Dallas, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - The latest installment of the Red River Rivalry takes place on Saturday, when the 12th-ranked Oklahoma Sooners tangle with the Texas Longhorns.
The Sooners have staked their claim to a 5-0 record, while the Longhorns sit at 3-2. Both teams have won their first two Big 12 Conference bouts.
Oklahoma has achieved perfection thanks to a stellar defense that has yet to yield more than 21 points to any opponent. The Sooners posted a hard-fought 20-17 victory over TCU at home last weekend.
OU head coach Bob Stoops was pleased with his team's effort against the Horned Frogs, particularly on defense.
"We knew it would be tough. I thought their guys in particular defensively really did an excellent job. I'm very pleased and excited, though, that we were able to make the plays that we did to win the football game, first half and second half. Overall, I thought our defense was sensational."
Texas has rebounded from back-to-back losses (Ole Miss, BYU) by taking out Kansas State (31-21) and Iowa State (31-30) in recent weeks. The Longhorns are hoping for a solid showing in conference this year, in an effort to take some of the heat off of head coach Mack Brown.
Texas and Oklahoma first met in 1900 in Austin with the 'Horns registering a 28-2 victory. The two teams have met 107 times in all, with Texas holding a 59-43-5 advantage. The teams have split the last eight meetings, though the Sooners have won the last three.
Against TCU last week, Brennan Clay broke off a 76-yard TD run late in the fourth quarter to give Oklahoma enough of a cushion to earn their fifth straight win to open the 2013 season. Clay finished with a game-high 111 rushing yards, while Blake Bell tacked on 61 yards to complement his 20-of-31 passing effort that resulted in 152 yards. He did not throw a TD or an interception, and was sacked three times. The Sooners finished with 355 total yards and 20 first downs, compared to 210 yards and 10 first downs for the Horned Frogs.
The OU defense was impressive against the run, allowing a mere 44 yards and only 1.6 ypc. They did permit a pair of rushing scores in the second half, and while failing to register a turnover, the Sooners logged four sacks and allowed TCU just 3-of-14 success on third-down conversion attempts. The Frogs managed just 16 yards in the opening half. Frank Shannon was high man for Oklahoma with seven tackles, and Charles Tapper made the most of his five stops, notching a pair of sacks. Zack Sanchez broke up four passes.
Oklahoma is averaging 31.2 points and 455.2 yards per game, using a productive rushing attack (246.0 ypg) to keep the opposition on its heels. Clay has generated 450 yards and three TDs, while Damien Williams has 230 yards and a score of his own. Bell, who currently ranks third with 175 yards, has completed 69.2 percent of his passes for 835 yards with six TDs, and he has yet to throw a pick. Jalen Saunders and Sterling Shepard sit atop the team's receiving list with 22 and 21 catches, respectively, and they have combined for 479 yards and six TDs.
The strength of the OU defense has been its ability to start games strong, and pretty much maintain the effort throughout. Foes have scored a total of 21 points in the first half this season, all of which have come in the first quarter. Oklahoma has been equally strong against the run (113.2 ypg) and pass (168.4 ypg), and has allowed only two aerial scores. Opponents are converting only 27 percent (19-of-70) of their third-down opportunities. Shannon heads the unit with 34 tackles, Tapper has 2.5 sacks and both Gabe Lynn and Julian Wilson have a pair of interceptions.
Filling in for the injured David Ash, Case McCoy led the Longhorns to a narrow win at Iowa State last week. McCoy went 26-of-45 for 244 yards and a TD. The game featured six lead changes and was steeped in controversy as a late fumble by UT's Johnathan Gray near the Cyclones' goal line was negated by the officials, giving the 'Horns another shot to take the lead. Gray finished with 89 yards on 16 carries, and he scored once on a 45-yard jaunt in the first quarter. In all, the offense generated 363 yards. Receivers Mike Davis and Kendall Sanders combined for 13 catches and 104 yards.
The Texas defense allowed 463 yards to Iowa State, but came up with some key plays when it mattered most, including the logging of five sacks and two turnovers. The 'Horns had a couple of guys finish with double-digit tackles, as Dalton Santos had a dozen and Chris Whaley tallied 10, which included a sack.
With a record hovering around .500, it's not surprising to see the Longhorns allowing nearly as many points as they're scoring (32.4 ppg to 28.4 ppg). The team is producing 459 ypg, with its effort on the ground resulting in 192.2 ypg and 12 TDs, and its passing performance garnering 266.8 ypg and nine scores. Gray has rushed for 439 yards and four TDs to lead the team, while Ash has completed roughly 61 percent of his passes for 760 yards, seven TDs and two INTs. McCoy has appeared in all five games, and while he actually has more completions than Ash, has fewer yards (574) and only two TD passes. Texas has three players with more than 20 receptions, led by Jaxon Shipley and his 27 grabs for 288 yards. He has yet to pull down a scoring strike, giving way to Davis who has four TD catches.
The Texas defense has bent on several occasions this season, giving up more than 465 ypg, with its effort against the run (248.4 ypg, 11 TDs) being the biggest problem. The 'Horns have been rather good at getting to the quarterback, registering 11 sacks while also coming up with eight fumble recoveries and 11 takeaways in all. Jordan Hicks is the team leader in tackles with 41, while Steve Edmonds, Cedric Reed and Mykkele Thompson have amassed at least 31 stops.
Regardless of both teams' prior performances, coach Brown knows his Longhorns need to hunker down for their annual clash with the Sooners.
"The Oklahoma game is one of the great games in college football for all the unique reasons; it's at a neutral site. It's such a traditional game and one that all the changes in conference realignment has not hurt because it's still about the conference games, it's still about a conference championship, and it's still one of the more unique games with two bordering states that's really, really special."