Emotions have started bubbling up for this week’s Texas-Oklahoma rematch in the Big 12 championship game. And to think, it was only Monday.
In Austin, Texas coach Tom Herman acted surprised why anyone would care whether he has consulted with recently-fired Kansas coach David Beaty about the Sooners. After all, Beaty’s Jayhawks did score 40 points on OU’s defense on Nov. 12.
“Yeah, I don’t know why that’s news,” Herman said at his news conference. It’s common for coaches to call other teams after they’ve played and say, “Hey, what did you have on us? Here’s what we had on you,” he said.
Beaty never came to Austin as bad weather in Kansas City scuttled that whole plan. Still, none of this went over well in Norman, Okla.
“I don’t like the precedent of it, bringing in somebody from the league from the same year,” OU coach Lincoln Riley told reporters at his news conference. “But it’s not against the rules. So that’s fine.”
Meanwhile, don’t look for OU quarterback Kyler Murray to embrace UT’s Sam Ehlinger. Those two had a tense post-game handshake after Texas’ 48-45 win at the Cotton Bowl. “If we would’ve won the game, I wasn’t going to run to him in that moment,” Murray said Monday.
Asked if he respected Ehlinger’s game, Murray said, “I have no comment on that.”
Ehlinger, who patted Murray on the head during their brief October exchange, may not let anyone pat him on the shoulder this week.
Herman said Ehlinger’s bruised shoulder bothered the sophomore against Kansas. Ehlinger didn’t look like himself and completed 16 of 28 passes for 154 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.
“Yeah, it was bothering him,” Herman said. “It’s going to bother him this week.”
No matter what happens at AT&T Stadium, the 14th-ranked Longhorns (9-3, 7-2 Big 12) will hold on to the Golden Hat trophy until at least next October. Both schools agreed that the trophy that represents the Red River Showdown would not be up for grabs in this rare instance.
In fact, Herman doesn’t even want that term used this week at all.
“I did tell our guys, this is not the Red River Showdown, this is not October,” Herman said. “Our motivation, I would hope, playing in the conference championship game would be the same were it any other opponent. I think our team believes that and buys into that.”
If Herman wants to motivate his troops, he should show them the statistics. Oklahoma’s defense has gotten worse since firing coordinator Mike Stoops after the game on Oct. 6.
In the first six games, OU allowed 5.4 yards per play and 421.2 yards per game. In the last six games with defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill at the controls, the Sooners are allowing 6.6 yards per play and 476.8 yards per game.
It should be noted that in the back half of the season, OU played offensive-oriented teams like Texas Tech and West Virginia. The Sooners have allowed an average of 47.3 points in the last four games.
“There has been plenty of distance since that game (on Oct. 6),” Herman said. “Our teams have evolved into a little bit different teams than what played in October. When you watch the film, that’s what you break down. Since our game, what have they done?”
Of course, Murray is compiling video-game numbers with the OU offense. The sixth-ranked Sooners (11-1, 8-1) have scored at least 50 points in five of the last six games.
The Longhorns bottled him up at the Cotton Bowl. Murray had just 33 rushing yards by the end of the third quarter. He got loose for a 67-yard touchdown run in the fourth and finished with 92 yards rushing along with 304 yards passing.
“If we don’t go out and execute, everybody’s going to be mad,” Murray said.
After last Friday’s game, West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said Murray and OU receiver Marquise Brown “are the quickest kids I’ve ever seen, ever. Quickest, fastest kids. They’re special players, special talents.”
Now they’re the Longhorns’ problem. Again. And OU running back Kennedy Brooks adds another dimension. “Thanks,” Herman said with a laugh.
“There’s a plethora of good backs,” Herman said before praising OU’s offensive line. “They are elite. They’re well coached, big, strong, physical guys. They don’t do very much, they run counter and zone and a couple trick plays here and there and that’s about it.”
Texas players will meet reporters on Tuesday, but don’t expect too much trash talk. They’ll be schooled by the media relations department before facing any microphones.
Safe to say tensions will keep building day by day until kickoff at 11 a.m. Saturday.
“We’ve got to have a great week,” Herman said. “This is a phenomenal opponent, and we’ve got to be at our best.”
Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.