Sam Ehlinger means business this week, and it’s not because the Texas football team will face Oklahoma on Saturday for the annual Red River Rivalry game.
“The biggest thing is winning,” Ehlinger said in a Tuesday teleconference. “That’s what I’m focused on — and making sure that everybody is on the same page. Being attentive to detail and disciplined is my biggest duty this week, and we’ll try to eliminate emotion from that.”
The senior quarterback said he spoke with his teammates Sunday morning after they lost at home to unranked TCU the day before. At the meeting, Ehlinger said he made clear his desire to win and challenged the locker room, himself included, to step up and take ownership of the program.
He said he has a problem with people who don’t share that same goal and aren’t willing to be pushed.
“It’s not necessarily about liking people,” Ehlinger said. “Not all leaders are liked, but being respected is more important because you want to win.”
The Sooners on the other sideline this weekend aren’t raising the stakes as much as the opportunity for the Longhorns to go 1–0.
“We’ve got to start doing everything right, all the time,” Ehlinger said.
Despite his focus on achieving larger goals than beating the Sooners this weekend, Ehlinger said he’ll miss the atmosphere of the Cotton Bowl that he’s enjoyed the last three years as the starting quarterback.
He said if he could give his freshman self advice, it would be to not take the stadium experience for granted and to buckle up for a tough opponent each year.
“Good luck, because you’re probably going to go against, in a four-year period, one of the best stretches of quarterback play at a single university,” Ehlinger said he’d tell his younger self.
In Ehlinger’s first two Red River Rivalry games, the Longhorns went up against Heisman winners and eventual NFL Draft No. 1 picks Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray. Last year, Texas faced Alabama transfer quarterback Jalen Hurts, who finished second in Heisman voting and was picked in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft.
This season, the Texas defense will go up against Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma’s redshirt freshman quarterback. Redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Keondre Coburn said in Tuesday’s teleconference that Rattler has a strong arm, but he isn’t perfect.
“He makes mistakes, too, like every other quarterback,” Coburn said. “But, I mean, it’s a good offense over there. As a defense, we just got to go into practice today and work on some things to stop him.”
The rivalry game means a lot to Coburn, as he chose to play football at Texas over Oklahoma. He said Sooner fans tend to dislike recruits who choose the Longhorns over Oklahoma, so his “job is not to like them too.”
Beating Oklahoma is an amazing feeling, Coburn said, but like Ehlinger, his desire to simply win is taking precedence this week.
“We all know as a team that if you win, you get to the goal that you want,” Coburn said. “If you lose, you don’t. We just lost last week, so we all know that we can’t lose no more. We’re not trying to sit there and say, ‘If we lose this game, it’s over with,’ but we’re just trying to focus on winning.”