
Just to get this out of the way first, only a few mistakes stand out in this game for OU. The first play was the botched snap after a first-drive touchdown that gave Oklahoma the early lead. Two seconds after gaining the momentum, the bad snap and blocked kick later let Texas run the other way and seize a little momentum back, albeit with only two points.
The other major mistake again came from senior leader Landry Jones. Although the game was already seemingly out of reach, Jones again gave points to the other team by throwing a pick six. Coming out after halftime with a lead of 36-2, Jones threw an interception that was returned 28 yards to the house. Jones cannot continue to hand out points to the other team, or, as it showed in the Kansas State game, it could cost OU a win.
Summary: A win against Texas in past years has usually meant OU was past its first big test in search of a national championship run. This year, however, it makes an OU fan think of what could have been had the Sooners started this season a little faster. Also, it makes one think about the schedule and what might have been had the Sooners had at least one more nonconference game prior to Big 12 play.
The Oklahoma offense started off slow — scoring 24 against a bad UTEP team — before beating up on FCS Florida A&M. Then, however, OU had to face Kansas State in its third game of the season. Regardless, as it sits, the Sooners need help at this point just to be able to win the conference.
The Texas Pessimist
What has happened to Texas? In the last few years, the Longhorns have fired Greg Davis (2010), replacing him with co-offensive coordinators Bryan Harsin of Boise St and Major Applewhite. During that same time frame, Texas replaced defensive coordinator Will Muschamp when he left for Florida, choosing former Mississippi St. defensive coordinator Manny Diaz. It’s been a tale of two worlds since. After a so-so season with rotating quarterbacks last season, Harsin’s and Applewhite’s offense has been better, especially at the quarterback position once David Ash emerged. Defensively, however, things have been dreadful in Diaz’s second season, to say the least.
And, although it was a less-than-stellar showing (289 total yards) for the Texas offense against OU, the OU game could have been the beginning of the end for Diaz. After allowing 677 yards (yes, almost 700 yards…) of offense to the Sooners, the defense dropped from 71st nationally to 99th in total defense.
Funny enough, this should actually be overlooked by the job Diaz’s boss, Mack Brown, has done his last 2+ years on the job. From 2010-present day, Brown is 17-15 overall and 7-13 in the conference, including losing his last three tries against the Sooners. Brown’s record against Bob Stoops-led Sooner teams dropped to 5-9. This seems more like a record fit for a guy making $500,000 a year, not $5 million.
Summary: Brown is signed through the 2020 season with a large buyout. Questions were asked about retirement after the OU game – questions that were quickly shot down by Brown.
“We’ve got time to get this turnaround,” Brown said. “We’ll get this turned around.”
Time will tell on both accounts.
The Oklahoma Optimist
It’s now fair to say the loss to Kansas State woke up a sleeping giant. After the beat down of Texas Tech in Lubbock, the Sooners followed it up with a complete embarrassment of Texas in the Cotton Bowl. In the last game, the Sooners looked unbeatable on both sides of the ball.
The offense racked up 677 yards of offense, but the impressive part was how. OU had 343 yards rushing on 51 carries, and 334 yards passing on just 22 completions. The Sooners punted the ball only 4 times (leading to zero punt return yards for Texas) and ran 90 offensive plays to Texas’ 60. But, the most impressive piece to all of this might have come from Oklahoma’s fullback, Trey Millard.
With all the talent OU now has at wide receiver, it was Millard who led the team in receiving with 5 catches for 119 yards, including a 73 yard touchdown. As was discussed earlier, the defensive performance was equally great, as OU held Texas to under 300 yards. Going into the game, a concern for OU was stopping the run against Texas. It wound up not being even a slight worry as Texas managed only 74 yards on 23 carries.
Summary: Oklahoma dominated the game from start to finish. At this point, Oklahoma can play with no fear in the remaining games and just hope other teams ahead of them suffer losses.
The Texas Optimist
While it may be hard for Texas fans to see the light at the end of the tunnel, after being handed yet another bad loss by the Sooners, there is good news. Oklahoma State, West Virginia and Oklahoma are all off the schedule now. All three teams were in the top four (Texas being third) in the Preseason Big 12 Coaches Poll.
Out of the six remaining games, the Longhorns have three on the road and three at home, including the next game against Baylor. In those remaining six games, Texas should be the more physically talented team every time. If Mack Brown and his staff can right the ship mentally, the Longhorns still have a chance to finish 7-2 in the conference. If.
Summary: Texas can help rid the demons and remove the “Mack needs to retire” talk by winning the last 6 games and finishing with a 10-2 record. All of the games are winnable although the toughest 3 could be at Texas Tech, TCU at home and finishing the season at Kansas State which could prove to be the deciding game for the Big 12 championship.
The Oklahoma Realist
Oklahoma definitely looked the part of a Top 5, championship-caliber team against Texas. Offensively, OU couldn’t be stopped, while Texas couldn’t move the ball. Oklahoma needs to continue to take each game week-to-week and not worry about the K-State loss.
Year-in and year-out, teams tend to drop a game they shouldn’t lose. Although you never want to lose a game, it’s been proven if you are going to lose one, lose it early in the season. Oklahoma can take the confidence gained from beating Texas into the game against Kansas. OU needs to continue to tighten up little things on both offense and defense. Cutting down on mistakes (14 penalties), especially offensively (like, say, a pick-six), is a must in order not to slip up again.
Summary: Oklahoma should be favored in the rest of its games, including against Notre Dame in Norman and at West Virginia, albeit by small margins. If OU continues the rapid improvement shown in the last two weeks on both sides of the ball, the Sooners should be right in the thick of championship talk (both conference and national) by season’s end.
The Texas Realist
How good is this team? Is it the team that could have beaten West Virginia two weeks ago, or the team that was dominated by OU? Texas will need to get back to work this week and continue to work on the identity it had started forming before the Red River Disaster. Continue to run the ball to set up the pass and have a balanced attack. Defensively, something must change. Whether it is scheme, the coordinator or the players, it’s simple: the whole unit must play better. The Big 12 is known for the offenses it produces, including up-coming Baylor, which put up 63 points in a loss to West Virginia on Sept. 29.
Summary: Whatever it takes, Texas must beat Baylor in Austin… and have improvement on defense. If neither of these happens, and things continue to snowball, the end of the season could bring massive changes for the Texas Longhorns.