RED RIVER SHOWDOWN: JOHN HARRIS' KEYS TO THE GAME
It doesn’t matter which one comes first for most people. However, if you bleed crimson and cream, you’ll think OU v. Texas takes place in Dallas this weekend, but if you’re burnt orange all the way, it’s Texas v. OU in the Cotton Bowl. Regardless of your allegiance, this Red River Rivalry is back. As such, the world seems to be back on its axis as these days as the two Big 12 powers will meet on Saturday, both undefeated in Big 12 play.
Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray, although he sat out the first series of the Baylor game last weekend, turned in a magnificent performance against the Bears. He accounted for seven touchdowns, throwing six, and totaling 494 yards of total offense. He’s stepped into the void left by 2017 Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield and kept the Oklahoma offensive engine running at an insanely high level.
The story for the Longhorns has been a feisty defense that has given up less than 17 points per game in its four wins. Safety Caden Sterns is a true freshman play maker who will be a key for the Longhorns defense against the powerful Oklahoma offense. Last week, it was talented defensive end Charles Omenihu who starred, posting two sacks and three tackles for a loss in a win over the Kansas State Wildcats.
So, what are my Keys to the Game?
- Find different ways to get the ball to Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown - that’s probably the one guy that Texas doesn’t match up with really well. Cornerback Kris Boyd is a better matchup on Sooners receiver Cee Dee Lamb, so Brown is a bit of a wild card. Sterns may see Brown a few times, but the more unique ways that Brown can get the rock, the better for OU.
- Never quit on Ehlinger - Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger isn’t the best thrower, nor is he wildly accurate or productive through the air, but he will make a play and is tougher than a $2 steak. He will hold the ball longer than he should but that also makes him ultra-dangerous when he extends plays. The Sooners defense can’t get lazy once plays are extended thinking Ehlinger is tackled or bottled up.
- Surprise everyone with a downfield passing attack - Look, the Longhorns have one of the most talented pair of receivers in the Big 12 in Lil’ Jordan Humphrey and Collin Johnson, but they need more down the field targets. Last week, Ehlinger threw 36 times (completing 29) for only 207 yards. The two stars combined for nine catches but for only 91 yards. The Sooners secondary isn’t blessed with superstars so Ehlinger must push the ball downfield to his two NFL-bound stars.
- Pocket Murray better than Mobile Murray - Murray is far from the biggest player on the field but he’s magical with the way he can get out of the pocket and create. If Texas plans on taking home a W to Austin, it MUST force Murray to stay in the confines of the pocket. Spy on him. Rush only three. Play basketball on him, mirroring him, instead of truly rushing the pocket. Whatever the Longhorns must do to keep Murray from taking one step out of the pocket, they must execute every single pass play. Then, when he eventually leaves the pocket, make him pay. Be the most physical unit at the Cotton Bowl on Saturday.