OU wide receiver Dede Westbrook (11) torches the Texas defense for a touchdown at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas on Oct. 8, 2016. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Football

Texas’ notable number: Oklahoma’s top receiver against the Longhorns — and the number 39

Posted October 9th, 2020

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Each week this fall, we’re looking at a specific number that’s tied to Texas football.

This week’s notable number is 39 — the jersey number assigned to junior defensive back Montrell Estell. Both Sam Ehlinger and Denzel Okafor have appeared in 39 games at Texas. A 39-yard punt return against New Mexico State in 2003 helped Selvin Young become the first and only Longhorn to score on a punt and kickoff return in the same game.

Thirty-nine also accounts for the number of receptions that Oklahoma’s leading receivers have caught in the last five Red River Showdowns.

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Oklahoma, of course, has also had a good quarterback during its last five appearances at the Cotton Bowl. Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray will both start this weekend in the NFL. Jalen Hurts is the back-up in Philadelphia.

But what came first, the chicken or the egg? Or in the case of Oklahoma’s offense, the quarterback or the receiver?

Texas defensive back Montrell Estell (39) misses a tackle against Oklahoma receiver CeeDee Lamb (2) at the Cotton Bowl on Oct. 12, 2019 in Dallas. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Here are the numbers that were produced by the receiver who led Oklahoma in receptions at the Red River Showdown. Oklahoma went 3-2 in those games. In a 29-24 win in 2017, Marquise Brown and tight end Mark Andrews were tied for the Sooners’ overall lead in catches:

  • CeeDee Lamb (2019): 10 receptions for 171 yards, 3 touchdowns
  • Brown (2018): 9 receptions for 131 yards, 2 touchdowns
  • Brown (2017): 4 receptions for 73 yards, 0 touchdowns
  • Dede Westbrook (2016): 10 receptions for 232 yards, 3 touchdowns
  • Sterling Shepard (2015): 6 receptions for 95 yards, 0 touchdowns

Those 39 receptions accounted for 40.6 of the passes that were hauled in those five games. Those receptions were also recorded by a quartet that is no longer singing at Oklahoma. Lamb (Dallas), Brown (Baltimore), Westbrook (Jacksonville) and Shepard (New York Giants) are all in the NFL these days.

So, who does Texas need to worry about this weekend? Junior Charleston Rambo leads the Sooners with his 13 receptions, and that number ranks eighth in the Big 12. The 6-1, 175-pound Rambo was Oklahoma’s leading returner in receptions (43) and receiving yards (743) this season. Rambo was the only Sooner aside from Lamb to catch at least two footballs in last year’s 34-27 win over Texas.

Sophomore Theo Wease and seniors Theo Howard and Obi Obialo are other possible starters. The Longhorns will also need to keep an eye on freshman Marvin Mims. A four-star signee, Mims has started his collegiate career with 11 catches.

“They’ve got a few (deep threats), but I would say he’s right up there near the top of the list,” Texas defensive coordinator Chris Ash said of Mims. “He’s a good player. He’s good speed and definitely going to take shots with him down the field.”

Statistically, the UT pass defense has fared fine thus far. The Longhorns are allowing 250.7 yards per game. Texas, however, have only faced one team that had a top-80 passing offense in 2019. Ash was also not pleased this week with his secondary’s performances in one-on-one battles.

“The game is about the battles within the game and those one-on-one matchups,” Ash said. “Unfortunately in the last two two games, we have not won enough of our one-on-one matchups in the secondary. … We want interceptions but we also want PBUs. We have to minimize those big, explosive plays that we’ve given up the last couple weeks.”

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