Texas vs. Oklahoma: A Q&A with a Sooners beat writer on Kyler Murray, the first game and that Sooners defense

Posted November 29th, 2018


What’s up with the Oklahoma Sooners? We reached out to Sooners beat writer Ryan Aber (@ryaber) of the Oklahoman to offer his insight:

Oklahoma has had to sweat out some wins over the past month. What’s been the key in those close calls?

It’s been their ability to run the ball. Despite losing two of their top three running backs to season-ending injuries and the guy who was No. 2 (Trey Sermon) for most of the last three games with an ankle injury, Oklahoma’s running game continues to get better. They wear teams down in the fourth quarter. That’s mainly thanks to their offensive line but also to redshirt freshman Kennedy Brooks and also to Kyler Murray’s ability to be a threat on the ground as well.


Allowing 32.8 points per game, why have the Sooners struggled on defense this season?

Every reason imaginable. Some games they can’t tackle. Some games they can’t cover. Most games they can’t get pressure on the opposing quarterbacks. With the exception of last week against West Virginia, they haven’t forced many turnovers. Oklahoma is getting recruits that plenty of other programs want, but they’re struggling to develop them on the defensive side. That’ll be a focus for Lincoln Riley in the offseason as he overhauls his defensive staff, but for now the Sooners have to hope for games like last week when things are rough most of the night but the defense finds a way to make a play or two that turns the tide.

Kyler Murray has been a worthy heir to Baker Mayfield. Should he succeed Mayfield as the Heisman Trophy winner?

I think he should. Take Tua Tagovailoa away from Alabama and the Crimson Tide are still on the cusp of another College Football Playoff run. Take Kyler Murray away from the Sooners and Oklahoma isn’t in this game, much less battling for a playoff spot. Plus, Kyler’s numbers — even adjusted per attempt and per completion, etc., are better. They’re both phenomenal players, for sure, and most years either would run away with the Heisman. But this year, my vote would be with Kyler Murray.

You are Texas defensive coordinator Todd Orlando. How do you stop the Sooners from scoring 50 points this weekend?

Ask the offensive side to slow the game down. That’s really the best way to hold them under 50. What you can do with this offense, though, is force Kyler Murray into a mistake or two a game. The key is taking advantage of those mistakes. The Longhorns did it the first time around with Murray’s two turnovers. He almost made up for them with his scintillating fourth quarter, but those two giveaways loomed large in the end.

Name one Oklahoma player that Texas fans aren’t talking about — but should be.

Cody Ford. Oklahoma’s right tackle has been phenomenal this year and is a big reason for the Sooners’ success with the ground game. But Ford can also be volatile at times and that’s resulted in a few 15-yard flags being thrown his way. If Texas can get to Ford, that goes a long way toward turning what is an historically good offense into just one that’s really good.

Which venue do you prefer for the Red River Rivalry: AT&T Stadium or the Cotton Bowl?

Yes, I love Jerry World — the video board, the plush amenities, the bathrooms that function as they’re supposed to. But there’s nothing like walking through the fair to get to the Cotton Bowl, the stadium split 50-50 and a Fletcher’s Corny Dog on the Midway after the game. This will be a neat experience, for sure, but give me a choice and I’m taking the Red River Rivalry/Shootout/Showdown every time.