Bob Stoops

Charlie Strong will face Oklahoma for his first time as Texas head coach this Saturday in Dallas at the Cotton Bowl.

Photo Credit: Jenna VonHofe | Daily Texan Staff

For the past 15 years, there were a few things to count on at the annual Red River Showdown in Dallas: greasy food, a stadium divided and Mack Brown and Bob Stoops pacing opposite sidelines, leading their teams in one of the greatest rivalries in college sports.

There will still be fried Oreos on Saturday, and there should be an equal sampling of burnt orange and crimson in the stands, but, for the first time since 1999, Brown, former Texas head coach, won’t be opposite Stoops at the Cotton Bowl this weekend.

In Brown’s place will be new Texas head coach Charlie Strong, who is making his debut in the rivalry. While he hasn’t had any experience coaching in this specific one, Strong is no stranger to emotional rivalry games.

“I’ve been involved with Florida-Georgia and Florida-Florida State,” Strong said. “The Texas-Oklahoma rivalry is a special rivalry. We know how big it is.”

In his best attempt to get a feel for just what it will be like to run out of the tunnel with Big Tex looking on this weekend, Strong has been talking to some of his staff members who have experience representing the Longhorns against Oklahoma.

“Just having a chance to sit down and talk to [defensive coordinator] Vance Bedford and [wide receiver coach] Les [Koenning] and [Marcus] Tubbs as guys that have played in it,” Strong said. “And you have [tight ends coach] Bruce Chambers who coached in it. They all know how big this game is.”

Strong’s replacement of Brown at the helm of Texas, signifies the beginning of a new era in the historic matchup. In a sport where players change every few years, the coaches are often the only constant. With Brown and Stoops each having been so successful at Texas and Oklahoma, respectively, their rivalry became almost as big as the one between the schools.

That certainly won’t be the case between Strong and Stoops — at least not for a while — but the two do have some history together and share similar defensive-minded philosophies. 

“Bob and I are friends,” Strong said. “When I was at Florida, I was leaving Florida and he was coming in. I respect him and the job he’s done there in Oklahoma. He’s an unbelievable coach and, not only that, just a really good person.”

Stoops had similar praise for Strong, who has impressed him with what he’s been able to accomplish since arriving in Austin.

“I think a lot of Charlie Strong and the way he coaches.” Stoops said. “I know he is going to continue to work that program and we will see a team that will be motivated and ready to play. They are a team that is capable and again, they beat us just a year ago.”

Saturday’s game will be the first chapter of a new era, but Strong and Co. are hoping to pick up right where last year’s team finished — with a win.

For Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops, the hype surrounding the Red River Rivalry is nothing new. 

He brought home nine wins in 15 matchups against former Texas head coach Mack Brown. But now, as Stoops prepares to take on the new head coach in Austin, Charlie Strong, for the first time, many fans and media alike see it as the start of a new era. Stoops, however, says he sees no change.

“I don’t see [this year] being any different at all,” Stoops said. “It would be different if [Mack Brown] and I were out playing but that isn’t happening, and I’ve never looked at it across as an individual issue — it’s not for me.”

Stoops has told various publications through the years that the historic matchup is about one great program against the other, not about any individual rivalries. He told the San Antonio Express-News in April he’s “not between the lines playing in the game;” and, even if he was, “football is the ultimate team sport.”

A team sport indeed, but Stoops holds plenty of personal accolades. The winningest coach in Oklahoma history, Stoops is the only college head coach with a national championship victory and wins in every BCS bowl game. Through 199 games at Oklahoma — 123 against Big 12 opponents — Stoops boasts a winning percentage above .800. 

The nature of the rivalry and Texas’ historical advantage both add to the excitement of the annual trek to Dallas. Stoops says the Sooners remember last year’s 36-20 loss well. In the 16-point loss, four Longhorns recorded touchdowns, two running backs surpassed 100 rushing yards and then-senior quarterback Case McCoy, who played only because of an injury to then-sophomore quarterback David Ash, racked up 190 yards through the air, passing for two touchdowns. The memory of such an embarrassment for the Sooners doesn’t fade fast.

“This week with Texas, we understand the rivalry and what a challenge it will be,” Stoops said. “We went down there a year ago and got beat by 16 points. We are still very aware of that.”

With this awareness comes an adjusted game plan. Stoops must cater to Strong’s schemes rather than those of Brown, to whom he’s grown accustomed. Stoops and Strong have crossed paths over the years, and each expresses utmost respect toward the other.

“[Stoops] and I are friends,” Strong said. “When I was at Florida, I was leaving, and he was coming in and even at Big 12 meetings, we sit together and joke around. I really respect the job he’s done at Oklahoma.”

Stoops, too, said that the Sooner staff “think[s] a lot of Charlie Strong and the way he coaches,” and notes Strong’s progress early on.

“I know he is going to continue to work that program and we will see a team that will be motivated and ready to play,” Stoops said. “They are a team that is capable, and, again, they beat us just a year ago.”

As the No. 11 team in the country there’s little doubt that the Sooners field a better team than the Longhorns do each week. But Stoops and his players know that in rivalry games like this one, anything can happen. It’s anyone’s game this weekend at the Cotton Bowl. 

And, despite Stoops’ insistence that the rivalry is restricted to men in shoulder pads, the veteran boss has been heavily invested in the competition for 16 years now. The hype is nothing new. And it will never get old.

Photo Credit: Jenna VonHofe | Daily Texan Staff

DALLAS ‒ Big 12 media days concluded Tuesday at the Omni Dallas Hotel, and while new Texas coach Charlie Strong was the main event, his counterparts left their mark on the second day of the event as well.

The day started with the Big 12’s coordinator of officials, Walt Anderson, who outlined new rules for the 2014 football season. Anderson announced there would be changes to the instant replay process, helmet-to-helmet contact and roughing the passer.

After Anderson, College Football Playoff director Bill Hancock discussed how the playoff system and committee will work.

“The playoff provides universal access,” Hancock said.  “There's no more automatic qualification.  And, yes, everyone benefits financially.  The conference has managed this event just like they manage the BCS.”

Following Hancock were Big 12 coaches: Bob Stoops, Paul Rhodes, Dana Holgorsen, Bill Snyder and Strong.

Oklahoma: Stoops, Sooners primed for championship run

2013 was deemed a rebuilding year for Oklahoma and it was a pretty successful one as the Sooners finished the season at 11-2 and upset SEC powerhouse Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

With the surprise victory over Alabama, Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops and Oklahoma are prepared to make a run for a Big 12 title and a berth in the first ever College Football Playoff.

“I think, as much as anything, [the Orange Bowl win] inspired our players to really to build on it in the winter in the way we trained,” Stoops said.  “The way we went into spring and we had a fabulous summer … just the chemistry and their willingness to work when they see the benefits of it like that.”

Iowa State: New offensive coordinator to boost Cyclones

Iowa State struggled in 2013, finishing the season with an abysmal 3-9 record.

But Cyclones head coach Paul Rhodes added Mark Mangino as the team’s offensive coordinator, a move that should help the Iowa State offense improve significantly.

“I reached out to [Mangino] and certainly had great respect for what he's done in our profession,” Rhodes said. “We're going to deploy a lot of three wide receiver sets and one back offense. We're not going to huddle. Those are things that are familiar to the Iowa State fan base.”

West Virginia: Holgorsen, Mountaineers still trying to find footing in Big 12

The West Virginia Mountaineers were among the top teams in nation when they were a member of the Big East, but the transition to the Big 12 has been difficult.

The Mountaineers have struggled to adapt to the Big 12’s style of play and head coach Dana Holgorsen knows speeding up the adaptation process will be key to their success.

“One of the things that has happened in the Big 12 over the last two years, we have not been dominant in the Big 12,” Holgorsen said. “We've been competitive … Hopefully, we can put a season together that everybody will be proud of.”

Kansas State: Wildcats looking to build off strong 2013 finish

The Kansas State Wildcats opened the 2013 season with a shocking loss to the North Dakota State Bison. The opening game loss fueled a 2-4 start for the Wildcats but they were able to finish strong, as they went 6-1 in their final seven games including a victory over the Michigan Wolverines in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.

Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder is hoping the team’s strong finish last year will help the Wildcats mature into a better team in 2014.

“The hope would have been, and was, that we had learned lessons along the way,” Snyder said. “The lessons dated back to the outset of the season in which we were not a very good football team … I think that the way that our young people finished the season allowed them to understand the value of not taking anything for granted.”

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

Bob Stoops took over at Oklahoma in 1999. Since then, Oklahoma and Texas have met on the field 14 times, with Oklahoma holding a 9-5 record. Over the years, college football has evolved with spread offenses becoming more and more prevalent, which has led to 11 Heisman winning quarterbacks since 1999, with the position more important now than ever.

Over this time, the Red River Rivalry has had some phenomenal quarterbacks take the field, such as Sam Bradford and Jason White of Oklahoma as well as Vince Young and Colt McCoy of Texas. Despite the dominating careers of these passers, the winner of the
Red River Rivalry has come down to whoever runs the ball better.

In every contest since Oklahoma hired Stoops, the team with the most rushing yards took the Golden Hat, except for 2006 when both squads ran for 124 yards. In the Stoops era, Oklahoma has out-run Texas 145 to 109 yards per game.

When digging deeper and dividing rushing stats by era (1999-2003, 2004-2009 and 2010-present) and results, (Texas victory, Oklahoma victory, Oklahoma blowout victory, other Oklahoma wins) running the ball further correlates to victory.

From 1999-2003, Oklahoma outgained Texas on the ground by an average of 155.6 to 93.80 and scored over twice as many rushing touchdowns. Oklahoma took four out of five from Texas and ran the ball 10 more times per game (39.6 to 29.4).

In 2004, Young pulled away as Texas’ unquestioned starting quarterback leading to a zone-read heavy offense. But Texas lost to Oklahoma 12-0 and the run battle 301 to 154.

From 2005 to 2009, Texas won four of five against Oklahoma, averaging 138.20 yards per game against the Sooners’ 80.60, while scoring a rushing touchdown three and a half times as often. 

Following McCoy’s injury in the 2010 BCS National Championship Game, Texas’ offense has struggled with its identity both under center and philosophically. 

Not surprisingly, over this stretch Oklahoma’s ground game has dominated Texas’ by an average of 184.33 to 72.33. The Longhorns have scored zero rushing touchdowns the past two contests and averaged only 1.62 yards per carry.

When Texas emerged victorious, it is because they won the battle in the trenches. This is apparent as Texas averaged 100 yards more on the ground per game than it did in losses, at 171 to 75. In both cases, Texas calls about an equal percentage of run plays (52 percent in wins, 48 percent in losses) but the difference lies in yards per carry (4.66 in wins, 2.44 in losses) and rushing touchdowns (1.4 per game in wins, 0.9 per game in losses).

What may be an even bigger indicator for Texas’ success is how many times and how well Oklahoma runs when they have the ball. In Texas victories, Oklahoma’s run game accounts for 49.6 yards per contest and only 1.52 yards per carry, but in Oklahoma victories those numbers grow to 198.56 and 4.41, respectively.  

In blowout victories, Oklahoma tears through Texas to the tune of 215.75 yards rushing and 4.9 yards per carry while running into the end zone 4.25 times per contest. In wins, Oklahoma attempts approximately 17 more rushes per game than in losses and finds the end zone through the ground significantly more per game (2.67 to 0.2).

Based off rushing statistics and observations through five games, it seems very unlikely the Longhorns will beat the Sooners on the ground. Texas ranks last of any BCS conference team in rushing yards allowed per game at 248.4, whereas Oklahoma surrenders only 113.20 per contest. The Sooners run the ball 46.20 times per game for 246 yards on average. 

Considering the context of the 2013 game and the tendency for the run game to decide the contest, it looks very likely the Sooners will run away with the Golden Hat again. 

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Junior Blake Bell has become synonymous with the “Belldozer” package using his 6-foot-6, 252-pound frame to plow through linemen.

And last year’s Red River Rivalry just reinforced the fear into every Longhorns fan as he rumbled into the end zone four times, despite being Landry Jones’ back-up.

In his first two years, the perceived running quarterback recorded 25 rushing touchdowns compared to none throwing.

 “People have questioned his ability to throw,” Mack Brown said at Monday’s press conference.

But that doesn’t mean Texas can take Bell’s arm lightly.

The Detroit Tigers used a 2010 draft pick on the heralded quarterback - where he hadn’t played in two years – because of his strong arm.

“That’s definitely why they recruited him,” Dusty Trail, Bell’s former offensive coordinator at Bishop Carroll High School in Wichita, Kan. told ESPN. “The running was just a bonus in their eyes.”

But instead of taking the guaranteed money and possibly relieving games for the Tigers this postseason, Bell followed his passion of football.

“No,” Blake’s father, Mark Bell, told NewsOK. “His love and passion is football. He really liked basketball too, but his passion was football.”

He was the heir apparent to Landry Jones and ready to take over the reins of a major program. That is, until freshman Trevor Knight swiped the job from underneath his nose in training camp.

But the freshman’s poor completion percentage and three interceptions in the first two games gave Bell a chance.

“It’s a testament to his character that he didn’t get down, he didn’t get negative,” head coach Bob Stoops said after the game against Tulsa. “He kept working and he got his opportunity and he took all kind of advantage of it.”

The “Belldozer” threw for 413 yards and four touchdowns in the 51-20 victory, proving he could be effective with his arms, not just his legs.

Now people are starting to see why labeled him a pro-style quarterback, not a dual-threat.

“I’ve always said Blake could throw the football and finally everyone got to see that,” Stoops said.

And Texas knows this.

“He can throw,” defensive coordinator Greg Robinson said. “His arm is good. He has a strong arm. He is an accurate thrower.”

So when Bell touches the ball Saturday morning in Dallas, they can’t focus on just one facet.

“Well, they always talk about him being a runner but he can throw the ball,” senior defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat said. “And also he can run the ball. He’s big and he’s hard to bring down. That’s what makes him unique. He’s a dual threat kind of guy.”


Aaron Colvin leads defense

On Saturday, the Sooners’ top NFL prospect won’t have the ball in his hands.

And he will be making sure the Texas receivers don’t either.

Born and raised in Oklahoma, senior cornerback Aaron Colvin has always been watching the Red River Rivalry.

So when he made his first start in 2010 against Texas, he was thrilled. And it hasn’t worn off.

“My excitement level for OU-Texas is the same as it was when I was a freshman,” Colvin said.

Colvin has done more than just play in one of the game’s biggest rivalries, though.

He ended his freshman year as the starting cornerback. Then switched to safety for his sophomore campaign. And when he returned to corner last year, all he did was garner All-Big 12 honors.

As one of the conference’s top shutdown corners, Colvin anchors an Oklahoma secondary that boasts the 10th-best passing defense in the nation allowing just 168.4 yards per game.

He also isn’t afraid to mix with the big bodies in stopping the run game.

“Their secondary is very aggressive, but also very sound,” Mack Brown said.

This combination of run stoppage and pass defense helps give Oklahoma the No. 9 defense in the nation.

But despite the records of the two teams, Colvin realized that this game is still the biggest one.

“Texas is a huge game for us,” Colvin said. “We just have to be prepared for this, and I think we are.”

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

The Red River Rivalry is as significant of a game to Texas and Oklahoma as they come, causing a slew coaches to lose their jobs while immortalizing others throughout the game’s storied history.

Mack Brown was hired at the University of Texas on Dec. 4, 1997, and started his own Red River legacy in style. Led by eventual Heisman winner Ricky Williams and a freckle-faced freshman Major Applewhite, the Longhorns routed the Sooners in the Cotton Bowl that Saturday in 1998, 34-3. The Longhorns would go on to finish the season 8-3, and appeared to be a program on the rise.

While Brown was busy trying to resurrect the Texas program that year, Bob Stoops was coaching the defense for the “Ol’ Ball Coach” (Steve Spurrier) at Florida, helping lead the Gators to a victory in the 1998 Orange Bowl over Syracuse.

Stoops was hired to replace John Black as the Sooners head coach on Dec. 1, 1998, and immediately began to turn things around.

Stoops didn’t have an ideal start to his own Red River legacy, but his impact was felt. Facing a Longhorns team that would eventually go on to play for the Big 12 championship game in 1999, his Sooners jumped out to a 17-0 lead with the first quarter winding down. The Longhorns would eventually find their footing and come back for the victory, but the first quarter of that game in ‘99 was a serious act of foreshadowing for Texas.

Brown’s honeymoon with the Longhorns faithful came to an abrupt end in 2000, when Bob Stoops and the Sooners provided the first of four WWE-style beat downs on the Longhorns in the their time coaching against each other. Quentin Griffin ran roughshod on the Longhorns defense, scoring six touchdowns en route to a 63-14 shellacking.

The next four years didn’t go any better.

Stoops would continue to own Brown, highlighted by another massive victory over the Longhorns in 2003 when they drummed the Longhorns to the tune of 65-13.

Brown seemed to have no answer to his Sooners problem in Dallas, and it cost him dearly. The road to Big 12 titles and the national championship went squarely through the Cotton Bowl, and the Longhorne fan base was beginning to turn on their head coach, referring to him as “Mr. February” for his prized recruiting classes but inability to win big games.

After five consecutive demolitions in Dallas, the sun started to shine on Brown again. Vince Young led the Longhorns to their first Rose Bowl victory in 2004, and finally snapped the losing streak to the Sooners in 2005, giving the Sooners a bit of their own medicine with a resounding 45-12 victory. Mack would fight back the next five years, going 4-1 against Stoops and leading the Longhorns to their highest highs since Darrell Royal was roaming the sidelines.

And then it all unraveled.

The debacle that was 2010 happened, and the Longhorns haven’t seen a victory in the Cotton Bowl since, getting trounced by a combined score 118-38 in the latest two meetings.

Mack’s record against Bob Stoops in the Red River Rivalry is 5-9, and with an impending loss looming Saturday. In what could be Brown’s final season, the Red River Rivalry will
always be a blemish on what has been an otherwise impressive tenure in Austin.

For all the good that Brown has brought to Texas, his inability to consistently keep up with Stoops will forever be mentioned as to why he couldn’t reach even greater heights.  

Nick Krug | Associated Press

The Big 12 is like a family. A big, dysfuntional, The Osbournes-meet-the-Jersey-Shore-meet-the-Kardashians type of family.

We can all agree that watching a reality show encompassing characters from all three shows would be fun, nay epic, for a while, but the inevitable would eventually set in. The Kardashians, being the most attractive and richest, but also the most power hungry, would eventually ask for a bigger contract. Mike “The Situation” would want his own spin-off, and the Osbournes would cling to the Kardashians in hopes of riding their coattails to at least remain C-list celebrities. We’d want the show to stay together for as long as possible, but eventually the plot lines would be recycled year-after-year.

Like this unbelievably obscure metaphor depicts, it is time for the awesome run of the Big 12 drama to end and disband forever.

As painful as it would be to break up the epic histories of Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma and Baylor — the four teams who this issue really revolves around — Bob Stoops may have said it best when he resigned to the inevitable.

“... life changes. If it changes, you have to change with it, to whatever degree,” he said in a press conference Tuesday.
Stoops, referring to the 111-year-old Red River Rivalry tradition, said it with such a mix of defeat and nonchalance that it is hard to tell whether he really wants the game and rivalry to end — which would eventually happen with the rumored conference changes — but he makes a good point. Why allow these teams, who have at this point become so jaded by familial politics continue to screw their brothers over?

The blame game has grown to annoying proportions.
Baylor has recruited most of the small schools in the conference, such as Kansas, Kansas State, Texas Tech, Iowa State and Missouri, to join in their crusade against Texas A&M, citing a huge loss in personal revenue from the Aggies’ eventual departure.

Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe, who is trying to play conference saviour for the second time in a year, agrees with that grim forecast.

“If the departure of Texas A&M results in significant changes in the Big 12 membership, several institutions may be severely affected after counting on revenue streams from contracts that were approved unanimously by our members, including Texas A&M,” he said, effectively calling the Aggies out.

The Aggies — Mike “The Situation” — reciprocate the blame, but take it even a more dramatic step further by calling the litigious threats un-American.

“We’re being told that, ‘You must stay here against your will,’” said Texas A&M President R. Bowen Loftin. “And we think that really flies in the face of what makes us Americans ... and makes us free people.”

Meanwhile, Texas blames the Aggies for never accepting a joint television deal, and everyone else blames Texas for even creating a power network in the first place.

So as this silliness becomes both sadder and funnier by the day, as this situation continues to be commanded by the Osbournes of the league and as the Kardashians continue to let their uglier co-stars duke it out, the actual reason we tuned in in the first place will be lost. This slow crawl that the realignment process has become is nothing more than a detractor from the glorious game of college football, and if starting over from scratch is the only way to shift the focus back the game and players who make it great, then so be it.

Real Housewives of Orange County, anyone?

Senior Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones, No. 12, captains the top-ranked Sooners this year and is on multiple awards' watchlists. Jones has emerged as a leader over the past two seasons as the starter.

Photo Credit: Corey Leamon | Daily Texan Staff

Landry Jones was unexpectedly thrust into the spotlight his freshman year after Heisman winner Sam Bradford was knocked out early in the season against Texas.

While he handled the pressure of being under-center for a premier college football program like Oklahoma well, it was still tough as the Sooners stumbled to an 8-5 record in 2009. Critics picked apart Jones’ performances and constantly compared him to Bradford.

“That year was humbling for Landry,” said wideout Ryan Broyles. “There was a lot of negativity coming in: ‘not Sam Bradford this, not Sam Bradford that.’ But he’s matured, mentally and physically. And now everybody’s bought in.”

Jones embraced the challenge of replacing Bradford in full force his sophomore year. He masterfully led the offense by throwing for 4,718 yards and 38 touchdowns, while carrying his team to a 12-2 record and a Fiesta Bowl victory over Connecticut.

Now in his junior season, Jones is the unquestioned leader of the preseason consensus no. 1 team in the nation, and a likely Heisman finalist.

However, it wasn’t an easy road to respectability. As a freshman he was very shy, and reluctant to step in and take the reins of the offense — but with each game the team won he gained more confidence, and it showed in his leadership on the field.

“It’s definitely hard,” Jones said. “It’s something that a lot of people overlook and just think as long as you’re the quarterback, you’re the leader. But you kind of have to earn that respect before you start and once you start playing, you learn some stuff on how to do things and you learn how to become a leader. In my couple of years starting, I’ve learned how to become a leader and I’ve learned how to motivate my teammates, kind of become accountable with them, kind of become relatable.”

That leadership ability is a big reason Oklahoma went on a five game winning streak at the end of last year, capping the season with the Sooners first BCS win since 2002.

“He’s just become a really strong leader,” said head coach Bob Stoops. “And now he’s more comfortable. ... The quarterback needs to be a leader. If he hasn’t played and earned the respect by performance and meeting challenges and then doesn’t have the confidence yet, it’s hard to be that guy. Well, he has all of that now and so he’s a true, true leader on this team. And a special one.”

Jones isn’t satisfied with just being a leader on the field — he wants to continue to get better as quarterback.

In order to improve on last year’s stellar numbers, Jones hit the film room looking to cut down on the 12 interceptions he misfired his junior season. He’s practiced on correct footwork, and cutting down on mental mistakes that caused the picks.

Jones’ time in the film room, as well as his work on the practice field could translate into a monster season, which could have him joining the ranks of Bradford and Jason White as a Heisman winner at the quarterback position for Oklahoma.

However, he would like to separate himself in one category from those two greats, and win a national championship.

“You can throw for a lot of yards, throw a lot of touchdowns,” Jones said. “But all that matters is whether you won or lost games.”

When Bob Stoops snatched Adrian Peterson out of East Texas in 2004, it set in motion a precedent that Mack Brown couldn’t quite shirk: Stoops and Oklahoma owned Texas, not only on the gridiron, but also on the recruiting trail.

The numbers don’t lie. For the better part of the last decade, homeland security has been a bit of an embarrassment for Brown. In 2004, he lost out on Peterson, the top-rated player that year according to Rivals, and Rhett Bomar, the top quarterback in the nation. Both from Texas, both headed to Oklahoma. In 2005, Stoops again poached a couple of highly rated players out from under Brown’s nose, notably Malcolm Kelly, a future NFL draft pick.

But 2008, most would agree, was the low point. Brown and Texas lost the top three players in the state to those Sooners, and a year later, in 2009, they lost the nasty recruiting battle for Lufkin’s Jamarkus McFarland, now a starting defensive tackle for Oklahoma.

Need more proof? From 2004 to this year’s class, forty seven percent of Oklahoma’s signed commits hailed from Texas. Sheesh, get your own state.

But things have improved. Not only has Texas been able to defend its home turf better, fighting off Oklahoma for Plano West’s Jackson Jeffcoat last year, but Mack has also served Stoops a taste of his
own medicine.

With Wednesday’s signing of Oklahoma’s top ranked player, cornerback Josh Turner, Texas has now signed the best player from the state of Oklahoma the past two years. Last year, it was the heralded Demarco Cobbs, who figures to see an increased role at safety this fall. If and when Cobbs and Turner team up in the secondary, they’d give Texas’ defensive backfield a strong Oklahoma flavor.

How has Mack done it? Simple. His teams started showing up in Dallas. The Longhorns’ five-game slide to Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry created the notion that Texas was soft, that they were weak, that they had no chance of ever winning a Big 12 title or national title if they couldn’t even get past the Sooners in so many tries. Frankly, it was true. That’s why Peterson chose Oklahoma, saying at the time that he wanted to win a national title and didn’t think it was possible at Texas.

So Mack rallied the troops and beat the Sooners in Dallas 45-12 en route to the Longhorns’ 2005 National Championship. The next year, Texas beat Oklahoma again. They’ve swung the tide of the Red River Rivalry to their favor recently, despite this past season’s loss.

Furthermore, Mack’s taken back Texas. While Oklahoma did sign 12 prospects from our state this year (out of 17 total commits), only one of them was offered by Texas. Inviting high school juniors to the annual February junior days and extending quick scholarship offers has helped Brown seal the deal on several prized recruits before Stoops has a chance to do the same. It’s clear that these days, Stoops is getting the Lone Star leftovers.

When asked how Texas was able to draw him out of Oklahoma, Turner’s answer was simple.

“Texas knows how to recruit, that’s it,” he said. “The players and the coaches; they’re all great.”

And they’ll all welcome Turner with open arms, thankful that after so many years, they finally have the upper hand on their rivals from the north.

Coming off its win over Texas, No. 6 Oklahoma is readily welcoming a bye week.

“It’s a really good time to have it, simply to rest and regroup and get ready for the second half of the season,” said head coach Bob Stoops. “It works out well this year.”

While rest is important, the Sooners will also be reincorporating once injured players return to practice. Running backs Roy Finch and Brennan Clay, linebacker Austin Box and cornerback Jamell Fleming are all returning from injuries.

Injured since August, Finch has been recovering from a hairline ankle fracture, while Box has been dealing with a painful disc in his back.

The only player still on the injured list for Oklahoma is defensive tackle Casey Walker, who sprained his ankle against Cincinnati on Sept. 25.

“Everyone would have been ready to go this week except Casey,” Stoops said. “Casey has at least four weeks coming.”

The Sooners practice today and early Thursday. They will take the remainder of the week off.

Baylor set to take on Texas Tech

In a second week of Big 12 matchups, the Cotton Bowl will play host to Saturday’s Baylor-Texas Tech game. Both teams are looking for another win to tack on to their season records.

For the first time since 2005, the Bears have started the season 4-1 (1-0 Big 12). Meanwhile, Texas Tech, 2-2 (0-2 Big 12), has experienced a tough start to its season.

“It’s just one win on one Saturday. We’re certainly experienced enough to understand that as a staff and as a team,” said Baylor head coach Art Briles. “We’ll be judged at the end of the season, by the complete season, but right now we’re just trying to break it down and play one game one week and focus on the small picture.”

In the past two seasons, the Red Raiders have beaten the Bears by just a touchdown each time.

“It’s a new team. I know everybody wants to talk about the past few years against Tech and how close we’ve been, but it’s a new team,” said quarterback Robert Griffin. “They have a new coach and we have a new mindset as a team here at Baylor. We’re going out there trying to play our best to get another win and get us closer to our goal.”

Aggies elevate their defense

New defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter has done wonders for the Aggies’ defense. Ranked among one of the nation’s worst last year, Texas A&M defenders have taken everything down in stride. Everything, that is, except sacks.

The Aggies’ defense has four sacks through four games this season.

“You’d like to see your sack numbers go up,” DeRuyter said. “It’s been a little bit of a function of who we’ve been playing — our first three opponents got rid of the ball real quick. We didn’t see much of a vertical game.”

On Saturday, Texas A&M meets No. 11 Arkansas, which ranks third nationally with 15 sacks while the Aggies rank 95th.

“This week, we’re going to see some vertical passing, and I’d like to see our sack numbers go up,” DeRuyter said.