NORMAN, Okla. – Saturday’s Red River Rivalry will be broadcast live on ABC with Brent Musburger, Todd Blackledge and Heather Cox calling the action at 11 a.m. CT. Musberger and Blackledge were in Norman on Thursday to speak with members of the coaching staff and attended practice to better familiarize themselves with the Sooners. The pair took time to speak with SoonerSports.com about the Oklahoma program.
Q: Give us your perspective on what Bob Stoops has accomplished Oklahoma as he closes in on Barry Switzer’s record for the most victories in school history?
Brent Musburger: “Well it’s a remarkable job. I was thinking about it, certain coaches have come in to programs and for whatever reason cannot sustain excellence. Bob has done that. In fact, he has spoiled the Sooner fans. If he doesn’t win the national championship it’s been an unsuccessful season. But he replaces key players; they’ve always got guys in the system.
“And I think one of the most important things about Bob Stoops here in Oklahoma is that when you look around the landscape of college football, many of his assistants have been, and are now, successful head coaches. Two come to mind: Mike Leach who is now up at Washington State and Kevin Sumlin who is over at Texas A&M. And that’s just the two of them who I’m mentioning.
“It is very, very difficult. Scholarships are now limited. In the older era when Oklahoma had it rolling they could bring in over 100 guys and stockpile. You can’t do that now, so there’s a lot more competition for the blue-chip players.
“I think it’s just been an outstanding job. He’s had a chance to go to the National Football League on several occasions. He and his family are happy; he means that. I learned that about a decade ago that he was very happy being the head coach at Oklahoma. I think he’s done one of the great system-building jobs in the country.”
Todd Blackledge: “The only thing I would add to that is I think he does a great job of evaluating and recruiting talent and then developing it when it’s here. You’ve seen that in guys that have gone on to play at the next level and in their ability to move guys to different positions and thrive.
“And the other thing to me is that he has not lost his edge. He has still got a little bit of that Youngstown chip on his shoulder and he’s still as competitive as he’s ever been. To me, that’s refreshing because it’d be very easy for a guy to sit back and rest on what he’s done, but he’s still charging full speed ahead.”
Q: Looking ahead to Saturday, the Red River Rivalry is such a historic game. What are your impressions of the matchup?
BM: “Well I think there is a reason why Oklahoma is a heavy favorite in this game: their performance on the field. And Texas is very concerned. The other side of that is, though, this is still a rivalry game and Texas will try to give it its best shot. If the Longhorns get started well, and Todd was talking about that with me earlier today, if the Longhorns get started in the first quarter of this game it could be a tough afternoon for the Sooners. But I see no reason why Oklahoma shouldn’t be a big favorite based on what’s happened this season so far with the two teams.”
TB: “I think on paper Oklahoma is the better football team man-for-man across the board. And for Texas, I think it’s critical to get off to a great start and take care of the football. The game has really gotten away from them quickly the last few years and they can’t afford for that to happen. If they start the game in a sluggish way and are careless with the football, it’ll get out of hand again.”
Q: Along those lines, are there any other keys to Saturday’s game?
BM: “Well I think Todd put his finger on the critical part of it: turnovers and takeaways. And I think Oklahoma is concerned about a couple of things. I think they were disappointed in the third-down success against TCU. They’re going to need to pick it up against the Longhorns. And after watching the game, Todd and I talked, I think they’re really going to miss No. 7, Corey Nelson.
“I think the Longhorns will come with the running game. When we had the Kansas State game against Texas, I was very impressed with No. 32 [Johnathan] Gray. I think he’s got a chance to be a big-time running back. And I think Texas will have a chance to see right away… when you’re an underdog, one of the things you can do is shorten the game. You do that by running the football and keeping the clock moving so that you don’t have as many snaps as you might have. If you’re the inferior team and you think the other team has an edge in talent, shorten that football game any way you can. I would think in the back of Texas’ mind that they would try to do that. But that all depends on them getting a lead, too.”
TB: “And I think from a Texas standpoint, they have to come into the game saying, ‘We have to win the turnovers, we have to create an advantage in the kicking game and we have to do a great job defending their run. And even though Blake Bell has played very well, he’s still a new quarterback and we need to put the ball in his hands and make him beat us throwing the football. If he does, we take our hats off to him.” But if they can’t do that, then they’re going to have a problem.
“Even for me watching the game, I’m curious to see how Blake responds if the game is in his hands, if it’s close and in that environment because he’s still growing as a quarterback.”
Q: As broadcasters, what does it mean to be able to call a game that’s steeped in history and tradition?
BM: “You know it’s always one of those games when you’re assigned that you look forward to, regardless of the records of either of the teams. It is one of the more remarkable settings in college football where you’ve got half the crowd in Oklahoma colors and the other half in Texas colors. It’s special to look out at the Cotton Bowl and see the whole fairgrounds. I’m very happy that “Big Tex” has returned. I would’ve missed him. It’s just one of those scenes.”
TB: “I’m thrilled to do the game. I’m a huge college football fan. I love the rivalry games, and the uniqueness of this game is it’s a midseason game that has a bowl-game atmosphere and feel. There are really only three games I’ve had the privilege of doing that are similar: this one, Florida-Georgia I’ve done half a dozen times and Army-Navy. It’s where the energy never ceases in the stadium because somebody is always up and happy so the energy never drops. It’s a real unique game to be a part of.”
Q: Last question, for either of you, are there any particular moments or memories from previous OU-Texas games?
BM: “Oh yeah, I could close my eyes and see Roy Williams going over the top on Chris Simms and the ball winding up as a touchdown for Oklahoma. I’ll never forget that particular play. Mike Stoops will tell you that he didn’t call the blitz when Roy Williams was coming up on the other side, he freelanced on it and made that play work. That moment still stands out in my mind.”TB: “I don’t have a particular play in mind, my whole thing was just the pageantry. That’s what stands out to me, being down on the field right before the game. The whole thing is a pretty magical thing to be a part of.”