NORMAN — If Oklahoma knew exactly why the previous two Red River Rivalry meetings with Texas turned into absolute annihilations, the coaching staff would have copyrighted it long ago.
Fact is, there were factors beyond the Sooners’ control that played into it. Mainly, there’s no guaranteeing the Longhorns are going to be at their worst when OU’s at its best.
But it does seem like one team walks down the Cotton Bowl ramp expecting something very good to happen. The other is terrified the worst-case scenario is about to come to fruition.
OU believes it tends to reach its maximum potential because the days leading up to the Texas game are typically some of its best practices of the season.
“You can always tell when it’s OU-Texas week. You can always tell the intensity out there in practice and the way the guys are walking around campus and things like that,” cornerback Aaron Colvin said.
The Sooners have always said this game is no different than any other game on the schedule. Winning it only does so much. Losing it has the same crippling effect as any other loss.
Other OU players point to a simple statistic that helped OU turn the last two meetings in the Cotton Bowl into lopsided romps.
“Turnovers,” OU center Gabe Ikard said. “They’ve turned the ball over, and we’ve taken care of the ball. I don’t think it’s one of those things where we’ve significantly done something. Those two lopsided wins the last two years, they didn’t take care of the ball as well as we did.”
Ikard hit the nail square on the head. Texas has committed eight turnovers in its last two games against the Sooners. OU has turned it over twice.
There’s one last factor that’s caused this game to get out of hand quickly: the second quarter.
It would be easy to think OU jumped on Texas early and knocked them out before halftime. In some ways that’s true. OU’s led by three touchdowns at halftime the last two years.
But the brunt of that damage has been inflicted in the second quarter. Last season OU outscored Texas 23-0 in the second quarter to build a 36-2 halftime lead. The game was over, but Texas was down just 13-2 when the quarter began.
In 2011, it was a 6-3 game with 15 minutes left until halftime. Then the Sooners scored touchdowns on three straight possessions and threw in a 55-yard interception return for another touchdown to build a 34-10 halftime lead.
If there’s anything beyond those factors that have caused the previous two editions of the Red River Rivalry to get out of hand, OU has taken a vow of silence.
There’s no sense that OU’s prepared for Saturday’s meeting in any different way. There’s been a lot of talk about OU winning its fourth straight in the rivalry. But how it’s prepared has changed.
“We constantly talk about how we’re gonna be at our best. How do we put ourselves in position on Saturday to function at our absolute best,” OU coach Bob Stoops said. “That’s what we’re always looking forward to.”
Considering the way it’s worked when preparing for Texas, why change anything?
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