Red River Rivalry Revs Up
It’s that time of the year again. For the 108th time, OU and Texas will meet in the AT&T Red River Rivalry in Dallas. With the chance to stay in first place in the Big 12 standings and bragging rights on the line, there’s never any shortage of incentives for the Sooners when they square off against the Longhorns.
While Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops is quick to point out that the process of preparation for Texas is no different than any other opponent, he also explains that there is no experience in college football quite like playing in the venerable Cotton Bowl with a stadium split evenly between crimson-clad Sooners and a band of burnt orange brethren from south of the Red River.
“Well it’s always exciting,” Stoops shared on playing in the Red River Rivalry. “It’s a great experience. The State Fair, the Cotton Bowl, the tradition and history there, two teams here that have been in the same division when we had divisions (in the Big 12) and the atmosphere of the game with the stadium split in half. It’s always really special. It’s kind of like a bowl game in the middle of the year. It’s a great game.”
The Sooners are 9-5 against Texas under Stoops and have claimed the Golden Hat Trophy and the Governors Trophy by defeating Texas each of the past three years. OU’s current senior class seeks to become the third group under Stoops to post a perfect 4-0 mark against the Longhorns.
“It is one of the reasons that you come to play football here,” senior Gabe Ikard said of the game. “Especially when you come out on the winning side of the last three years, it is a great experience.”
Senior Trey Millard said the opportunity to potentially finish his college career unblemished against Texas is a special.
“It's something you take pride in and there has not been a whole lot of teams or recruiting classes that can say that they came in and did that,” Millard said. “So you definitely take pride in it.”
During the three-year winning streak, the Sooners have outscored the Longhorns by a combined total of 146-58 (28-20 in 2010, 55-17 in 2011 and 63-21 in 2012), averaging to a 48.7-19.3 points per game margin. OU holds a +8 turnover differential with 10 takeaways and two giveaways. Offensively, OU has totaled 1,490 yards compared to 921 for Texas, including 553 yards on the ground to Texas’ 217.
The Golden Touch
Fans watching this weekend’s OU-Texas game may notice something a little different about both teams’ uniforms. Gold accents will join the traditional crimson and the burnt orange on the jerseys, belts, pants and cleats of both squads.
Nike Football unveiled the uniforms Monday that honor the shared heritage of the tradition-rich rivals who battle annually in the AT&T Red River Rivalry. The gold represents the pursuit of the Golden Hat Trophy, a golden replica of a 10-gallon cowboy hat that has been kept in possession of the winning school’s athletic department since 1929.
The uniforms also feature a classic gold Red River Rivalry patch above the numerals on the front of the jerseys, with those numbers outlined by “kiss-cut” gold twill. On the inside of the OU jersey neckline sits a custom embroidery “Boomer Sooner,” and the uniform also features an additional gold logo neck patch in reference to last year’s victory as the Sooners retained the Golden Hat Trophy.
To see and learn more about the special-edition uniforms, visit here: http://www.soonersports.com/fls/31000/gold/.
Nelson Still Leading For Sooners
Although senior linebacker Corey Nelson suffered a partially torn pectoral muscle in Saturday’s win vs. TCU, head coach Bob Stoops indicated that Nelson is contemplating delaying surgery so he can be on the sidelines at the Cotton Bowl with his teammates. Of course, Nelson grew up not far from the State Fair of Texas, playing at Skyline High School in Dallas.
“Corey is a captain and a guy right there in the middle of the heart of the defense so it’s hard to minimize that,” Stoops said. “He was having a great, great year and it’s just unfortunate for him. You hate to see that happen to a guy in his senior year.”
While Nelson’s on-the-field leadership will be missed, Stoops said he expects Nelson to still have an impact every game.
"Corey has been a great leader all year,” Stoops explained. “He can continue to, demanding the players in practice perform and focus the way they have."
Nelson registered 27 tackles (13 solo), along with a 24-yard interception return for a touchdown, four pass breakups, three quarterback hurries and a sack through the first five games of the year. Nelson was voted by his teammates as a defensive captain in 2013 along with senior cornerback Aaron Colvin, who knows this injury won’t keep his teammate from continuing to impact the team.
“Corey, he’s a great player, he’s a great leader and a great individual for this team,” Colvin said. "Although he won’t be contributing on the field, he will still be around. I know his leadership will still be there but at the same time you can’t really hide his talent and his passion that he brings to the defense. I know I will have to step up and do a little extra and others realize that, as well.”
Fellow senior co-captain Trey Millard agreed.
“We are going to miss him out on the field, but he will be in the locker room and he is just as important as an emotional leader to this defense and the entire team,” Millard said.
But perhaps no two players will benefit more from Nelson being on the practice field this week than fellow linebackers Aaron Franklin and Dominique Alexander, the top candidates to fill his vacancy.
“He was back there helping us out and teaching us,” Franklin said of Nelson at practice on Monday. “He’s still around and he’s just helping us and giving us what he knows and giving us tips. So he’s still around and in good spirits. It’s great having him around.”
According to Alexander, Nelson has been a mentor to him since he stepped on campus, and continues to push the true freshman from Tulsa’s Booker T. Washington High School to be his very best.
“He has been like my big brother,” Alexander said. “As soon as I got here he took care of me. He’s just telling me I have to step up in a significant way and this is Texas week and I can’t let the crowd get to me.
"He’s keeping me in the film room with him extra time. I have to be up here at seven in the morning to meet with him and watch film. He’s making sure that I’m really going to be on my stuff and I’m not going to have any busts. He’s going to make sure I’m the best player I can be.”
Mike Stoops Scouts The Longhorns
Make no mistake, there’s been a long tradition of stellar runners coming out of the Lone Star State. Texas sophomore Johnathan Gray ranks third in the Big 12 in rushing, averaging 87.8 yards per game, trailing Baylor’s Lache Seastrunk and Oklahoma’s Brennan Clay.
“I think that has been the strength of their team,” Stoops said of the Texas ground game. “That has been the one consistent part of what they have done. Those backs are tremendous, their line is blocking well and when they’re running the football. I think that’s the quarterback’s best friend.
“That is a tough combination to handle when you can run the ball that well and still have the ability to throw the football,” Stoops continued. “This is far-and-away the most complete set of players we have seen across the board when you look at offensive line, you look at quarterback and you look at receivers. They go a lot of up tempo and try to keep you off balance with that. Again, this will be a big challenge for us.”
And when the Longhorns do throw, Stoops says the Longhorns have a talented signal caller in quarterback Case McCoy.
“I think he does everything that they ask him to do and he does it well,” OU’s defensive coordinator said.” He is a very complete player and he throws the ball exceptionally well. He’s very smart and it seems like they do a lot of checking at the line of scrimmage whether he is calling it or he is calling it.
"We have to keep him off balance with what we are trying to do and give them some different looks. Those are all important elements of every game plan and it will be very critical again Saturday to try and create some confusion with him.”