Running game key to victory in OU-Texas game
BY GUERIN EMIG World Sports Writer
Friday, October 12, 2012
10/12/12 at 3:58 AM
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NORMAN - There was a reason reporters made sure to ask the Oklahoma Sooners this week if they needed to fire up their running game: It takes a running game to beat Texas.
"That's something you've got to do, period, in order to be successful in football," said OU left guard Adam Shead. "You've got to really run the ball, because it opens up the passing game. When you do that, everything's great."
But this is OU-Texas.
"Usually the team that controls the ball and the run game is going to do pretty well. I wouldn't say any more so than in any other game," right guard Bronson Irwin said. "We always want to try to rush the ball effectively."
But seriously fellas, it's OU-Texas. Ever since your head coach got the job, the team with more rushing yards in this game has prevailed. Last year, when the Sooners outran the Longhorns 86-36, was the 12th time it happened out of 12. (Both teams rushed for 124 in 2006.)
So while the Sooners want to outrush their opponent every week, this is the one Saturday out of the year they absolutely, positively need to. But will they?
Which of the two running games looks superior heading into Saturday?
OU VS. TEXAS: RUNNING GAME BREAKDOWN
OU: Damien Williams
Texas: Johnathan Gray or Joe Bergeron
Malcolm Brown was the Longhorns' Big 12 Newcomer of the Year in 2011, but he has been passed on the depth chart by Bergeron, a sophomore whose nine rushing touchdowns rank fifth in the nation.
Gray is the five-star true freshman who rushed for 87 yards in Texas' loss to West Virginia last week. Many believe he should start ahead of Bergeron, perhaps as soon as Saturday.
Williams started his first game of the season in OU's win at Texas Tech last week. He was held to 48 yards on 14 carries, but caught six passes for 82 yards.
Williams' numbers have dipped since a fast start against UTEP and Florida A&M. Still, he averages a Big 12 Conference-best 7.8 yards per carry, and has rushed for 341 yards and five touchdowns.
OU: Dominique Whaley and Brennan Clay
Texas: Gray, Brown or Bergeron
Something else hampering Brown is an injured ankle that kept him out of the West Virginia loss. He is questionable to play in the Cotton Bowl.
Whaley provided the only big rushing moment for either team last year, when he raced 64 yards for a third-quarter touchdown. He carried just twice last week at Texas Tech, signaling OU's commitment to Williams.
OU: Trey Millard, Aaron Ripkowski
Texas: Ryan Roberson
Millard is one of the most effective wild cards in college football. He even caught a 10-yard pass out of the tight end position last week in Lubbock. Ripkowski won't ever touch the ball, but he is a powerful blocker out of the Belldozer formation.
Roberson began his college career as a linebacker before switching to offense. He started Texas' opener against Wyoming, and made four catches in the Longhorns' victory at Oklahoma State four weeks later.
OU: Lane Johnson, Adam Shead, Gabe Ikard, Bronson Irwin, Daryl Williams
Texas: Donald Hawkins, Trey Hopkins, Dominic Espinosa, Mason Walters, Josh Cochran
Both teams have done some shuffling since last year's game. The only Sooner lineman in the same position he played during the 55-17 blowout is Ikard at center.
The Longhorns return Espinosa at center and Walters at right guard. Their line totaled 62 combined starts entering the season. OU, by comparison, lost 60 starts when Ben Habern and Tyler Evans left the scene in preseason.
The numbers are similar - Texas' 209-yard rushing average ranks 28th nationally, while OU's 190-yard clip ranks 36th.
Offensive coordinator Josh Heupel is happiest when his quarterback is slinging it all over the field. Still, he showed some run-game imagination at Tech, employing more two- and three-back sets to get Williams and even Millard going.
He also involved the Belldozer more, and flipped an end-around to Sterling Shepard for 11 yards.
Texas play-caller Bryan Harsin is liable to call anything. In the run game, that could be a direct snap to Gray, a misdirection to wide receiver Marquise Goodwin, or something involving quarterback David Ash.
Red River Rivalry
OU vs. Texas
At Cotton Bowl Stadium, Dallas
11 a.m. Saturday
Radio: KMOD fm97.5, KTBZ am1430
Original Print Headline: Running game key to victory
Guerin Emig 918-581-8355
OU tailback Damien Williams leads the Sooner ground game against Texas this week. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World file
Texas running back Johnathan Gray makes his way down the field during the second quarter against West Virginia in an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012, in Austin, Texas. AP Photo