NORMAN — Oklahoma still isn’t sure whether defensive tackle Jordan Phillips will play against Texas on Saturday.
OU coach Bob Stoops hasn’t fully described what injury the sophomore is dealing with.
“He’s gotten better,” Stoops said after Wednesday’s practice. “So, we’re expecting him to play and hopefully practice some more here tomorrow. He’s making some improvement.”
Phillips has been held out of practice the last three days. If he cannot play, Jordan Wade and Torrea Peterson will get the snaps against Texas.
“Those guys have made significant improvement,” Stoops said. “Chuka (Ndulue) can play in there too some if need be, so you know, those guys are rotating really pretty well in there.”
Too rough: Through five games Oklahoma had two brushes with the targeting rule. Safety Gabe Lynn was initially called for an illegal hit against Tulsa, but Lynn’s ejection was overturned by review.
The other was a hit running back Brennan Clay took from Notre Dame safety Ben Councell that did result in an ejection.
Oddly, the player that thinks the rule goes overboard is Clay.
“I mean, especially since he has to miss playing time and all that. That’s a little bit too harsh for me,” Clay said. “It could be a 15-yarder, but for him to get ejected and not be able to play one of the biggest games they played the whole year, against us? I don’t feel like that’s justified at all.”
Players who get flagged for targeting are immediately suspended from the game. If the penalty occurs in the second half of a game, they must sit out the first half of the next game.
“I felt like it was a good hit. It hurt for a little bit, but you know, you get back up. That’s football. You’re gonna get hit,” Clay said. “It’s so hard to be able to control your body and play football at the same time. It’s a physical game. I was a victim of it, but I shook it off and got back in the game.”
Even Heupel gets excited: OU offensive coordinator Josh Heupel is typically reserved when asked to describe anything. However, when the subject of the Red River Rivalry experience came up, he didn’t hold back.
He still remembers the shock to the system he felt as the Sooners quarterback in 1999.
“I’m sure it’s the same way down there (Texas), but when you come here it’s all the players talk about when you’re being recruited,” he said. “You’re like, OK. But it surpasses what they talk about. It’s a special game.”
Heupel had a 1-1 record as OU’s quarterback against Texas. But Saturday’s game will mark his ninth year as an assistant coach in the game. To him, the OU-Texas experience never gets old.
“This is one of the most special events in college football. The atmosphere outside of the Cotton Bowl in State Fair Park and the atmosphere inside is electric,” he said. “It’s fun. You’ll remember it.”
Always nervous: OU quarterback Blake Bell will make his first career start against Texas on Saturday. But, he has plenty of experience in the Red River Rivalry. Last year, Bell scored four touchdowns in the game.
Still, Bell expects to experience some anxiety Saturday morning.
“I have a little nerves before every game. People always say if you’re not nervous, something’s wrong,” Bell said. “It’s just another game, another game of preparation, going out there and doing the best I can executing, taking care of the ball, stuff like that.”
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