Eyes on Texas: Sooners take momentum into meaningful rivalry matchup
BY GUERIN EMIG World Sports Writer
Monday, October 08, 2012
10/08/12 at 9:45 AM
OU Notebook: The closer
NORMAN - The Oklahoma Sooners were on their way off Texas Tech's field Saturday when their offensive line coach reminded them of something.
"Goin' down that ramp next week!" James Patton shouted. "Goin' down to the Cotton Bowl!"
The Sooners weren't even in their locker room to celebrate the 41-20 victory over Tech, and already Texas Week had begun.
"We still have a long road to travel and a lot to improve on," coach Bob Stoops said before leaving Lubbock. "But we're excited to be going down next week to Dallas to play Texas, like we always are."
Had OU lost at Tech, you could have wondered just how amped a 2-2 Sooners team with an 0-2 Big 12 Conference record would be about playing the Longhorns. Saturday's win over the previously unbeaten Red Raiders, however, changed the build-up completely.
"It's a special game. This is what you come to Oklahoma for, Oklahoma-Texas," OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. "And this gives us a lot of momentum and a lot of confidence going down there."
That is certainly the case for Landry Jones. It had gotten so rough for the Sooners' quarterback that his coach was being asked about the possibility of benching him.
On Saturday, Jones looked more like the guy with six of the top seven single-game passing performances in school history, and whose 32 career wins tie Steve Davis for most by an OU quarterback.
"He was better. There's no doubt about it," offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said. "He was better in the pocket. He moved around and made a couple plays, was clean with his reads. He took great care of the ball, was decisive."
It all bodes well heading down to Dallas, where Jones is 2-0 as a starter against Texas. Now he takes aim at a Longhorns secondary he filleted for 367 yards last year, a secondary that Geno Smith hit for four touchdowns Saturday night in West Virginia's 48-45 victory.
Something else that changed Saturday was Jones' jersey. It was clean. The Sooners didn't allow a sack for the first time this season.
The Longhorns will be coming after Jones in the Cotton Bowl. They come after everybody - they roughed up Smith a couple times Saturday night - and they know they'll need to bother Jones more than they did a year ago when they dropped him only once.
Fending off the Horns' rush should prove more difficult than withstanding the Red Raiders', but at least OU's line knows it can be done.
The Sooners accomplished another first at Tech - they stopped somebody's running game. It didn't happen against Kansas State. It didn't even happen in the season opener at UTEP.
After a promising start, the Red Raiders rushed 19 times over the last three quarters for 47 yards.
"The guys up front did a great job of defending the run," Bob Stoops said. "They came in averaging 150 or so yards a game. What did they get, 89 yards? It's a big deal playing them. It sets up more third-and-longs."
That will be the idea Saturday in Dallas. Again, it won't be as easy. Johnathan Gray, Joe Bergeron and Malcolm Brown, provided he's back from his ankle injury, will be tougher to bring down than Tech's runners.
Should the Sooners do it, they can set up passing situations and unleash some of the blitzes they threw at Seth Doege in Lubbock. They can try to get to Texas quarterback David Ash like they did last year, when they sacked him five times and intercepted him twice.
Ash has grown up considerably since the 55-17 pounding he took last October. He is no longer rotating with Case McCoy. He is more comfortable running Bryan Harsin's offense. He certainly couldn't be blamed for Saturday night's loss to West Virginia, not after going 22-of-29 for 269 yards and no interceptions.
Ash's coming of age was to be the dominant storyline heading into the Red River rumble. Then OU beat Tech by three touchdowns. Now the Sooners have been transformed some as well.
It sets up for a much more interesting Saturday afternoon in the Cotton Bowl.
"It's big," OU safety Tony Jefferson said. "I'm pretty sure they remember what we did to them last year. I know it's gonna be a good game."
NO. 13 OU VS. NO. 15 TEXAS
11 a.m. Saturday
Cotton Bowl, Dallas
Radio: KMOD fm97.5, KTBZ am1430
Original Print Headline: Eyes on Texas
Guerin Emig 918-581-8355
OU quarterback Landry Jones and the Sooners go into Saturday's game against Texas with some momentum after their win over Texas Tech. STEPHEN PINGRY / Tulsa World