The weather is beautiful and there’s not a better complement to a welcome autumn season than a fat dose of the Red River Shootout. This is why we’re fans, to lay witness to a game where history is so often made.
Like I mentioned before, Texas offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin can do all the scheming he wants, but what the Longhorns absolutely must have in order to pull off an extraordinary turnaround from the 2010 joke season is pressure Sooner quarterback Landry Jones. I hate to oversimplify a complex game, but believe that.
Give me some of what you’re smoking if you think the Longhorn secondary, with those sophomore cornerbacks and a safety who couldn’t find the right angle with a protractor, will be able to match up with Ryan Broyles, Kenny Stills, James Hanna, Trey Franks, Jaz Reynolds, Dejuan Miller and Roy Finch coming out of the backfield. Fullback Trey Millard can even haul a couple in. There are too many rock-solid targets.
Up front, however, the Longhorns have straight up defensive beasts, four of which I’m pretty certain will play at the next level. That’s the Longhorns’ play and I expect them to bring the heat. I’m already predicting players of the game to be the Sooner offensive line.
Big-time players make big-time plays, and we’ve seen some of that against Florida State. An elite team, though, has to bring it every game, especially big ones. No room for off games or do-overs. If OU is a championship team, which I think they are capable of being, then Texas will not win this game. The football gods would not disgrace the game by having such a non-proven team beat one of the truly elite.
So what goes down?
The Longhorn offense is just too green to execute at an elite level. Sure, they’ll probably get some yards up the middle and some of Harsin’s misdirection plays may even get some big yards and get the Burnt Orange excited, but it takes more than mere tactics to win a war. It takes vetted, polished strategy to pull off greatness. Only experience and confidence gets teams through unexpected blitzes and overwhelming coverage. The Texas freshmen are gamers but are too overwhelmed by the big stage.
The Sooner offense is the complete opposite of what Texas has to offer. Texas’ defensive line and linebackers will be ravenous, but Landry has been through the fire and has come out on top. Everyone goes on about his road woes, and while they are not unwarranted, recent history is what should be focused on. In the past five games away from Norman, OU has averaged over 350 yards passing. Jones hit back after every big Cowboy score at Stillwater, came from 17 down in the Big 12 Championship game and immediately laid a vicious counter punch at Tallahassee when the crowd went ballistic after the big 56-yard touchdown tied the game late for Florida St. The old Landry would not have been capable of that.
Outcome: Sooner offense keeps the Longhorn defense off balance with crisp passes, run counters and wide receiver sweeps. This produces more than enough points than the Texas offense can hope to muster.
OU running back Dominique Whaley is more valuable than his stat sheet by picking up blitz after blitz. Landry Jones has time to dink, dunk and pick apart the Longhorn secondary. Texas quarterback David Ash suffers from his tendency to throw in double coverage on third and long and gets picked twice. The other Texas quarterback, Case McCoy, sees less playing time than Ash and never finds a rhythm. McCoy is a fumble waiting to happen constantly scrambling around the Sooner blitzes. Sooners 37, Longhorns 17.
Although Jones has come through when it matters lately, he still throws picks, especially under pressure. In the past five games away from home, his best stretch of his career, Jones has thrown eight interceptions. Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz is reckless and will take several chances sending blitz after blitz. Diaz is smart enough to realize that is the recipe for slowing the Sooner offense. It may be necessary for the Sooner running game to carry the day. The current running back corps have yet to prove they can pull that off.
Outcome: It’s a defensive struggle. The Sooner running game fails to break free. Running backs Brennan Clay and Dominque Whaley are consistently bombarded with hit after hit. Offensive coordinator Josh Heupel is unable to get the ball to Roy Finch for some momentum-changing plays.
Texas defensive ends Alex Okafor and Jackson Jeffcoat frustrate the Sooner tackles all game. The pressure is constant on Landry Jones and the offense fails to produce more than 250 yards through the air. The Sooners contain Harsin’s offense for the most part, but running backs Malcolm Brown, D.J. Monroe, and Fozzy Whittaker have enough success to keep the Sooner defense on the field for extended periods. The Texas offense is successful enough with the run to lull the Sooner defense into giving up some big plays through the air at exactly the wrong time.
A key turnover or, god forbid, an ill-advised Stoops risky call, is the difference in the game. The game goes back and forth, however Texas gets the final momentum change and pulls the upset, 27-24.