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Bohls: Taking a gutsy approach can pay coaching dividends in Texas-Oklahoma series

First-year Texas coach Steve Sarkisian has the 23rd-ranked Longhorns pointed in the right direction as he prepares for his first OU game this week. No. 5 Oklahoma has had tight games in four of its five wins.

While I got ya, here are nine things and one crazy prediction:

1. Red River gambles. Be aggressive. It’s the only way to go for winners in the Texas-Oklahoma series unless one team is clearly superior to the other, which isn’t the case this season. As successful as Mack Brown was at Texas as the program’s second-winningest football coach with just nine fewer wins than Saint Darrell, he still could be painfully conservative in the biggest game of the year against Oklahoma. We all remember all those hitch passes that went for 1 yard. Mack used to go to extreme lengths not to commit momentum-changing turnovers in that series — certainly an admirable goal — and consequently suffered a five-game losing streak to the team up north and finished with a frustrating 7-9 record against the Sooners. The offensive game plan was so close to the vest, Texas rarely tried anything. … I can still remember a Longhorn assistant tipping me off to the trick play Fred Akers tried on the second play of the 1977 game against OU. A trick play with a pass from Earl Campbell. It failed as Sooners defensive tackle David Hudgens intercepted a wobbly attempt, but I gave Akers credit for trying to do anything possible to beat Barry Switzer’s No. 2 OU. And Akers had a great team that went 11-0 before the Cotton Bowl loss to Notre Dame. ... And don't forget that Nick Saban benched his starting quarterback at halftime of the national championship game against Georgia and won with a freshman backup. ... Roy Williams never scored a touchdown against OU in his career. Cedric Benson scored one and famously got on the field for one play as a freshman when starting tailback Ivan Williams threw a shoe and had to come out of the game briefly. That sound familiar about a great running back not getting the ball? Benson, by the way, started the very next week after the loss to OU. It’s clear Texas will get Bijan Robinson his 20 to 25 carries, but it won’t surprise me if Steve Sarkisian comes out flinging with Casey Thompson to loosen up an OU defense geared to stop the electric tailback. 

Bohls: Texas football team is learning who it is, and isn't, after these first five games

2. Gambling Part II. I don’t know about you, but I loved the fact that Sarkisian went for it all on fourth-and-goal from the TCU 1 instead of settling for a field goal. I would imagine his players welcomed the belief in them by their coach even if it didn’t work. That may have been reflected in the game’s final drive by Texas to kill the final four minutes and seal the win. … Texas had a chance to stage one of the biggest comebacks in the history of the OU rivalry with Sam Ehlinger’s epic rally after trailing 31-17 with 87 seconds left in the third quarter. But Tom Herman disdained a two-point try after Ehlinger’s final touchdown with 14 seconds to play when he had all of the momentum, the Sooners were on their heels and I just refuse to believe Ehlinger wouldn’t have found a way to get in the end zone for the dramatic win. Who knows what Sarkisian might do in a similar situation. But if I'm a coach and have one play to win the game, I'm taking it.

Steve Sarkisian, right, has soaked up a lot of knowledge from his mentor Nick Saban, the Alabama head coach who knows a little something about playing in big games. Sarkisian spent the last couple of years as Saban's offensive coordinator and play-caller.

More:The State Fair, corny dogs and Texas-OU: ‘I wish we could go play today if we could’

3. Same old. … Sarkisian isn’t changing a thing. Or so he says. He said on Monday that he “gained a lot from coach Saban. You’re in a lot of big games when you’re there, and it’s very similar to here. I think trusting your process is the key so your routine is something he’s a master at. They (Crimson Tide) don’t change. You wouldn’t know who they were playing from the practices. That’s the diligent nature and the focus of the players and the approach of the players. Obviously, that’s something we are striving for, to not get caught up in the  noise.” … OU looks more vulnerable than at any time in the Lincoln Riley Era. They love winning with the ground game but rank 76th in the nation and were held to 57 yards rushing by West Virginia. … Luke Brockermeyer gently disagreed with fellow linebacker DeMarvion Overshown’s take on the potentil interception the two battled over at TCU, only to see the ball fall to the ground. Said Luke on Tuesday when asked if he stole the pick away from Agent 0, “I think I got my hands on the ball first.”

4. Random hits. This has to be one of the most potentially disastrous seasons that Texas A&M has ever had. The expectations and national championship hopes embraced by Jimbo Fisher and his team dissolved by the first week in October. Maybe the Aggies will gather themselves and shock Alabama at Kyle Field, but I’m not expecting that. They sure won’t lack for motivation now that they sit at the bottom of the SEC West with an 0-2 record. Mike Elko’s defense is good, but I doubt it’s that good. I would put A&M among Wisconsin, Iowa State, Florida State and Clemson as the most disappointing teams of the season with the latter up as the No. 1 shocker after falling out of the Top 25. Fisher said his players have to “eliminate the clutter. They need to turn off social media. And it’s hard to do because they eat and survive on it.”  This is about more than just a rookie quarterback. The offensive line has major issues. … Major Applewhite returns to his old stomping grounds when the offensive coordinator for 3-1 South Alabama will be in San Marcos for their game against Texas State. 

Former Texas golfers Jordan Spieth and Scottie Scheffler bump fists on the driving range during a practice day for this year's Masters tournament in April.

5. Fan Club. Count Hall of Fame golfer Tom Kite as a member of the rapidly growing Scottie Scheffler Fan Club, not that he’s a new convert. He’s always believed in his fellow former Longhorn, and Kite sees more promise than ever in the young golfer’s upside. “Sandy and I were up for Ryder Cup. They asked past captains, and we had a great time. They really played well (in dominating the Europeans to win the Cup at Whistling Straits.) We had nine of the top 11 in the world, and it wasn’t like the Europeans played bad. We just played inspired golf. As for Scottie, he’s excelled at every level of golf from junior golf to UT to amateur golf, and now he is excelling in the professional ranks. I don’t think it will be long before he wins (his first PGA Tour event). I have no doubts he will win in the near future.”

6. Around the League. Was anybody else freaked out by the sideline cutaways of Steve Belichick, the Patriots' linebackers coach and de facto defensive coordinator according to those in the know. He was obviously channeling his inner Jon Gruden with some of the weirdest and surliest facial expressions I’ve ever seen. … Damn those Chargers are good. Same for the Buffalo Bills. My top six in the NFL today are the Bills, Chargers, Rams, Cardinals, Cowboys and Browns. The Buccaneers are playing nowhere close to their Super Bowl level and are enduring some injuries. I don’t trust the Packers yet. 

Golden: Texas would rather win ugly than lose pretty, and that's what the Longhorns did

7. A fond farewell. Condolences to the family of former Longhorns Hall of Honor pitcher and former major-leaguer Chuck Hartenstein, who died last week. He was nicknamed “Twiggy” after the skinny model because of his 5-foot-11, 155-pound frame. He went 18-6 at Texas and helped the Longhorns go to two College World Series and stayed in college for four years because he promised coach Bibb Falk he would. … Jim Deitrick, a Texas accounting professor, was once told by Hartenstein’s son who was a student in his class that when Chuck and his mother had a date night in Pittsburgh, his babysitter was none other than Pirates third baseman Richie Hebner, the only unattached player on the team. Dietrick said he once ran into Hartenstein pushing a grocery cart at an HEB with a case of Budweiser and a bag of deer feed. Chuck said he put out the deer feed to attract them for his grandchildren to see and put the beer in the bird bath for the deer to drink. Chuck smiled and said, “I have the happiest deer in Austin.”

8. Scattershooting. While wondering whatever happened to the Cash twins, the pride of San Antonio's Holmes High School. In 1990, Kerry Cash caught a short touchdown pass from Sooners-killer Peter Gardere in the first half, and then on fourth down, brother Keith caught the 16-yard strike to the goal line in the 14-13 win.

9. On the couch. Son Zach and I tuned in to the “Squid Game” to see what all the fuss is about. Zach described it as the “Hunger Games meets Saw.” It’s not for the squeamish. I’m not a fan of gratuitous violence and gore — and this futuristic series based in Korea will have a lot of both — but it’s an interesting narrative about how far people in financial debt and ruin will go to escape their dire circumstances. Gave the first episode 7 ducks.

Crazy prediction: James Franklin takes the USC job, and Luke Fickell replaces him in Happy Valley.