Keys to the Game: Oklahoma

Matthew Caldwell, Sports Desk Editor

This year’s Red River Rivalry is a rare one. Texas and Oklahoma have underperformed so far this season and need wins to stay alive in the race for a Big 12 championship. Both teams also have question marks at quarterback: Quinn Ewers is reportedly set to return after missing the last three games, and the Sooners have yet to announce a starter. Redshirt junior Dillon Gabriel suffered a concussion in last week’s loss to TCU, prompting redshirt junior Davis Beville to fill in for the remainder of the game. No matter who gears up for the Sooners, expect Saturday’s matchup to be another close one.

Eight of the last nine showdowns have been one-score games, so the Longhorns should follow these keys to the game if they want to come out with a win:

Run the ball

Oklahoma comes into this week ranked No. 119 in rushing defense. That’s out of 131 FBS teams. Allowing 198.2 rush yards per game, the Sooners are not showing that they can stop the run. This creates a must-win matchup for the Longhorns, who tout one of the best one-two punches at running back in the country. Junior running back Bijan Robinson, a projected Heisman candidate, and senior running back Roschon Johnson need to take advantage of Oklahoma’s abysmal run defense.

Stop Oklahoma’s red zone offense

In five games, the Sooners have 18 red zone attempts. They have scored a touchdown on 14 of those drives. The Longhorn defense will need to step up and force Oklahoma to settle for field goals. With the possibility of their starting quarterback not playing, the Sooners should not find the endzone as easily as they have thus far. Texas’ secondary will have to take advantage of Beville’s inexperience, but its job will be more of a challenge if Gabriel suits up.

Win the turnover battle

Oklahoma currently has a turnover margin of +4 while the Longhorns are sitting at -1. In tight games, one turnover can be the difference between a win and a loss. Ewers will need to be careful with the football, and the Texas defense needs to bring pressure and force the Sooners into rushed throws and broken plays. In last year’s duel, a fumble by sophomore wide receiver Xavier Worthy late in the fourth quarter led to a touchdown just a play later. This helped Oklahoma take the lead and keep momentum on its side when Texas desperately needed to turn things around.

Come out of halftime with the right mindset

Second half debacles are present under head coach Steve Sarkisian. After blowing halftime leads five times in Sarkisian’s tenure, including one to Texas Tech a couple of weeks ago, the Longhorns need to figure something out. It’s unclear what kind of pep talk, or absence thereof, Sarkisian gives to the players in the locker room, but this Saturday that needs to change. Texas can’t afford to do that against Oklahoma yet again if it wants any chance at winning the Big 12 championship this season.